New Series: Madison Stroll

One of this weekend’s projects included a new series for joycreation, which I’m excited to introduce today: Madison Stroll! Every Monday I’ll be featuring some of my favorite spots in and around Madison. Not only will you get a glimpse into our lives, but hopefully I’ll be able to tempt you into a visit, also :)


Having lived here for more than seven years, I’ve often dismissed Madison as too small, dreaming of a bigger city with more diversity and cultural richness. However, I want to make the effort to view my current home through a different lens – less about what it lacks, and more about what is here.

The pictures below are taken from a little Sunday morning saunter – I hope you’ll enjoy this first part of “Madison Stroll”! (for a larger view, simply click on the image)

Yesterday’s destination: Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Our first meandering stop was Cafe Zoma, one of our favorite coffee shops here in Madison. In the summer their cozy backyard invites you to bring a book and enjoy one of their delicious smoothies. And sometimes, like yesterday, the neighboring store Absolutely Art will turn the backyard into a Re-Art Swap! Swap your old art supplies for new ones! Brilliant, right? The place was bustling.

clockwise (from left): art on the bike path, the back yard of Cafe Zoma and Absolutely Art, Free Little Library, Art Swap

The botanical gardens are about a 15 min. walk from Cafe Zoma. We continued on the bike path and were distracted several times: Dave spotted some cool posters at a yard sale, I found a plant we had never noticed before (Dave spontaneously named it a “stork plant” – quite appropriate, don’t you think?), and we came across other fun things, such as mosaic decorated lampposts and signs made by kids to use for their garden plot.

At Olbrich Gardens Dave made himself comfortable and read, while I continued my little photo journey. Update: Thanks to my friend J. the mystery has been solved: it’s a garlic plant! :)

left: solar panel flower by Olbrich, upper right: Dave catching up on WWI history, bottom right: me enjoying the flowers instead ;) 

Currently there is an impressive exhibit at Olbrich. Here, Dave is cozying up in one of the art pieces (they are for public use). Robert Anderson, a sculpture artist up in Door County uses an unusual technique to shape his sculptures: he inflates flat metal vessels with pressurized air or water. It takes about 45 lbs of pressure to inflate each vessel!

Just as I was headed for the Serenity Garden, loud chirping and flutter of wings interrupted my stroll and before I knew it, I could feel claws in my hair! When they said birds “may swoop close to your head” I didn’t expect them to actually land on my head! After a first moment of panic surprise, I ducked and “just” moved to another spot (haha!). I really tried to remain calm and unalarmed (see sign below), but it didn’t come easily. I kept a generous distance to trees after that :)

After leaving the set of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” I visited one of my favorite spots in Olbrich’s Serenity Garden, the Thai Pavilion. It was built in Thailand, disassembled, shipped to the U.S., then continued its journey via rail to Chicago and finally was brought to Madison by truck. The nine artisans who originally built the pavilion traveled to Madison to reassemble it, and it took them three weeks! The story behind the pavilion is quite fascinating – you can read more about it here.

My little journey continued through the Event Garden and on to the Rose Tower, one of the garden’s most popular areas. It showcases a variety of roses and the scent is truly amazing!

The Rose Garden Tower, designed by Madison architect Ron Bowen, is a bit sentimental for me, because it reminds me so much of Europe. It also offers a wonderful view of the gardens.

I took a last look at the delightful Perennial Garden with its winding paths and little waterfalls which provided an appropriate Olbrich farewell. Oops, not yet. Heading back to Dave, I passed the Sunken Garden, a traditional English-style Garden with some amazing bronze sculptures by Madison Artist Rose Van Vranken. I briefly enjoyed the shade of the Meadow Garden and ended my little excursion back at the blue metal chair sculptures.

Olbrich Gardens offers a variety of workshops, including “Yoga In The Gardens”. I’ve never tried the class before, but I’m utterly tempted to do so! Can you imagine practicing yoga in the Serenity Garden? How amazing would that be! Soon…


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