Wisconsin June 23, 2018
The Secret Garden Hike In Wisconsin Will Make You Feel Like You’re In A Fairytale
One of the many great things about Madison is all the amazing nooks and crannies there are to discover. Having the state’s flagship university in town means there are kinds of gems that are part of the school, but open to the public. The Allen Centennial Gardens are on the Northwest side of campus — past Liz Waters and the Observatory Drive outlook, north of Camp Randall but not quite all the way to Lake Mendota. You’ll probably be more apt to stroll than hike through this really amazing little living laboratory, but it’s too gorgeous of a spot not to share.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
Allen Centennial Garden opened in 1989 and serves as a living laboratory and public botanical garden of the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Garden serves as an outdoor classroom for UW-Madison students and the surrounding communities. The house on the property was once the Dean's residence and one of the reasons this location was chosen was to help protect some of the plant life here, including a larch tree planted in 1899 to commemorate the birth of the then-Dean's son. The Gardens website has an amazingly detailed interactive map with clickable links to tell you what plants are being grown in each part of the garden and many of them have pictures for reference. Check it out
The very best part of the gardens is that they are open year-round, dawn to dusk. Admission is free. The gardens are a bit of a respite in a busy city that is limited in space. With so much hustle and bustle on campus, this amazing little sanctuary invites you to slow down and smell the flowers for a little while. You can see peaks of the growth of campus around you from this spot, but somehow it still remains tranquil and inviting.
The gardens are named for Mrs. Ethel Allen and Dr. Oscar Allen. Professor Allen taught at the university from 1948 until his death in 1976 and was an eminent University of Wisconsin bacteriologist. Ethel Allen is a former member of the UW faculty, received a bachelor's degree in botany, a Masters in bacteriology and an honorary doctorate in science from the university. The couple co-authored what is considered the "encyclopedia" of the role of legumes in nitrogen fixation. Naming the Gardens after the Allens in 1989 coincided with the commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, hence the Garden’s full name of Allen Centennial Garden.
According to their website, "The Garden is built around a stately Victorian gothic house nestled on the agricultural campus. The house, known as the 'Lake Dormer,' the 'Fred House,' the 'Agricultural Dean's Residence,' and simply as '10 Babcock Drive,' was one of the first buildings on the agricultural campus and served as home for the college's first four deans." Now on the National Historic Register, the home is being converted into a student center.
As a living classroom, the plants on display in the garden are constantly changing, making return trips here a must. From the website: "Allen Centennial Garden is constantly evolving. The varied topography and exposures of the 90,000 square foot site allow for a great diversity of plantings and the hardscapes. The major emphasis within the Garden is on herbaceous ornamental perennials but the site features many other plantings including annuals and woody plants."
One awesome new addition to the garden has been the Apiary. The Allen Centennial Garden is now a pollinator oasis on the UW-Madison campus as the host site of a new honeybee hive. Beekeepers are students living in the nearby Greenhouse Learning Community in Leopold Residence Hall.
You never know what friends you might encounter on your visit to the Gardens, but that's part of the charm. This spot is an oasis in the hectic city. Humans are not the only ones who like to take advantage.
No matter what time of year you visit, the Allen Centennial Gardens offer a totally unique Madison experience. Stumbling upon this place feels a bit like finding someone's secret garden and you'll find yourself returning again and again to walk the grounds and admire the beauty.
There are little chairs and benches inviting you to sit and stay awhile. Don't be surprised if you find a student or two who've taken advantage of the peaceful atmosphere and inspiring surroundings as well as a chance to study in the fresh air.
The Allen Centennial Gardens truly are a Madison hidden gem. You'll find plenty of folks at the Arboretum or Olbrich Botanical Gardens (which are also amazing), but spending a few hours here really feels like you're in on one of the very best secrets in the whole state. Instead of having to head out in search of wildflowers or state parks, this amazing spot is right here in the city, just waiting to be discovered.
The Gardens themselves are amazing and worth the trip, but I won’t lie — the fact that they’re a
three-minute walk from the mouth-wateringly delicious Babcock Hall Dairy Store definitely increase their appeal.
The Allen Centennial Gardens are located at 620 Babcock Dr., Madison, WI 53706. Learn more about this awesome spot
on their website or check out their Facebook page for more up-to-date info. Address: 620 Babcock Dr, Madison, WI 53706, USA