This past weekend I made my annual Spring Trip to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my friend Carol. I’ve been going for several years now and Carol and I have a list of favorite places – restaurants, coffee shops, plant nurseries, gardens. The list is so long that we can’t go to every place every year! You’d think we’d found just about everything there was to find and yet Carol discovered a new place to add to our list: the Allen Centennial Garden.
Located on the University of Wisconsin campus, the garden is an incongruous oasis amongst the student housing, athletic facilities, agricultural classrooms and labs and the UW hospital. Arranged around a lovely Victorian gothic mansion that once served as the Dean’s residence, the gardens are now used as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory for research on sustainable ornamental horticulture.
Relatively small, the garden has been divided into several “rooms” which make it feel expansive. Clever planting has also shielded the area from the surrounding traffic and noise. The various garden styles include French, English, a meadow, dwarf conifers, shade, Japanese and a pond.
A part of the Rock Garden featured something I had never seen before, a Czech Crevice Garden. Developed by a Czech botanist in the 1990s, it is comprised of slabs of stone set on edge. Alpine plants are planted in the narrow spaces between the stones, providing deep root protection for the plants both from winter cold and summer drought.