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Boerner Botanical GardenA break from the Florida summer was just what we needed last week when we visited Milwaukee. Between baseball games, the Zoo and a brewery tour, I managed to sneak in a trip to Milwaukee’s Boerner Botanical Gardens. I am very lucky to be blessed with a 4 1/2 year old niece who loves plants as much as I do, so a quick “gardens-gardens-gardens” chant was all we needed to add this to the agenda.

The gardens themselves are quite extensive and there are at least 13 named gardens within the formal garden space. We didn’t make it to the surrounding arboretum, but I am sure it would be easy to spend more time exploring these areas. Our entire visited lasted about an hour and half, which considering we had little ones with us was quite a feat.

My Top 5 Favorite things about Boerner Botanical Gardens include:

Boerner Botanical Garden#1 Gorgeous Perennials. Maybe it is my Midwest roots missing these great plants, but the perennials throughout the gardens were beautiful. From coneflowers to hostas, they really scratched my itch for good old fashioned perennials. Their large perennial garden, shown above, is laid out on an axis between the Rose Garden and Annuals and was a pleasure to explore.

Rose 'Lady Elsie May'The Rose Garden too was very formal, but in the middle of August it was slam-packed with roses of all colors. This rose,  ‘Lady Elsie May’, was just about more than my niece could take!  We are working really hard on trying to admire flowers while on plants instead of in hand like she loves so much. I wish I was 4 and could get away with it like she does!

Boerner Botanical Garden #2 Fairy Garden. I have to admit, this is really the first fairy garden that I’ve actually liked. I know that this is a gardening trend that everyone seems to be involved with lately, but it just hasn’t grown on me. That was until I saw how the horticulture team at Boerner used minimal fanciful decorations with a very smart use of miniature plants to create this garden.

Boerner Botanical GardenHow cute is this fairy garden vegetable garden? The rows of “cabbage” are actually semperviviums, but the mini fence and surrounding miniature conifers make it right at home. My niece spent a lot of time walking around this area, looking at all of the details and trying to find the few fairies that were tucked among the plants.

Boerner Botanical Garden rock garden#3 Water features. I absolutely loved the Rock Garden. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1934-1941, this area has over 1,000 tons of weathered limestone combined to create a secret grotto among the gardens. The flowing water was just soft enough to create a calming effect and also help hosts many native ferns and wildflowers.

Boerner Botanical GardenThe runnel that led the water from the main grotto trickled through the garden and even had a small passage, maybe 5 inches wide, that visitors step over to view the entire garden. The cool water and the lush perennials made this easily one of my top 5 moments at Boerner Botanical Garden.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendula', Weeping Katsura Tree#4 Trees. How could I talk about this garden and not mention the trees?  This Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’, Weeping Katsura Tree, greeted us as we walked in the Visitor’s Center. I am drawn to weeping trees and this specimen was absolutely beautiful.

Boerner Botanical Garden#5 Color Combinations. Just next to the Weeping Katsura, this combination of yellow cannas, coleus and purple leaved dahlias was a real eye catcher. I found these great color combinations throughout Boerner Gardens and was very impressed with the combinations of colors and textures in the annual beds.

Boerner Botanical GardenThis ‘Gryphon’ begonia and coleus combination made me stop in my tracks.

Overall our trip to visit Boerner Botanical Gardens was well worth the effort. I felt like I was more impressed than my family, but at this point I think they are getting very critical of botanical gardens!  I hope you enjoyed by top five favorite things from Boerner.

Petasites japonicus var. giganteus, Giant Butterbur



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