Educational Garden Tours

Longenecker Garden Tours

The Arboretum offers a series of free informational tours featuring Longenecker Horticultural Gardens and the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden. Spring and summer tours are most Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and fall tours are on Saturday afternoons. See listings below for dates and topics. Tours are open to the public and begin at the Arboretum Visitor Center. They are intended for adults.

With more than 2,500 types of plants on display, Longenecker Horticultural Gardens feature an internationally recognized collection of trees, shrubs, and vines and is a major resource for the study of landscape plants by educators, the public and the nursery trade. The gardens hold major displays of lilacs, flowering crabapples, viburnums, conifers and many other plant groups.

The 4-acre Wisconsin Native Plant Garden surrounds the Visitor Center with several hundred species native to Wisconsin. The garden serves as an introduction to ecological restoration and the restored and managed plant communities in the Arboretum. It also demonstrates how to incorporate native plants into home landscapes.

Longenecker Gardens tours will be led by local experts. Wisconsin native plant gardener Susan Carpenter leads the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden tours.

Tours take place rain or shine, except in the case of severe weather. While every effort will be made to keep to the following schedule, information about schedule changes will be available by calling the Arboretum at (608) 263-7888.


Spring and summer tours are Wednesday evenings, from 7 p.m. until dark

April 22 — Native Plant Garden Tour: Early Signs of Spring on Earth Day
As trees and shrubs begin to leaf out, Dutchman’s breeches, twin-leaf and rue-anemones might be blooming in the woodland gardens. In our prairie gardens we may find Pasque flower, prairie smoke, and bird’s-foot violet.

April 29 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Early Spring Flowering Woody Ornamentals
This tour, led by Michael Jesiolowski, horticulturist, will include the yellow and Little Girl Series magnolias, early lilacs and rhododendrons, and other spring flowering plants.

May 6 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Flowering Crabapples and Lilacs
This tour, led by Eileen Nelson, UW Dept. of Horticulture, will concentrate on flowering crabapples and present highlights in the Gardens’ large lilac collection.

May 13 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Azaleas and Rhododendrons
On this tour, Dr. Deb McCown will discuss growing and caring for azaleas and rhododendrons in the Madison area.

May 20 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Spring Highlights
Enjoy special spring beauty in our woody plant collection on this tour led by Eileen Nelson, UW Dept. of Horticulture.

May 27 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Small Ornamental Trees
This tour, led by Eileen Nelson, UW Dept. of Horticulture, will highlight some of the Arboretum’s interesting and unusual ornamental small trees.

June 3 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Shade Trees
Laura Wyatt, of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, will lead the group through the Gardens’ extensive collection of larger trees while discussing strategies for growing healthy trees in urban/suburban conditions.

June 10 — Native Plant Garden Tour: Woodland, Savanna and Prairie Gardens
Celebrate the beginning of summer by visiting our woodland, savanna and prairie gardens. This tour provides an overview of the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden.

June 17 — Native Plant Garden Tour: What’s Blooming?
Find, compare, and learn about flowers on native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, and see what’s blooming in our collection of plants native to southern Wisconsin.

July 8 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Summer Highlights
Led by Jeff Epping, director of horticulture at Olbrich Gardens, this tour will include summer-flowering cultivars.

July 15 — Native Plant Garden Tour: Native Gardens for Pollinators
This tour will feature summer-blooming species in our diverse native plant garden. We will highlight plants and gardening practices that support essential pollinators in urban/suburban landscapes.

August 12 — Native Plant Garden Tour: Native Grasses
We will take a closer look at color, size and features of native grasses, from tiny mustache grass to big bluestem.


September 5 — Native Plant Garden Tour: Fall in the Native Plant Garden
Color, fruits, seeds, late blooming plants, late-season insects—we will find these and more in the varied gardens around the Visitor Center.

September 19 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Conifers
Learn about evergreens from fir (Abies) to hemlock (Tsuga), join Catherine Woodward of the Nelson Institute, on a walk through the Gardens’ spectacular conifer collection. You will learn about “garden-sized” conifers of many kinds.

October 10 — Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour: Featuring Fall
Don’t miss the lovely range of fall color in our woody plant collection. Leaves, fruits and form will be highlighted in this tour, led by Laura Wyatt, UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve.