Teaching Garden

The Teaching Garden was established in 2004 as an outdoor classroom for training new Master Gardeners and as an educational resource for the general public. The garden surrounds the Dane County Extension Office building at 5201 Fen Oak Drive in Madison, Wisconsin. The Teaching Garden is organized into 12 garden areas, each with its own plant palette. The beds are maintained by Dane County Extension Horticulture Volunteers under the supervision of the Dane County Extension Horticulture Outreach Specialist.  In 2019, the Teaching Garden was designated as an All-America Selections Display Garden. In 2022, an 18×36 foot heated greenhouse was installed on the west end of the Fen Oak site.  The greenhouse provides hands-on experience in growing seedlings to the public and Dane County Extension Horticulture Volunteers. Individual donations from Master Gardeners contributed over half of the funding for the greenhouse project. 

Visit us on Facebook to stay connected to the events and initiatives in the Teaching Garden. For a tour, contact Lisa Johnson at 608-224-3715 or johnson.lisa@danecounty.gov.

Edibles Garden
Raised vegetable beds, fruit trees, and herb garden
Demonstration Prairie
Mesic prairie forbs and grasses native to Dane County
Heuchera Garden
Heuchera displays for sun and shade
Annual flowers blooming from spring to fall, then reseeding
Naturalistic Garden
Ornamental grasses & native species in an informal, natural design
Pollinator Garden
Plants attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds
Rain Garden
Rain garden construction and design example
Rock Garden
Alpine plants among tufa rocks simulate a rocky mountain slope
Shade Garden
Over 170 shade-loving plants
Sidewalk Garden
Salt and drought tolerant plants along the sidewalk
Welcome Garden
Visitor welcome sign with map of all garden areas
Wet Garden
Plants that like ‘wet feet’ in a clay soil area

QR Coded Plant Labels

Our aim is to enhance each visitor’s experience by making detailed information available to them about plants in the garden and information resources relating to each of the 12 garden themes. Visitors to the garden will be able to view over 850 perennials, shrubs and trees that are Midwest hardy. All perennials and woody plants in the garden have stakes labeled with their scientific name, common name, cultivar, and supplier. Each plant label also contains a QR code (Quick Response code) which can be read with a QR code reader on a smart phone or tablet. A QR code is a type of matrix barcode first designed for the automotive industry, but now popular outside the industry due to its fast readability and large storage capacity. If you have a newer I Phone or Android, a QR code reader is built into the camera. Alternatively, you can search the App Store on your smart phone or tablet and download a free barcode scanner or QR reader application. Two QR code readers you may want to consider are Scan.Me from Scan Inc. or the QuickMark Scanner. Choose the appropriate version for your phone and decide if you want the free version or pay for the ad-free version.

By holding the QR code reader in front of the plant label, visitors are connected to an online webpage containing picture(s) and detailed information about each plant. We are the only public garden in the area to offer QR scannable plant labels linked to detailed plant information on-line. To access this information on all plants in the Teaching Garden, visit:  http://tgplpinfo.blogspot.com/

Adopt-A-Garden Program

In 2016, the Adopt-a-Garden Program was established at the Teaching Garden. The purpose of the program is to mobilize Dane County Extension Horticulture Volunteers into teams dedicated to maintaining individual beds within the Teaching Garden. New volunteers will gain knowledge of experienced Extension Horticulture Volunteers in their teams and have the opportunity to put their training into practice. Each garden area is assigned a team leader who is responsible for coordinating the volunteers who have adopted the garden.

By adopting a garden, team members share the responsibility for their garden for the entire season. Adopters may continue to care for their chosen garden in subsequent years, or vary their experience in a different garden. Master Gardeners interested in becoming Dane County Extension Horticulture Volunteers and serving on a team should email Karen Allenstein at kallenstein@charter.net. For further information on scheduled Teaching Garden workdays please click here.


Each year the Dane County Extension sponsors a Master Gardener Plant Sale  in May. The proceeds from the sale are used to offset the ongoing costs of maintaining the Teaching Garden and support horticultural education projects in community gardens, school gardens and other locations. In addition to individual donations, the Teaching Garden also relies on the support of local businesses and organizations offering donations and discounts:

  • Ace Mulches
  • Alliant Energy Foundation
  • American Transmission Company (ATC)
  • Dane County Environmental Council
  • Evjue Foundation
  • John A. Johnson Fund (Madison Community Foundation)
  • Johnson’s Nursery
  • Landscape Designs, Inc.
  • Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA)
  • Madison Gas & Electric
  • Tree Health Management
  • WCA, Services
  • Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society

Wisconsin Master Gardener Program

Becoming a Master Gardener is a great way to give back to your community through supporting Extension, while learning about horticulture and meeting like-minded gardeners at the same time. For more information about the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, visit: https://mastergardener.extension.wisc.edu/ .

Questions? Horticulture Helpline (Open April – September)
The helpline is available to help answer Dane County residents’ gardening questions. Call: 608-224-3721 or Email: horticulture@danecounty.gov. Walk-in assistance is also available. Dane County Extension Horticulture Educator Lisa Johnson also answers questions.

Dane County Extension Horticulture Educator
5201 Fen Oak Drive, Ste 138
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: 608-224-3715

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