The Arboretum is known for its rich history of ecological restoration and restored natural areas, but it is also home to significant garden collections. Longenecker Horticultural Gardens (LHG) is Wisconsin’s premiere collection of ornamental woody plants, and the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden (WNPG) represents native plant communities of southern Wisconsin. Both offer respite, learning, and enjoyment for visitors, as well as educational and research opportunities for students and scientists.
Our free garden tours provide many opportunities to learn more about many aspects of both garden collections from Arboretum garden staff and area experts. Tours are informative and practical so visitors can take home what they learn and apply it on their own property.
In April, the first WNPG tour will focus on early blooming native wildflowers that provide critical nectar resources for pollinators emerging from their winter shelters. A late spring tour explores the woodland, savanna, and prairie gardens with their varying plants, soil types, and light conditions. As summer begins, immerse yourself in the diversity of blooming native plants. In mid-July we will focus on plants and gardening practices for pollinators in both the native plant and ornamental gardens. Late summer is the time to explore native grasses, some barely taller than your ankles, others towering overhead. And fall brings warm tones, seeds, late blooming plants—pollinators still need them!—and autumn insects.
In LHG, spring bursts with the sights and smells of spring’s early flowering trees and shrubs, like magnolias, crabapples, and lilacs. Learn about their diversity, history, and suitability for home plantings. Our June permaculture tour will explore sustainability in urban design, the functions of woody plants, and how you can incorporate permaculture principles, practices, and plants in your yard. Heading into summer we will highlight plants of Chinese origin in the collection, as well as medicinal plants in both gardens. You can also learn about our extensive collection of shade trees and strategies for growing healthy trees in urban/suburban areas. As fall approaches fruits and nuts develop—prime time for a tour about edible landscaping. And no fall would be complete without a colorful tour highlighting the best fall foliage and fruit. Finally, explore the conifer collection to learn more about the evergreens that provide interest and color year-round, and a few deciduous conifers as well.
See the full tour schedule for dates, topics, and experts. Tours are intended for adults. We cancel tours for severe weather—but keep in mind that an afternoon thundershower may have moved on by a tour’s start time.
More about the Gardens
The horticultural gardens have been part the Arboretum since its founding in the 1930s. The collection displays ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world that are hardy in Wisconsin’s climate, and includes notable lilac, crabapple, conifer, and other plant groups.
The native plant garden was designed by landscape architect Darrel Morrison and established in 2002. This garden is a place to participate in land care and learn about native plants, restoration, pollinator conservation, and ecological relationships.
The Arboretum gardens are designed and maintained to display plant diversity, illustrate gardening practices, and inspire visitors throughout the seasons. Come learn how plants in our collections might work in your home landscape, geek out about the uniqueness and diversity of plants, or just relax and enjoy.
Please, no climbing trees or collecting plant material at the Arboretum. Leave dogs and other pets home. Stay on lawns and designated paths. Thank you.