Teaching Garden

The Teaching Garden was established in 2004 as an outdoor classroom for training new Master Gardener Volunteers and as an educational resource for youth programs and the general public. The garden surrounds the Dane County UW-Extension office building at 5201 Fen Oak Drive in Madison, Wisconsin. The Teaching Garden is organized into 12 garden areas, each with its own plant palette. The beds are maintained by our horticulture staff, interns and Master Gardener Volunteers.

Color Wheel Garden
Stunning display of annuals in a circle of colors
Edibles Garden
Raised vegetable beds, fruit trees, berry bushes and herb garden
Demonstration Prairie
Mesic prairie forbs and grasses native to Dane County
Heuchera Garden
Heuchera displays for sun and shade
Naturalistic Garden
Ornamental grasses & native species in an informal, natural design
Pollinator Garden
Plants attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds
Rain Garden
Rain garden construction and design example
Rock Garden
Alpine plants among tufa rocks simulate a rocky mountain slope
Shade Garden
Over 170 shade-loving plants
Sidewalk Garden
Salt and drought tolerant plants along the sidewalk
Welcome Garden
Visitor welcome sign with map of all garden areas
Wet Garden
Plants that like ‘wet feet’ in a clay soil area

Visitors to the garden will be able to view over 800 perennials, shrubs and trees that are Midwest hardy. Our aim is to enhance each visitor’s experience by making detailed information available to them about all plants in the garden. All plants in the garden have stakes labeled with their scientific name, common name, cultivar, and supplier. Each label also contains a QR code which can be read with a QR code reader on a smart phone or tablet. By holding the QR code reader in front of the plant label, visitors will be connected to an online webpage containing picture(s) and detailed information about each plant. We are the only public garden in the area to offer QR scannable plant labels linked to detailed plant information on-line. To access this information on all plants in the Teaching Garden, visit:  http://tgplpinfo.blogspot.com/.

  • Hardiness Zones
  • Height
  • Spread
  • Bloom Time
  • Bloom Description
  • Light Requirements
  • Soil Type
  • Moisture Requirements
  • Suggested Use
  • Care Instructions
  • Concerns or Problems
  • Native Range
  • Noteworthy Characteristics
  • Plant Supplier to Teaching Garden
  • Location area within Teaching Garden


Each year the Dane County/UW Extension sponsors a Master Gardener Plant sale in May. The proceeds from the sale are used to offset the ongoing costs of maintaining the Teaching Garden and support horticultural education projects in school gardens and other locations. In addition, the Teaching Garden relies on the additional support of local businesses and organizations offering donations and discounts:

  • Ace Mulches LLC
  • Alliant Energy Foundation
  • American Transmission Company (ATC)
  • The Flower Factory
  • Klein’s Floral and Greenhouse
  • Kopke’s Fruit of the Bloom Greenhouse
  • Johnson’s Nursery, Inc.
  • Landscape Designs, Inc.
  • MAMGA (Madison Area Master Gardener Association)

Color Wheel Garden

Edibles Garden

Welcome Garden

Wet Garden

Adopt-a-Garden Program

In 2016, the Adopt-a-Garden Program was rolled out at the Teaching Garden. The purpose of the program is to mobilize Master Gardener Volunteers into teams dedicated to maintaining individual beds within the Teaching Garden. Interns will gain knowledge of experienced MGVs in their teams, and have the opportunity to put their training into practice. Each garden area is assigned a team leader who is responsible for coordinating the volunteers who have adopted the garden.

By adopting a garden, team members share the responsibility for their garden for the entire season. Adopters may continue to care for their chosen garden in subsequent years, or vary their experience in a different garden. Team members are able to participate in a full range of activities for their chosen garden area:

  • Spring and Fall bed clean-up
  • Plant division and transplanting as needed
  • Recommending new plants or shrubs
  • Pruning
  • Weeding
  • Mulching
  • Fertilizing or soil amendment as needed
  • Maintaining appropriate moisture levels for individual plants
  • Diagnosing and managing insect and disease problems
  • Addressing animal problems
  • Deadheading
  • Winterizing

Master Gardener Volunteers and interns interested in serving on a team should email Karen Allenstein at kallenstein@charter.net.

For further information on future scheduled teaching garden workdays please click here.

Shade Garden

Naturalistic Garden

Demonstration Prairie


Dane County UWEX Master Gardener Volunteer Program

Questions? Horticulture Helpline (Open April 15 – October, 9:00AM – noon)
The helpline is available to help answer Dane County resident’s gardening questions. Call: 608-224-3721
Email: horticulture@countyofdane.com
Walk-in assistance is also available

Lisa Johnson, Dane County UWEX Horticulture Educator
5201 Fen Oak Drive, Ste 138
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: 608-224-3715