It’s hard to imagine what the area would have looked like before the creation of the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin. 30 years ago the site was a disused quarry and BMX track but thanks to the creative vision of Dr. Robert Yahr, a local orthodontist, the old quarry is now 24 different styles of international gardens spanning across 20 acres!
Disclosure: Thank you to Janesville CVB and the Rotary Botanical Gardens for hosting my visit, as always opinions are 100% my own!
Janesville Rotary Botanical Gardens
The gardens are maintained by hundreds of volunteers. The ‘regulars’ have certain areas that are their ‘pride and joy’. Along with information boards explaining the type of garden and the names of each individual plant, there’s a little plaque with the names of the volunteers that are in charge of that area. It’s really nice that they are recognised in this way because the gardens are IMMACULATE.
All of the paths and ‘The Dry Sea’ in the Japanese Gardens are raked to create the ‘wave’ look that is common in Zen Gardens. Even at 2pm, 6 HOURS after opening time and therefore 6 hours of being stomped all over, the volunteers had kept the paths in such a condition that if I didn’t know different, I would have thought I was the first person of the day to walk over them.
Crossing over the bright red arched bridge, the Japanese Gardens changed into a Woodland Walk around a large pond. The contrast between the two garden styles couldn’t be any more different but it flows together perfectly and works this way throughout the gardens!
Garden Art Project
One of my favourite areas of the gardens, is the Garden Art Project. Each year giant cut outs are made and local artists decorate them. They are displayed in the gardens throughout the summer and are then auctioned off at the end of the season. The year I visited, the theme was fish! (If someone would buy me the fish below, I’ll love you forever!)
This then ties in with the Garden StoryWalk! As the art project was fish, the children’s book of choice is ‘Commotion In The Ocean’ (a book I know well working in pre school)! Children can follow the path through the garden, reading a page from the book as they go!
The most impressive part of the StoryWalk is a path leading through a giant walk-through aquarium that even warns you to ‘hold your breath and don’t let the water out’! This area features plants that grow in sand, making it look like the ocean floor! The creativity making that story come alive is amazing!
Another favourite piece of mine is the flowerpot kaleidoscope, located in the Larch Area. When you look through the tube whilst spinning the pot, it turns the flowers into a kaleidoscope of pink. I could have spent HOURS watching this! It’s not actually advertised as a kaleidoscope so keep your eyes peeled. I only discovered it on close inspection when I wondered why it said ‘spin’ on the edge of the pot!
The Rotary Botanical Gardens are also FULL of memorial benches. But rather than just being like ‘so and so loved it here’, each bench has a positive quote or saying. I literally ran from bench to bench with so much excitement because I couldn’t wait to see what the next one said! I purposely walked out of my way to see what they said too! This one was my favourite:
Visiting in the summer
Visiting in August is the perfect time as the whole place is surrounded in colour. However, even out of season I can imagine it’s still an awesome place to visit! For example, I usually associate moss with growing on roofs or clogging up gutters but even the Moss Garden just looked magical! I almost half expected to see a fairy sitting on a rock!
In the winter, they have a christmas light display which I think would be AWESOME to see!
English Cottage Gardens
Of course, being from England, I was impressed with the way you start and finish in the English Cottage Gardens. (I can also say that these gardens do look very much like a garden you’d find outside a cottage in England, kudos Janesville!).
Other gardens include: Scottish Garden, Sunken Garden, Italian Garden, Alpine Garden, the North Point Garden (for the whole 2 hours I was wandering the gardens, an older couple were sat on deckchairs overlooking a pond in this garden and had not moved) and the French Formal Rose Garden (pictured below).
Part of the Rotary Botanical Garden’s mission statement, is to educate the visitor whether they are young or old. There’s even classroom space in the education centre where they hold workshops and ‘Story & Stroll’ sessions. The Children’s Garden focuses on teaching young visitors about flowers and gardens in a ‘hands on’ way and through facts which aren’t as ‘word heavy’ as those that are in some of the other gardens. This year’s theme is about how different plants can attract hummingbirds to a garden, so it’s FULL of colourful flowers!
Visiting the Rotary Botanical Gardens
💰Admission Apr – Oct:
Adults (16yrs+) $7
Seniors (65yrs+) $6
Youths (6-15yrs) $5
May – September 8am – 8.30pm
The gardens are open year round but open hours vary. In the winter they have a HUGE Christmas light display!
🗺Location: Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville, WI 53545
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