A visit to Allen Centennial Garden – Audio

Flashback podCALS: This was originally published in July 2015.

Ben Futa, Director, Allen Centennial Garden
Department of Horticulture
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 576-2501

For more information:

3:00 – Total Time

0:19 – Introduction to Allen Centennial Garden
0:32 – Many garden styles to see
0:51 – Thousands of plants to see
1:04 – You can try this at home
1:25 – Also a teaching garden
1:46 – Hands on student experience
2:21 – A public garden
2:36 – Please visit
2:50 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: A garden oasis in the middle of the UW-Madison campus. We’re visiting today with Ben Futa, Director of the Allen Centennial Gardens, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

Ben, introduce us to the Allen Centennial Gardens.

Ben Futa: Sure, well the Allen Centennial Gardens is two and a half acres and we have just about 26 different display gardens on a variety of different styles and design histories.

Sevie Kenyon: Give us an example of some of those design gardens you have here.

Ben Futa: Well we have our English herbaceous style border garden. We also have our Italian and French gardens and those are more in sort of the traditional design histories, but we also have just some general gardens, our sustainability garden, our rock garden and our pond garden.

Sevie Kenyon: If someone were to visit here, what would they see?

Ben Futa: Thousands of different plants; we have everything from annuals all the way through to tropical plants, woody specimens and just your garden variety perennials.

Sevie Kenyon: And a visitor to your garden, Allen Centennial Gardens, what might they take home with them?

Ben Futa: Well the good thing about our garden, is we are residential scale; so a lot of our ideas and our spaces can be adapted to the home landscape. So you can take a quick little snapshot of some space in our garden that inspires you and implement that at home.

Sevie Kenyon: Ben, we’re right here in the middle of a university campus, tell us a little bit about the teaching and education mission.

Ben Futa: Well, one of the key ways we reach students is through our internship program. We hire four students each season and those rotate on a yearly basis, so that’s a great career-builder, resume-builder for our students and those students are welcome to apply from any discipline, but primarily they typically come from horticulture and landscape architecture.

Sevie Kenyon: What do you suppose the students gain out of their internship experiences here?

Ben Futa: Well, I think there’s something to be said for the hands-on aspect of horticulture and I believe that’s a little bit of a dying art and dying practice of actually being engaged with the plants that you’re tending to, particularly for our design students, those in landscape architecture – this really helps to supplement their curriculum in giving that hands-on exposure to plants that otherwise would not be part of the studies.

Sevie Kenyon: Ben, how are you going to involve the Wisconsin public more in this activity here?

Ben Futa: Well, the first thing we’d like to do is try and introduce more public programming and educational opportunities that until now really haven’t been a part of what we’ve done; so hands-on workshops, classes, programs, cultural events. We start up yoga this week actually, which sold out, which is very exciting; but we’ll have hopefully some live music this fall, maybe some food stations as well.

Sevie Kenyon: Ben, do you have anything you’d like to just tell people about the gardens?

Ben Futa: We’re easy to get to, we’re right at the heart of campus and there’s a lot of other things to see and do besides the gardens here, so it’s definitely worth a day trip. Dawn til dusk, 365 days a year, gates are always open and that’s

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Ben Futa, Allen Centennial Gardens, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.