Childrens Garden at Green Bay Botanical Garden

Childrens Garden at Green Bay Botanical Garden

Part of Ep. 1701 Places to Visit

Director of Horticulture Mark Konlock gives Shelley Ryan a tour of the Gertrude B. Nielsen Children's Garden at Green Bay Botanical Garden. The Peter Rabbit garden features a child-sized shed and fun-to-touch plants like kohlrabi and cosmos. Other child-friendly plantings include a maze, weeping mulberries, tall grasses and Rattlesnake Master. The pond hosts a collection of turtles and frogs.

Premiere date: Feb 28, 2009

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
"Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter lived underneath the root of a very big fir tree..." This is The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  And I'm sitting in a garden dedicated to Peter Rabbit.  I have to be careful.  This is a kid-sized garden! This is part of Green Bay Botanical Garden.  And I'm with the director of horticulture, Mark Konlock.  Thanks, Mark, for letting us come visit.

Mark:
You bet, thanks for coming, Shelley.

Shelley:
Tell me a little bit about Green Bay Botanical Garden.

Mark:
Well, the garden has been here since 1996.  There's about 20 acres that are developed.  It's a pretty decent-sized place.  We have a whole bunch of gardens that are in existence.  The children's garden is one of them.

Shelley:
So, one of many.

Mark:
It's about half an acre.  We have different areas for kids to interact with plants and to do different things out here.  We have a wetting zoo.

Shelley:
You mean a petting zoo?

Mark:
No, it's actually a wetting zoo! Kids water our topiaries to help them grow.

Shelley:
Oh, fun! And what kid doesn't like to play with water, too.

Mark:
Exactly, it can get a little out of hand!  We also have a rainbow garden with plants from the different colors of the rainbow and a big sundial.  Beautiful colors.  We also have a butterfly rearing garden.  And right now, we're in the Peter Rabbit garden.

Shelley:
What I really like about the Peter Rabbit garden everything here is kid size.  Everything is dedicated to the Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Mark:
Exactly.

Shelley:
But I don't remember a mailbox.

Mark:
These mailboxes are something that we just re-installed back into the children's garden this year.  They have different activities in them.  The flag is up to let you know you have mail.  Then you can go in and take a sheet and remember the stuff that you saw in the garden.  This one has a little word search of different vegetables and stuff that you would've seen here in the garden.

Shelley:
They can use it here to help in the garden and then take them home with them, too.

Mark:
Right, exactly.

Shelley:
Where would the book actually be sitting in the garden?

Mark:
The Peter Rabbit book is usually in McGregor's shed.  It's something that you can't really read.

Shelley:
It's sitting inside for them to look at.

Mark:
And kids really like to look inside that shed.

Shelley:
As we said, everything, even the roof is kid sized.  The little wheelbarrow, I just love it.  Is that Peter Rabbit there, the little stone rabbit?

Mark:
There's a little statue of Peter Rabbit and his wife.  We like those rabbits because they don't eat!

Shelley:
It's the only kind I want!  That looks like Peter's clothes on the scarecrow.

Mark:
From when Peter gets stuck in the fence and his clothes get taken by Mr. McGregor to make a scarecrow to chase them out, hopefully.

Shelley:
You're bringing back my childhood memories.  You know, we always think of public gardens as places where you don't touch.  I assume you kind of switched that around here in a kid's garden.

Mark:
Yeah, we like it to be interactive for the kids to be able to go anywhere, to touch stuff.  We don't want them to rip the plants out of the ground.  But we have stuff for different feels like the kohlrabi, and the Swiss chard, and the cosmos, with this really nice fine texture.

Shelley:
I know, it's so delicate looking.  But it's easy to grow, too.

Mark:
Right, and we like people to touch things and take a little piece of the thyme and smell it, and the santolina and different herbs.  And like you mentioned, a lot of the plants like the morning glories, the cosmos and vegetables are easy to start from seed.  A parent can get an idea, take it home and grow something.  Sunflowers, too, of course.

Shelley:
I love the kid sized fence.  I mean, it makes me look taller!

Mark:
There you go!

Shelley:
You have a maze here that kids talk about a lot, I hear.  Yeah, every kid that comes here when they come back for a tour they're like, "Oh you have a maze here!" So, it's really cool.  We have vines growing up a large fence.  The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or maze is our tree house with a big slide.

Shelley:
Magical.  When I was a kid, we liked places to hide in the garden.

Mark:
We have a couple places that we made specifically.  We have an area of grass a kind of forest that you can hide in.  Then, we have these weeping mulberries that we planted.  We cut holes into them so it's easier for kids.  They don't feel afraid, and have a hiding spot.

Shelley:
These are easy to grow in Wisconsin.  They just weep this way naturally.

Mark:
Right, exactly.
Shelley:
You guys came up with the idea to cut the holes into them?  So, are they just for kids?

Mark:
Oh, no! We can go on in there!

Shelley:
Good!

Mark:
Shelley, you've been around and through the mulberry bush and we are on the other side of the children's garden.

Shelley:
What a magical way to travel!

Mark:
Over here, we have our pond which is the main feature on this side.  I think any children's garden worth its salt will have some kind of water feature to really attract the kids.

Shelley:
Kids and grown-ups fall in the water, I love it!

Mark:
Yeah, right! And we also try to keep our plantings kind of similar to our other side where we have plants that kids can interact with.

Shelley:
Rattlesnake Master.  This has always been one of my favorites because it brings out the kid in me.  It reminds me of the time of the dinosaurs.

Mark:
Yeah, it's a really cool plant.  Besides the stuff that you can touch-- You can touch liatris, but it also attracts wildlife.  You know, the different butterflies and bees that kind of thing.  So you can see that kind of stuff.

Shelley:
Ponds attract wildlife, not just raccoons but you know, fish, frogs.  Do you get turtles here?

Mark:
Yeah, we have a turtle over there in the pond and frogs, of course, tadpoles.  It's neat to see the lifecycle from a tadpole to a frog.

Shelley:
As a kid, my fun was catching frogs, snakes and pollywogs.  Do you encourage that here?
Mark:
Definitely, these stairs we're on lead down to the water, so the kids can get in there without having to jump in.  As long as their parents are here to watch them.

Shelley:
And keep them from going too far in.

Mark:
Exactly, but we encourage them to try and catch a frog, as long as they throw it back in there.

Shelley:
So a catch and release program!  You teach them young.  This is just a great spot.  I'm also looking across the way there and we've been talking kid-sized, kid scale.  You've got kid-sized garden furniture over there.  Then I see the face on that tree!

Mark:
Yeah, it's a nice shady spot over there.  You can kind of relax from all your play and work.  Then the face has kind of the whole other aspect of your imagination and what else can you create in your mind as you're going through this place.

Shelley:
If that doesn't sum up the magic of gardening and the magic of childhood, I don't know what does.

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