Giants in the Conservatory
November 1 , 2013
When you hear of the Amorphophallus titanum or Corpse Flower plant, the first thing that commonly comes to mind is a giant mass of stinky flowers. This plant also has another, less frequently known, claim to fame which is its giant leaf.
The single leaf emerges from the underground tuber to stand up to 15 feet tall with a leaf stalk 12 inches in diameter. The leaf blade at the top is composed of many leaflets producing a large green canopy several feet in diameter. Really, it's a single leaf, not a tree! In nature, this comparison serves as camouflage. The mottled green and tan leaf stalk blends in with the moss and lichen covered trees found in the rainforests of its native Sumatra in Southeast Asia.
Look for the Amorphophallus leaf at the entrance of the Bolz Conservatory. Watch as it grows to its full height and the leaf blade unfurls.
To see a second giant, continue on the walkway to the left toward the pond. The giant leaf of the Dracontium gigas is in front of you. This plant is in the same plant family and related to the Amorphophallus, but it is native to the tropical Americas instead of Asia. The Dracontium have one of the largest leaves in the plant kingdom, excluding the palms, and yes, they also have stinky flowers.
October 4, 2013
From striking asters and mums to colorful cabbages and kale to gorgeous perennial grasses you must come enjoy the beauty of fall at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. As you will see, we have been busy switching out some of our fading summer annuals for fresh fall plants. You will also find fall annuals tucked in-between perennials and woody trees and shrubs to add a little color and interest for the remainder of the season.
While you are here, make sure to check out the colorful display of mums, kales, cabbages and violas in the English Courtyard in the Herb Garden, as well as creative container plantings and interesting little fall vignettes throughout the gardens.
All of the fall annuals that you will find in the gardens have been grown right here in our greenhouses and outdoor nursery. Many of the mums and asters you will see in the outdoor gardens are also being sold in our gift shop - so make sure to get here soon for the best selection!
Summer Annuals - Frost is on The Way
September 30, 2013
It’s already starting to feel like fall - the morning light doesn’t come as early, our evenings are just a bit cooler, the school buses are back on the streets. Yet, the afternoons are still warm and glorious. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk through the garden and admire the summer annuals one last time, on one of these warm and sunny afternoons.
In southern Wisconsin, our first killing frost typically occurs in early to mid-October. Take this opportunity to closely look at the annual combinations our horticulturists have put together in containers and in the ground. Bring a pad of paper or your camera to capture the combinations that inspire you. Maybe you’ll find a particular combination you would like to duplicate, next season, in your own garden.
September 11, 2013
We think of the spring as the time when the 'little bulbs' are in full bloom. However fall can also be a time for beautiful blooms. This Cyclamen species actually blooms in late summer/early fall and reminds us of the spring. It has an interesting life cycle. The corms or small 'bulbs' are planted in spring. Nothing really happens above-ground until late summer/fall when the flowers appear. After the flowers, ivy-like leaves appear and stay all winter - sometimes under the snow in Madison. Seeds ripen in the spring/early summer, but the remainder of the plant goes dormant. The cycle is repeated the next fall.
Cyclamen hederifolium gets its name from the Greek word cyclamïnos for "circle" referring to the corm, and from the Latin hedera for ivy and folium for leaf referring to the ivy-shaped leaf.
You can find Cyclamen hederifolium at Olbrich Gardens just off the Birch Allee behind the Herb Garden. Take the flagstone path back towards the herb garden. Cyclamen hederifolium is waiting under the arborvitae. Hurry - the flowers won't last long!
September 5, 2013
Have you ever heard of a plant whose leaves smell like buttered popcorn or peanut butter? It sounds strange but come check out the Popcorn cassia (Senna didymobotrya) in the Herb Garden. To some noses, it smells like warm buttered popcorn; to others, peanut butter. Either way, it's definitely worth a trip to come smell it for yourself!
Senna didymobotrya, otherwise known as popcorn cassia or popcorn senna, is a member of the legume family, native to eastern Africa. Striking black flower buds, accompany racemes of golden yellow flowers that top this tropical plant all summer long. Popcorn cassia is a fast grower, sometimes reaching up to 6 feet tall in one season! It can be planted in either a large container or as a focal point in the ground amongst your existing perennials and woody plants. When you are strolling through the gardens at Olbrich make sure to look for the golden yellow flowers of popcorn cassia in the Herb, Rose and Sunken Gardens. (But, don't blame us if you have a craving for buttered popcorn after your visit!)
Popcorn cassia prefers full sun and well-draining soil and will not tolerate temperatures below freezing. Self-seeding can be a problem in tropical climates but is not an issue here in the Midwest. So check out your local garden centers next spring and pick up a popcorn cassia for your garden!
Travel to Thailand but without leaving Madison
August 13, 2013
Now's the time to wander out to the Thai Pavilion and enjoy the Thai Garden! Olbrich's Thai Garden emulates a lush, tropical garden, with exotic, colorful annuals mixed in. The Garden is at its peak from about mid-July through September. Stroll across the bridge over Starkweather Creek and get lost in the jungle of over-sized, Wisconsin-hardy plants. These huge plants will trick you into thinking you’re in the middle of a real tropical garden in Thailand.
Make sure to stroll behind the Pavilion to admire the mix of bright-colored annuals, just now reaching their peak bloom! Throughout the Thai Garden, notice the large-leafed shrubs and trees, pruned to give them the look of plants in a typical Thai garden. Large Chinese junipers are shaped into
"tree art," blooming lotus in the pools are stunning, and bamboo
brings an exotic flavor.
Come out to Olbrich and enjoy your time in Thailand!
July 19, 2013
Olbrich's summer containers are in full bloom right now! Don't miss the hundreds of gorgeous containers scattered all around the gardens. Make sure to notice the creative use of foliage plants, tropicals, and annuals bursting with blooms.
The Rose Garden is home to containers full of colorful annuals and unusual cactus combinations. In the Sunken Garden, dozens of pots overflow with the bright foliage of coleus plants.
Containers are useful to soften concrete patios or decks and make great focal points. Take the time to notice how Olbrich places containers - against limestone structures, along walls, or in layered groups.
Staff and volunteers keep the containers looking good all season long. Annuals may be pruned back every few weeks to rejuvenate them or regularly deadheaded so the plants continue to flower. And, they're all kept well-watered if rain isn't enough.
Most of these beautiful containers have a thriller - a tall plant; a filler - something fine to fill in; and a spiller - to cascade over the edge of the pot.
Check out the containers and get ideas for your own garden!