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juniper berriesGarden Evergreens

February 12, 2015

Take a stroll through the Gardens and what can be seen? Snow...yes. Ice...yes. And evergreens!

Evergreens become one of the stars of the Gardens in winter, providing vibrant colors even during the bleakest of days and amazing textures often accentuated with a cloak of snow. There is a large diversity of evergreens throughout the Gardens--too much to highlight here. A few notable ones include the Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’) near the kaleidoscope, the Saybrook gold juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Saybrook Gold’) in the Rock Garden, and the green giant arborvitae (Thuja ‘Green Giant’) which creates the giant hedge at the edge of the Herb Garden.

We recently added some new pyramid Chinese junipers to the Perennial Garden (Juniperus chinensis ‘Iowa’) and Meadow Garden (J. chinensis ‘Fairview’), and they have been loaded with juniper berries. Of course, juniper berries give gin its distinctive flavor!

Phillip Stutz, Horticulturist


Heliconia angustaHeliconia angusta

January 21, 2015

On your next visit to the Bolz Conservatory, stroll up to the Musician's Terrace on the upper level and look for the color red. You will see a plant with showy red upright bracts holding multiple white flowers against the dark green foliage. This is the spectacular tropical plant, Heliconia angusta, native to Southeastern Brazil. It grows to about 5 feet in height, in partial shade to sun, and in rich moist soil. The long green leaves are reminiscent of the banana or canna plants.

The Heliconia are a genus of about 200 species of plants found primarily in the tropics of Central and South America with a few found in the South Pacific region. This group of plants has characteristically boat shaped bracts with striking coloration including the colors orange, yellow, maroon, pink and the red found in the Heliconia angusta.

Why such bright colors?

In the tropical Americas, the hummingbird is the main pollinator of Heliconia. The hummingbird is attracted to the bright colors as it flies from plant to plant in search of nectar to feed, and while doing so, pollinates the plants.

Visit the Schumacher Library for additional information on tropical plants for your garden. You may want to consider a Heliconia in a tropical summer garden or sun room!


winter containers

November 13, 2014

winter container construction winter container construction winter container

I’m sure you have felt the blast of winter air this week which means that winter is rapidly closing in on the outdoor gardens! Over the last few weeks we have been busily preparing the gardens for winter: composting the last of our fall annuals, packing away terra cotta containers, adding leaf mulch and finally planting a few spring-blooming bulbs.

What’s next on the addenda? Winter arrangements for all of our permanent planters! We have been scouring the gardens for evergreen boughs, interesting seed heads and colorful branch tops to use in our arrangements.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Bundle up and head out into the gardens to see what we’ve been working on!

Samantha Peckham, Horticulturist


pineapplePineapple in the conservatory

November 5, 2014

Did you know you can start a pineapple indoors? You can!

The pineapple plant on display in the entrance to the Bolz Conservatory was started from a fruit obtained at a local grocery store. The rosette of green leaves at the top of the pineapple was cut off of the ripe fruit and then the base of the rosette was allowed to dry or “callus” for a few days. Roots grew from the rosette when planted into a porous, well draining mix. Some people also try rooting it in a jar of water. Once planted into a pot, you will need warm temperature, high sunlight, adequate moisture and patience. Two years may elapse before a new fruit appears.

Pineapples originated in South America and are terrestrially growing members of the bromeliad family. There are only 8 species of pineapple, some with ornamental fruit and some with edible fruit. The commercially cultivated edible pineapple, Ananas comosus, is now grown in many tropical areas of the world, including Brazil, Philippines and Hawaii.

Visit the Schumacher Library for additional information and assistance on growing your own pineapple. Don’t miss seeing the pineapple growing in the Conservatory at Olbrich!

Cindy Cary, Tropical Plant & Wildlife Assistant


Breadfruitbreadfruit in the conservatory

Artocarpus altilis

October 21, 2014

Our breadfruit tree is bearing fruit right now in our Bolz Conservatory!

Breadfruit has been an important tropical food plant throughout the Pacific for thousands of years. It was spread throughout Oceania by islanders who traveled by ocean-going canoe and settled the numerous islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Breadfruit was traditionally baked or roasted in the fire and has a starchy texture and fragrance that - to Europeans - was reminiscent of fresh bread.

Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour on his first great voyage than included Tahiti (1778 - 1781) said “regarding food, if a man plant 10 breadfruit trees in his life he would completely fulfill his duty to his own as well as future generations....” True to his word, Banks promoted Captain Bligh’s ill-fated voyage on the HMS Bounty to transplant breadfruit from Tahiti to the Caribbean in 1787.

The Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden promotes the conservation and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation. The institute is taking a lead role in the conservation of breadfruit diversity and is conducting research documenting the traditional uses and cultural practices. Check out their website at http://ntbg.org/breadfruit/ to learn about the many varieties and uses for breadfruit and the important work the Institute carries out to respond to critical global food security issues in the tropics.

Our breadfruit tree can best be seen from the Orchid Aerie on the second level of the Bolz Conservatory.




Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719