After McMillan Library was built, and the South Wood County Historical Museum found a home, and a master landscaping design to renovate the gardens began in the mid-nineties. The museum provided funding; grants and donations were sought; and volunteers were solicited to help with installation, and maintenance of the gardens. Enter the Wood County Master Gardener Volunteers. And according to author Mary Lou Santovec in her book entitled “Wisconsin Gardens & Landscapes, “The museum board wants both the mansion and its gardens to be a destination spot, so members of the Wood County Master Gardeners have free reign on this property, which is the size of eight city blocks.”
From the master landscape plan, past master gardener project leaders have divided the gardens into smaller units so volunteer gardeners can focus on a specific garden for the year or years as it turns out. Spring and fall workdays are scheduled, and then the gardeners can schedule their summer work times to accommodate employment schedules, etc. This year we had 15 beds (some large and some small) and 18 volunteers. It is impressive to see our volunteers take on these gardens as if they were their own. The mature nature of trees on the site has provided some shade gardens. Other gardens along the sidewalks have full sun setting. And of course the two story mansion itself creates partial sun-shade gardens. The site enjoys underground irrigation, although expensive. We have learned to respect the usage of water with mulch on all beds, along with usage of drought tolerant shrubs, perennials and annuals for spots of added color. This site is a wonderful example of a combination garden of trees, large shrubs, small shrubs, herbaceous perennials, bulbs, and annuals. It is a good example of the layering effect.
The museum grounds have been included in our WCMGA garden walks in 2003 and 2007. The gardens were extensively updated in 2006 in preparation for the mansion’s 100th anniversary in July, 2007, and our 2007 Garden Walk. Each MG volunteer is encouraged to choose plants for their bed and to make suggestions for improvements. Each year, the weather initiates changes to this site just like our private gardens. Wind storms have taken down large trees and changed gardens from partial shade to full sun. Other trees and large shrubs have needed trimming and /or removal. Extensive upgrades were accomplished along Third Street and Locust Street. And when major building renovations take place, the gardens can be affected. All of these situations provide challenges and opportunities. The financial support between the Museum and WCMGA is stretched each year to maximize the efforts of this destination spot. Our future efforts for this funded site are to continue the beauty begun by our predecessors and to add garden education for the many visitors who come to explore and enjoy the gardens.
As those of us who volunteer at the museum know, it is the thanks we receive from the many visitors and pedestrians, that make our volunteerism really worthwhile.