Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 2:
Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events
Rotary Botanical Gardens
Day number two of our Wisconsin adventure found us at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville. We pulled into the parking lot just as the doors were opening. I had been introduced to this garden some years back and longed each year to make a return visit with more time to spend so I could add to my pleasant memories of this garden. Pulling into the parking area was like returning to a reoccurring dream. The front entrance of the welcoming center and areas surrounding the entrance were filled with late summer color. We stopped and wandered with our cameras for some time before entering.
We only made it to the door before stopping in our tracks to admire the displays on either side of the entrance. Aged driftwood with annuals, perennials and ferns were in the arrangement we stopped to photograph and look for id tags (to no avail). We stopped by the office to inquire but no one could be located who knew the names of the ferns.
Once we entered to purchase entrance to the gardens, we asked how long it normally took to visit the gardens and were informed that the average visitor took about one and a half hours. Perhaps we broke a record of some kind when we took until closing time to walk the gardens, and could have used just a bit more time.
Memory Meets Reality
The website says Rotary Botanical Gardens is twenty acres in physical size now, but I would have sworn it was not nearly as big when I first visited. Whatever the physical outline, within there are worlds of gardening styles to visit. We drifted along letting our eyes and bellybuttons guide us through our tour, only occasionally referring to the map. We did not count the number of garden styles represented, but the website says a total of twenty-four. The number of plants in the gardens is said to be four thousand, I would have loved to have been hired to count individual plants, verifying the statistic. When a day of touring is over I suppose we all end up with our favorites. If I had to choose it would have been the sunken garden with the arched entrance and the Japanese garden. Probably Japanese garden listed first.
What I saw
There is no way I could describe a full day of wandering and wonder, stopping to take photos, and at times simply stopping in awe at the view ahead. First view was of immaculate paths, benches and worlds of annuals both in and out of containers. The vision was framed in color and texture. Each colorful container arrangement led to another drawing me along the paths. There were interesting hardscapes combined with the plants but each one was a tasteful support and partner to the view. Someone truly knew container arranging and this would be evident throughout the entire garden.
If memory serves me correctly I remember a small Japanese garden to the rear of Rotary that was private and I was given a tour. That garden of memory now has three lakes in a series each one stepping down the side of a sloping terrain connected by a small stone lined streams. There was a header flow with a small arched bridge and winding path. I watched each individual stand on the arched bridge and pause to enjoy the view down the hillside and then I joined them.
I enjoyed the sculptures very much, especially the four children in bronze playing ring-around-the-rosy located beneath trees and bordered by gaily flowering plants. Not only were the bronzes captivating, so was the location for creating a story. To further capture you to this area was the nearby butterfly garden for children of all ages.
Unique to this garden was the aged wooden benches located throughout the garden, each with a garden related quote from such well knowns from John Muir to Thomas Jefferson and M. Gandhi. One of my favorites is by Muir, “Come to the woods for here is rest”. Perhaps more wonderful than opening a dark chocolate Dove candy and reading the secret message inside the foil wrapper. In another world I would have sat on each bench and while taking in the view, thought of the words carved into each bench. It would be worth another visit just to sit on the benches.
The memory of my previous visit stood out in colors as vivid as the original sighting and here it was once more, in even more vibrant colors. Six Adirondack chairs in a row, two of lime green, two of red, two of blue, each facing the quiet waters of a lake. The scene draws like a magnet and it is futile to resist setting in one of the chairs, watching the waters ripple against the shore at the feet of those Adirondacks. Once there it is hard to get back up and move on. Partly due to how the chair is built, somewhat due to enjoying the quiet and the view, and quite a bit of arthritis in my old bones.
One More Time
I am already looking forward to another return trip to Rotary, this time during a different season. Meanwhile I am thinking of my garden, of what I have just experienced, what I have learned, and trying to visualize how I could combine the two.