Allen Centennial Gardens

Allen Centennial Gardens

Part of Ep. 2005 Hidden Gems

Started in the 1980's Allen Centennial Gardens has grown into a blooming jewel on the western part of the UW-Madison campus.  It is both a public garden and a teaching garden and well worth a visit.

Premiere date: Jun 24, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

This is one of my favorite gems on the UW-Madison campus, Allen Centennial Gardens. I am with the director, Ed Lyon. Ed and I go way back. This is actually a place that I worked back in the '90s. I think I was even here before you, Ed.

 

Ed Lyon:

Yes you were.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, I get credit for all this!

 

Ed Lyon:

We'll give it to you.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Actually, it's changed a lot since I was here, but I have a special place in my heart for this place because I think it gave me the confidence to go on and create The Wisconsin Gardener. So, it's near and dear to my heart.

 

Ed Lyon:

As it is for all of us here.

Shelley Ryan:

It's an amazing place, because a lot of people don't even know it's here even people who are on the other end of the UW-Madison campus.

 

Ed Lyon:

It's amazing how many people even in the Madison community don't know that the gardens exist, so we really want to get the word out that we're here and we're open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk at no charge. We want to make sure everybody can utilize us.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, and you've been the director since 2009, but this garden has been going on since I think the '80s if I remember correctly. It was created with a specific purpose in mind.

 

Ed Lyon:

Yes, when I started in 2009 we celebrated our 20th year. The gardens were started as an outdoor teaching garden for the horticulture department, which also includes any department on campus. But my goal since starting is to really make sure that we're also serving our public our green industry, anybody interested in horticulture gardening, or botany.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Anybody should be able to come here and not just learn from looking at the plants but come away with knowledge that's going to make us better gardeners at home.

 

Ed Lyon:

Exactly. That's our goal.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Tell me about some of the spots that you think are really working now, Ed.

 

Ed Lyon:

There's been some changes in interest in gardening that has dictated some of the things that we're doing. One of the things we do now is we have a theme every year. For instance, this year we're doing "Color Your World." That is a way to demonstrate in our seasonal beds some of those color terms that you might not understand. For instance we have hot colors cool colors, analogous colors. The monochromatic thing we have here in back of us.

 

Shelley Ryan:

In the Italian garden.

 

Ed Lyon:

Exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Very cool and restful colors.

 

Ed Lyon:

People can come in, they can see it and they say, oh that's what they mean by analogous.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So when they read these things in a gardening magazine or see them in some article, they can come here and actually see it in play.

 

Ed Lyon:

Exactly. We've done other things, like ornamental edibles and we'll continue to do those things. Every year, they will not only be beautiful and different, but they'll be educational.

 

Shelley Ryan:

One of the first things that caught my eye as I walked in was the square foot gardening. You've got some wooden beds set up. That was one of the first things I learned, because it kept me in control when I was doing vegetable gardening.

 

Ed Lyon:

We have also discovered that that is a really big trend and interest right now with our younger people who we want to get encouraged into gardening. We're doing a lot with edible plants locally grown produce safe produce, no chemical usage. This is where the square foot gardening beds come into play. We're showing people how to grow vegetables vertically so they take less space.

 

Shelley Ryan:

A small space, again, for a student or somebody in an apartment.

 

Ed Lyon:

In areas they might not traditionally have thought to put a vegetable garden.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This is working? People are responding to your demos?

 

Ed Lyon:

It is, because most people come to public gardens and they take away ideas. But with square foot gardening, people have gone home they've built the beds and then photographed them and brought them back in to show us. That's how pleased they were that it worked.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, that's an impact, Ed.

 

Ed Lyon:

It is.

 

Shelley Ryan:

How many gardens do you have all total here?

Ed Lyon:

There's 26 named theme gardens which is pretty amazing for 2.5 acres. You're going to find an enormous diversity. We try to show some historical gardening styles such as Italian, English, French, and Victorian. But you'll also find other types of gardens here as well. We have Wisconsin wildflower. We have a sustainability garden. We have a new American garden. So you're going to find a little bit of pretty much everything packed into 2.5 acres.

 

Shelley Ryan:                         

You said it's open to the general public. If you can find the Babcock ice cream store you ought to be able to find this place. Parking is now not an issue. That's, I think, why it's a hidden gem. People think there's no place to park around here and there's a parking ramp. You've got all this information on your website. We will give out that information at the end of our show today. So, there's no reason not to come and explore this wonderful place.

 

Ed Lyon:

Again, 365 days at no fee, how can you beat that?

 

Shelley Ryan:

Perfect. Thank you for sharing this with us.

 

Ed Lyon:

You're welcome, thanks for having me.

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