Road Trip — Gardens are wherever you find them

Whether lodged on a hillside, planted by the roadside, or stuck in a strip of soil by a small town sidewalk, when you are on the road you come across gardens everywhere. Big, small, in pots or in the ground… for plant lovers, it doesn’t get any better than finding a new garden.

On a recent road trip along Wisconsin’s Great River Road — 250-miles of captivating scenery, quaint riverside villages, and art-filled shops nestled on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, I discovered gardens of all sizes, shapes and styles. (The route is part of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway which follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through ten states.)

The 25-acre site of Villa Louis, a restored Victorian riverside estate in Prairie du Chien, includes flower beds, an artesian fountain, a grotto, and ponds. Images by Diane Morey Sitton.

A secret garden sits behind Fire & Ice coffee/ ice cream shop in Alma. Part formal terraced garden and part Lord of the Rings wonderland, the small space includes topiaries and a green “hobbit” door. Wonder where it leads!

Continued Below


In Alma, Pepin, Stockholm, and other small riverside villages, sedum fills window boxes and petunia spills from hanging baskets. Gardeners fill beds with showy perennial phlox, coneflower, and hydrangea. Pots and planters hold geranium, coleus, ornamental grass, and sweet potato vine. Here and there, tiny succulents—perfect lime green rosettes—grow in the holes of bricks placed atop porch railings.

Window boxes are eye-candy for flower-minded visitors in Alma, Wisconsin.

Artistic expression is everywhere in Alma, a two-street-wide riverfront town on Wisconsin’s Great River Road.

Perennial phlox loves the soil and climate along Wisconsin’s Great River Road. The phlox shown here grow at Maidenwood Lodge outside Stockholm.

In Stockholm, a shopping hotspot of less than 100 residents, gardeners find growing space nearly everywhere.

Stockholm’s Blue Bike Program offers a free ride to anyone with tired feet. After your ride, grab a slice of three-berry pie at Stockholm Pie Company around the corner.

As easy as turning lemons into lemonade, River Road folks know how to transform steep riverside bluffs into lush terraced gardens as seen by this Hotel de Ville garden in Alma.

North of La Crosse, the midway point on the scenic route, steep limestone bluffs rise prominently from the river bank. It’s a challenging setting for gardeners, but, like Texans, River Road residents know how to make the most of difficult sites, as evident by the beautiful terraced gardens that stair-step behind businesses and alongside the highway.

Sweeps of goldenrod create “a view before the view” at Grandad Bluff Overlook in La Crosse (seen here on a foggy morning). Once past the flowers, there is a 3-state panorama of the Mississippi River Valley.

A Cameron Park Farmers’ Market vegetable vendor readies his wares in La Crosse.

Fresh flowers are a hot item at Cameron Park Farmers’ Market in La Crosse.

In the hilly countryside east of the river, a patchwork of corn, soybeans, and other crops fill fertile farmland. Here and there, wildflower meadows boast goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, and assorted grasses. Outside Fountain City, a free-spirited gardener created her own Stonehenge, of sorts. The massive stone slabs of this megalithic wonder stand upright on fourth-generation farmland.

Hugh stone formations at Kinstone Megalithic Garden attract visitors who want to take classes, meditate, or explore nature at the fourth-generation family farm outside Fountain City.

The labyrinth at Kinstone Megalithic Garden decorates a restored prairie. Other features here include a pond, woodland, and fruit trees.

For plant lovers, gardens are like magnets, whether you find them in your own hometown or discover them during your travels. And, remember, when you are on the road the only thing more fun than discovering gardens is getting acquainted with the friendly folks who planted them.


Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
Back To Top