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Olbrich Botanical Gardens practices sustainability by conserving resources and using environmentally friendly gardening methods.

According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, 'sustainable' means to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."



Olbrich teaches sustainability through example

Healthy plants can often resist serious pest invasions and diseases. Here are some of the sustainable gardening methods used at Olbrich. Try these in your own garden!

Olbrich's Rose GardenThe Right Plant in the Right Place

Grow plants that are Midwest-hardy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant. Plants are healthiest in locations that meet their needs. Olbrich matches appropriate plants, either native or non-native (cultivated), with each garden location.

(Photo at Right: Olbrich's Rose Garden features Midwest-hardy shrub roses.)

Maintain Healthy Soil

Use organic material, such as compost or leaf mulch, to add nutrients and improve soil structure. Olbrich's leaf mulch reuses local leaves for Olbrich's Gardens and the community.

Natural Insect Control

Remove insect pests by hand. Olbrich staff and volunteers wash or hand-pick insect pests from plants. Olbrich attracts

and introduces beneficial insects to help reduce pests.

Some insect damage is tolerated.

Olbrich Volunteer WeedingControl Weeds Naturally

Mulch several times throughout the season to keep weed seeds from germinating. At Olbrich, staff and volunteers weed by hand when needed. Some weeds are tolerated.

(Photo at Right: An Olbrich volunteer pulls weeds in Olbrich's Rose Garden.)

Does Olbrich ever use chemicals?

While chemicals are never Olbrich's first choice, minimal and strategic use of chemicals is part of Olbrich's Integrated Pest Management program to control insects, diseases, and weeds. Chemical-free techniques - such as washing plants, attracting beneficial insects, and hand weeding - are always Olbrich's first choice. For more information about chemical use and Olbrich's Integrated Pest Management program, read the Pesticide Report. This document is also available in Olbrich's Schumacher Library.

Rain GardenSmart Water Usage

Monitor plants and water only when needed. At Olbrich, rain gardens and rain barrels retain rainwater onsite; computerized irrigation and drainage systems conserve water.

(Photo at Right: Olbrich's Rain Garden reduces rainwater runoff. The Rain Garden is located between the Rose Garden and Perennial Garden.)

Lawn Alternatives

In place of lawn, plant drought-tolerant perennial grasses mixed with wildflowers and bulbs. Perennial grasses are only mowed two to three times a year. Lawn alternatives at Olbrich include the Meadow Garden, Prairie Dropseed Meadow, and Serenity Garden.

"Greener" Garden Designs

Perennial GardenPlant low-maintenance perennials, with annuals dotted in, rather than solid annual beds. Olbrich also uses bulbs that naturalize and multiply.

(Photo at Right: Olbrich's Perennial Garden features interesting plants that don't require much maintenance.)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Compost garden waste on site. At Olbrich, biodegradable pots are being tested; plastic pots are reused or recycled. Olbrich's tram and horticulture staff utility carts use rechargable batteries. In the Bolz Conservatory, sensitive computer controls monitor the tropical environment and manage energy use efficiently.


Spreading Sustainability

Olbrich offers diverse and engaging educational opportunities


Gardens Sustained by the Community

A vital and connected community resource


partnerships in sustainability

Creative and innovative collaborations

Travel Green Wisconsin

Olbrich is a certified Travel Green Wisconsin destination. This program certifies tourism organizations and businesses commited to reducing their environmental impact.

Olbrich's Green Team

Olbrich staff members are trained in The Natural Step, the sustainability planning tool adopted by the City of Madison. The Natural Step strives to create a sustainable community while meeting basic human needs. In their everyday tasks, Olbrich staff members conserve energy, reduce waste, and educate the public about sustainable gardening. On May 31, 2011, Olbrich staff will be presenting at a planning course about The Natural Step. For more information visit the City of Madison's The Natural Step webpage.

Community Partners

Olbrich Collaborates with local organizations to cultivate sustainability through educational programs and services. Partners include Madison School Community Recreation, the Madison Public Library, Nature Net, neighborhood associations, and many more.


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