Thursday, September 1, 2011

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

These gardens lie on the shores of Lake Monoma in Madison. On its 16 acres are numerous specialty gardens, the most recent of which is the Thai Pavilion and Garden. That garden is a gift from the Thai government and the alumni of the Thai Chapter of the University of  Wisconsin. It is the only one in the continental United States. The pavilion was built in Thailand and shipped in pieces to Madison. Artisans from Thailand flew in on Sept.11, 20001 to supervise its construction. They were on the last plane allowed to fly into Chicago on that fateful day. The pavilion is decorated in gold leaf and in its motif are three distinct features; a serpent, the lotus flower and the seal of the government of Thailand. A bridge connects the Thai Garden to the larger garden. The bridge and walkway represent the body of the snake. Symbols are prevalent in Thai culture and are woven into their belief of Buddhism.
 The pavilion is the only one outside of Thailand to have a garden surrounding it. The garden entrance has many large-leafed plants and bright-flowered plants hardy enough for the Midwest winters. A small pond with blooming lily pads also adds to the serene feeling of a Thai-styled garden. Water is important to Thailand because of its implications for good health and prosperity.
One of the specialty gardens featured carnivorous plants, as the pitcher plant. I have a close-up shot here of the pitchers which the plants uses to capture its meal. I found the plant quite fascinating!
 An interpretive sign nearby said that carnivorous plants grow in soil that is low in nitrogen. In order to make up for that deficiency they "eat" nitrogen-rich  insects. We ended our tour of the garden in the 50 story conservatory. It is a tropical ecosystem which reminded me a lot of the one at Shaw's Garden in St.Louis. However this one has free-flying birds as colorful canaries, doves, quail, and waxbills.  Apparently the birds serve a useful purpose in that they eat some of the "bad bugs" which attack the plants in the conservatory.  Our final stop of the day was at the Madison zoo. The zoo is only a couple of blocks from Adam and Kjerstin's home, they also have Lake Wingra on the other side of their home. I think they have a lot to look forward to in their new city, Madison seems like a wonderful town to us! Unfortunately we have to move on. Today we are driving further south toward our home town of St.Louis.

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