West Madison Agricultural Research Station

West Madison Agricultural Research Station

Part of Ep. 1701 Places to Visit

Shelley Ryan previews new plants with Judy Reith-Rozelle at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Perennials include a large selection of ornamental grasses, shade and sun plants and natives. Also on trial are heirloom tomatoes, new herbs and sunflowers, raspberries, grapes. A working wheelchair-accessible garden is also on display. The station is open year-round, from dawn 'til dusk.

Premiere date: Feb 28, 2009

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We are at West Madison Agricultural Research Station on the west side of Madison, on Mineral Point Road.  It's a busy highway but the gardens here are a wonderful place to visit.  I'm with Judy Reith-Rozelle.  I drive by here all the time.  The gardens are gorgeous.  Tell me about what's happening here.

Judy:
We have about five to six acres.  We trial a lot of new flowers, annuals, perennials vegetables, fruits.  We work with breeders across the country.  People can come in and see new things that are coming out a few years from now.

Shelley:
So you get them before they're on the market.  We can come out here and plan our gardens ahead of time.

Judy:
Yes, many of the things are.

Shelley:
Are you open year round?

Judy:
It's open year round, from dawn to dusk.  In the wintertime, people are welcome to come out.  Visitors come to look at our hardy ornamental grasses.  We have one of the largest collections around.  And we leave it up.  We don't cut it down so people can see what they look like in the snow.  How they perform in the winter.

Shelley:
Perfect.  You also do other perennials besides the grasses.

Judy:
Right, we have a nice collection of shade-loving perennials for those people who have a lot of trees.  We have native perennials so people can use Wisconsin native perennials.  And then we have some hybrids.  We also have sun-loving perennials.  We have some really new ones we just put in this year.  They'll be performing well in the future, we hope.  We'll be trialing them.  Then we have a whole selection of vegetables.  People can come in.  We have heirloom tomatoes.  We have some really neat ones this year.  We have new heirloom peppers.
Shelley:
"New" heirloom peppers, I know what you mean!

Judy:
Some of them are new.  They're coming out of Europe, so it's really exciting.

Shelley:
You've got some herbs that you trial.

Judy:
We trial a lot of different herbs every year.  This year, we're real excited about cilantro.  Some cilantro is coming out that you wouldn't have to go out and see them every few weeks in the summer.

Shelley:
They don't go to seed so fast.

Judy:
We have some that we're still cutting.  We sowed them in mid-May.  We're still harvesting, and they have not set seed yet.  We'll be watching new ones all summer.

Shelley:
Let me know if you need some help trialing them!  I'd be glad to help with that.

Judy:
We will!

Shelley:
I'm looking behind us and see gorgeous sunflowers.  Are those part of your trials, too?

Judy:
Yes, they are.  We have a lot of new sunflowers this year and others.  We work with the National Cut Flower Association.

Shelley:
Sunflowers are used in vases and arrangements.

Judy:
They are.  A lot of the sunflowers coming out are pollen-less and also multi-headed.  You can cut one head and harvest for a long time.  They can bring them in the house and no pollen falls on the table if that's something that one's concerned with.  We also have a lisianthus that I'm real excited about.  These are double.  Some are chartreuse green, some are pink, and some purple.

Shelley:
Those would be gorgeous in a vase.
Judy:
We're really excited.

Shelley:
You said not just vegetables but fruits, as well.

Judy:
Last year, we put in a new collection of raspberries.  We have 12 cultivars of raspberries a summer and winter bearing.  And they're just starting to fruit now.  So we're tasting them.

Shelley:
If you need help with that...!

Judy:
And we have a seedless table grape trial which could be real exciting for Wisconsin because there's only one, a concord, that's seedless.  That's a slip-skin.  These are just like you'd go to the market to get.

Shelley:
So we could be growing them in Wisconsin in the future.

Judy:
Yes, and then we have a big wine grape trial.  We have about 15 different cultivars of wine grapes up there.  We just put those in this year so in about four years, they'll start fruiting.  We'll see which ones over-winter.

Shelley:
Then you'll make wine, and I'll be there for that!  And you've also got one of your newer features that's close to my heart.  You have a wheelchair accessible garden.

Judy:
Yes, we do, and we're lucky.  The master gardeners have helped us with that.  They built the bed.  It's a great wooden structure that one can wheel under with the wheelchair.  Or you can stand at it, if you have limited mobility and work right at the bed.  We have tomatoes in there right now, and watermelon and flowers, so that there's some beauty.  Our interns this year built a patio so it's really a solid system for wheelchairs, walkers, or whatever.  So, we're real happy about it.

Shelley:
As our population ages the more we think about extending the life of us gardeners and keeping us happy, the better.  You mentioned master gardeners.  We really have to give them a lot of credit for this gorgeous garden, don't we?

Judy:
Oh, yeah.  We have maybe 30 or 40 master gardeners who come in.  They help us with everything from helping design gardens, setting up the gardens and taking care of them.  We have people who come in on the weekends and weed deadhead, then help us with our big field days.  So, without the master gardeners we wouldn't have this garden.  We just couldn't.  We are thankful they're here.  Then we have some interns from the horticulture department who help us.

Shelley:
It's definitely a place worth visiting thanks to the master gardeners and you.  Thank you, Judy, this is gorgeous.

Judy:
Thank you, Shelley, we're happy to show you.

Shelley:
Thanks for watching this special edition of the Wisconsin Gardener.  To learn about more places to visit in Wisconsin please check out our Web site at: wpt.org/garden I'm Shelley Ryan.  I'll see you again next time on the Wisconsin Gardener.

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