Visiting Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin is a feast for the senses! It boggles the mind that this 20 acre paradise was once an abandoned sand and gravel quarry. A retired Janesville orthodontist, Dr. Robert Yahr, had the vision to turn a local eyesore into this award-winning space featuring 26 different garden areas and more than 4,000 plant varieties from around the world …
You know you’re in for a treat as soon as you spot the welcoming entrance sign and garden plot. This beautiful botanical garden is ablaze in color and creativity wherever you look. Park by the Visitor Center and take in the lush pollinator gardens before you get inside.
Admission fees are very reasonable ranging from $5 – $9. If you are a member of a reciprocal botanical garden, arboretum, or other horticultural society … they honor those memberships and waive the admission fee.
Before or after your visit make sure to stop in their well-stocked, attractive gift shop. Over the years I’ve found some really nice nature-inspired gems from books for adults & children to jewelry, art, home décor, apparel, and garden related accessories.
While visiting Rotary Botanical Gardens (RBG) … Take your time and walk through each interesting themed garden including English Cottage style, French Formal, Scottish, Japanese, Shade Gardens, Fern & Moss Garden, Woodland Glen, and a Children’s Garden with a bustling mix of pollinator magnet plants (full of coneflowers, milkweed, lantana, coreopsis, and liatris) plus the garden showcases an extensive collection of hostas, daylilies and ferns. Beauty everywhere you turn!
The Japanese Style Garden
This garden was one of the highlights for me and reflects a well-designed example of the style. It includes the essential elements of stones, which form the structure of the landscape; water, representing a life-giving force; and plants, which provide the color and changes throughout the seasons.
Secondary elements include pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins, arbors and bridges. Don’t rush the experience … pause, reflect, and refresh in the calm setting. Make sure to check out the koi pond!
Colorful Art On Display
Each year the garden chooses a different theme for their artwork displays / annual fundraiser. A few years back I recall colorful and creative frogs and dragonflies peppered throughout the grounds. It was hard choosing a favorite as they all were so beautiful and original!
During our most recent visit, 37 cute turtles took center stage. Flower Chick loves to see the artistic displays that complement the floral exhibits. This year the innovative artists range from preschoolers to a gentleman in his 80’s. So fun!
Flower Chick was intrigued by this “Garden Kaleidoscope” near the Observation Pier in the Larch Area. (be sure to grab a map at the Visitors Center so you don’t miss anything). As you get closer to it, you’ll see it’s filled with vibrant cut posies. Such a treat! There’s a plaque showing it’s dedicated to a gentleman with one of my favorite gardening related quotes … “The Earth Laughs In Flowers” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Love to see interesting container arrangements and this one below was a standout. A fragrant gardenia tree in a pot with lobelia at the base. Of course, I stopped to smell the flowers. Heavenly scent! Gardenias are not winter hardy in zones 5 & 6 … but you can bring them inside during the winter months.
If you have visited RBG lately, you probably have noticed that the garden beds in the Entrance Gardens are transitioning to a new style of planting. From the parking lot island beds, they have removed the existing boxwoods and repurposed them as hedges throughout the Labyrinth and Wellness Garden.
In addition, the front slope and visitor center beds will also get this same treatment. Why plant the gardens in this manner? These gardens will feature plant communities that provide sustainability, wildlife habitat, year-round interest, and in time, lots of color.
Another favorite feature of the gardens are the benches with nature / inspirational quotes scattered throughout the botanical garden. I truly enjoy reading them … many make me smile like the one pictured. In addition, another favorite reads: “May flowers always light your path, and sunshine light your day, may songbirds serenade you, every step along the way”.
Seasonal Display Area
The Showcase Gardens in the Seasonal Display Area featured dazzling dahlias in mid-August. Each year the 13 beds spotlight a different theme. One year I visited and the theme was “flowers of the world” arranged by country.
This year they were filled with 34+ cultivars of dahlias. Breathtaking array of colors, sizes and shapes. The above photo is the aptly named “Firepot” dahlia. The sunny one pictured below is “Kelvin Floodlight”. We just can’t resist this stunner with monster 10–12″ flowers!
The Sunken Gardens were calm and lovely with touches of blue, purple, white and pale gray plants such as Russian Sage, lavender, salvia, lamb’s ears, ageratum, lobelia, and alyssum. An impressive display in soothing hues. The periwinkle blue chairs were the perfect accompaniment.
Rotary Botanical Gardens is a must see when in the Janesville area. A lovely cavalcade of lush flowers and plants that has always been a pleasure to walk through time and again. It’s constantly evolving from season to season and year to year.You can see the time and care put in by staff. A beautiful place!
Located about 15 miles north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border, Janesville WI is a fun little gem of a city on the Rock River. Often bypassed by those traveling to nearby Madison and points north, Janesville boasts both historic identity and appealing shopping and attractions … This area is one of our favorite overnight destinations from suburban Chicago. There’s something about crossing a state line to make you feel like you’re “on vacation”! Janesville and neighboring Beloit, just to the south on Route 51 are two small Wisconsin cities that will beckon you back again and again …
Have you tried Pheasant?
Coming into Janesville on 51 from Beloit, you’ll notice a unique destination on your right – MacFarlane Pheasant, a poultry farm that’s the nation’s largest providers of pheasant. In their shopping area in front of the actual farm, you can buy game bird meat in a variety of forms from pheasant breast to eggs to ground pheasant meat for burgers and other recipes … The staff here is happy to answer questions about preparation of pheasant meat, and there’s ample recipe ideas available to take home with you. Pheasant is a very healthy meat alternative, lower in fat than both chicken and turkey and prepared in much the same manner …
We Love Farm Markets!
Nearby just off Route 11 is the wonderful Skellys Farm Market, a working farm best known for their bountiful strawberries. Active from spring through fall, this working farm and farm market offers fresh produce, house baked pies, homemade ice cream, and family activities galore. If you like to pick your own strawberries, there are acres of fields just waiting for you! Sweet corn, melon, vegetables, peaches, blueberries, and apples are just a few of the types of produce you’ll find here at Skelly’s. Everything is grown at the farm and fresh picked. If you happen to be downtown on Saturday mornings, look for the Skelly’s booth at the Janesville Farmers Market …
Look Great & Spend Less
If you’re in the mood to shop in Janesville, Milton Avenue is your ticket to ride … Milton Avenue extends from Janesville’s downtown area to the north east side of the city where Interstate 90 rushes by. The city’s largest grouping of stores are found on Milton, including a large shopping mall where you’ll find the big national chains … We’re more the independent small business types though, and luckily these gems are plentiful along Milton. Two of our favorites are women’s clothing consignment shops we’ve visited several times, always finding brand name clothing at dime on the dollar prices … The first is near downtown.
Castaways is located in a nondescript brick one story building on the east side of the street, camouflaging the many great finds inside. Women’s and men’s gently used clothing, housewares, and more are on display here and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll find a bargain you can’t live without.
On this shopping trip, I happened upon several goodies including an Ann Taylor silk blouse (new with tags) for $6 and Banana Republic shorts for $4. Flower Chick loves a bargain!! Further north on Milton are two shops located right next to one another. One is an upscale women’s consignment shop called Threads and the other is a small independent bookstore, Book World. Threads has a vast selection of gently used clothes at low prices. I picked up a cute J. Crew dress, Clarks sandals, and a Chico’s jacket … all for under $25 total. This is why I love women’s resale stores! The thrill of the hunt!
Book World is Janesville’s local book store, complete with an interesting local author section and other titles of all sorts. In business since 1986, Book World is very supportive of local authors and is well known for hosting local author book signings. Stop in and support America’s independent book sellers! While you’re shopping say “hi” to Oscar the bookstore feline greeter … There’s a lot to enjoy in Janesville, Wisconsin. Visiting Rotary Botanical Gardens Janesville WI is a highlight! (don’t forget your camera!) and while you’re in the area … check out a few of our favorite spots highlighted above.
We hope you found this post about the gardens and other things of interest in Janesville, WI helpful! Let us know your thoughts and suggest other gardens Flower Chick should visit by stopping by our contact page …