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West Madison Ag Research Station Gardens A Summer-Long Adventure

The red carpet will be out for Urban Horticulture Field Day Aug. 19, but wanderers are welcome all summer long at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station”s gardens. The gardens are open to the public from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week. Self-guided tour booklets are available at the mailbox near the entrance to the Trial Gardens or in the station headquarters office. Station staff are usually available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to answer questions regarding the plants.

The trial garden features new and unique annual flowers throughout the growing season. Station researchers are testing a selection of annual vines, cut flowers, and grasses in addition to many flowers. Some of the new plant selections include:

*Calla Lilies
*Salvia Nymph Series
*African Daisy
*Clary Sage
*Morning Glory
*Sweet Peas

You”ll find two dozen different sweet peppers in the station”s collection, in colors ranging from the traditional green, to blushing pink, chocolate, purple, orange and golden yellow. Flavors range from warm, sweet and fruity to subtly spicy.

Many of the station”s 44 tomato varieties are heirlooms brought to this country by immigrants from around the world. Their shapes, colors and flavors are unique and many have been used for breeding to produce new varieties found in gardens and on the fresh produce market today.

More than 20 varieties of pumpkins grow in the station”s pumpkin patch every year, in colors ranging from white and cream to shades of orange. A few are specialty pumpkins ideal for carving Jack-O-Lanterns, others are fantastic pie pumpkins. (Unfortunately, the “gargantukin” pumpkins drowned during the June deluge).

Nearly 3 dozen cultivars of ornamental grasses are being tested for winter hardiness. You”ll find some unusual plants, including leather-leafed sedge, snowy woodrush and blauglut blue fescue, as well as feather reedgrass, purple moorgrass and fountain grasses (including two varieties of foot-tall dwarf fountain grass). A donation from a Washington grower has allowed the station to expand its collection from five to 34 different grasses.

Other winter-hardiness trials are testing shrub roses, chrysanthemums, and heaths and heathers.

The West Madison station is at 8502 Mineral Point Road, about a mile west of the Beltline. If you have a large group, you can make reservations in advance for a guided tour by calling (608) 262-2257.