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Gardens of Note


Robbie Clark
Published May 01, 2014

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Madison, Wisconsin

Located on the shore of Lake Monona, Olbrich Botanical Gardens was first envisioned in the early 1900s by a prominent local lawyer, Michael Olbrich. He recognized the importance of the lake to the entire city’s population as more and more property along the shore was being lost to private ownership. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School, Olbrich, working with a foundation formed by the city, began purchasing pieces of the property that would, in 1952, officially become the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

“He could see even a hundred years ago that all this lakeside property was being bought up and that the average person wouldn’t have access to the lake if all this property was purchased and made private,” said Olbrich senior marketing and communications coordinator Sharon Cybart.

Though consisting of only 16 acres, the gardens are home to many special features, including one of only four Thai pavilions outside of Thailand. The ornate Thai Pavilion and Garden was a gift from the Thai government and the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. The two-acre rose garden, with a two-story tower that offers sweeping views of the grounds, is also a popular attraction, as is the Bolz Conservatory, which features more than 650 tropical plants. In the summer, Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies live exhibit features dozens of varieties of butterflies.

Guided group tours are available June through August in the outdoor gardens and year-round in the conservatory.


Longwood Gardens

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Decades before Longwood Gardens established itself as one of the pre-eminent botanical gardens in the country, it was a working farm established by George Peirce on land purchased from fellow Quaker William Penn in 1700. Nearly a century later, Peirce’s great-grandsons created an arboretum on the land with specimens collected up and down the Eastern seaboard. Later generations lost interest in the facility, and in the end, a lumber mill was contracted to remove the trees in 1906.

In stepped Pierre du Pont, who would later serve as a significant character in the history of DuPont and General Motors; he purchased the land and the lumber contracts to save the trees and then set about expanding upon the gardening fixtures at the property, which he also turned into his private estate.

“From the very beginning, we were about preservation and gardening,” said Patricia Evans, communications manager for the facilities. “It really speaks to our history and our purpose today, as well.”

Today, Longwood Gardens boasts one of the largest conservatories in the country, with four and a half acres under glass featuring 20 indoor gardens. Outside, 350 acres with 20 outdoor gardens, including a new meadow garden with an emphasis on native plants, are open to the public. Instead of focusing on collecting a variety of exotic plants, Longwood emphasizes its educational mission, showcasing the beauty of horticulture for visitors.

Upon du Pont’s request, Longwood is open every day of the year, including holidays. Along with a wide array of seasonal programming, prearranged group visits can include on-site dining options and behind-the-scenes tours.

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