Every year Olbrich Botanical Gardens treats Madison to a cheerful spring celebration even if it doesn’t feel like spring outside. The atrium is transformed into a themed paradise during the month of March. Last year guests stepped into a world of bouquets and banquets with hints of vintage flourish and woodland fantasy. This year they will be transported under the sea with help from Olbrich’s team of creative horticulturalists.

“(The horticulturalists) have been weaving fish out of palm fronds,” said Katy Plantenberg, Olbrich’s public relations and marketing manager. “It’s incredible what this show will be like, we’re super excited about it.”

Olbrich’s artistic team also created a sunken ship element as well as a topiary-esque mermaid made up of shaped chicken wire and plants.

Bromeliads will be plentiful for this year’s flower show thanks to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Last year they hosted an event with a Brazilian theme and had a surplus of the tropical plant which led to a large donation of bromeliads to Olbrich.

Plantenberg said Olbrich is so grateful to the Chicago Botanic Garden for their generous donation.

She believes that bromeliads have never been featured in the Spring Garden Show before, which makes their inclusion this year even more special.

In all, the Spring Flower Show takes about three weeks to fully set up with the horticulturalists working on the event all day in the weeks leading up to the event, according to Plantenberg.

“The atrium goes from a blank room to an indoor landscape,” Plantenberg said. “...It’s spring even if it’s winter outside. With colors and scents anyone of any age can enjoy that.”

As in other years there will be a guide for visitors to follow along with the plant life. The guides have been popular among children and adults alike. Some families use the guide as a matching tool to further engage their children.

There are always surprises in store with the flower show, even to the staff of Olbrich.

According to Plantenberg, as preparations commence the horticulturalists stumble upon more and more ideas.

“There are things that are a surprise even to them as they put it together,” she said. “Ideas keep flowing and things come together at the last minute that they weren’t anticipating. It’s cool to see the final display.”

From urchins, turtles and other sea life, there’s a lot to love for visitors of all ages.

Children two and under get into the event for free while ages 3 to 12 are $3 and those over 13, and adults, are $5. Admission is free for Olbrich Botanical Society members.

Society members also get a sneak peak of the Spring Flower show from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday before the event is open to the public. They will also receive 20 percent off any purchases made at Olbrich’s gift shop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The show opens to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday and runs through March 25.

Following the Spring Flower Show, on March 26, Olbrich will host its Spring Flower Show Plant Sale. Starting at noon, visitors are invited to purchase flowers featured in the show. Azaleas, daffodils, daisies, cyclamen, hyacinths, tulips and many more varieties of plants will be available for sale while supplies last.


Amanda Finn is an arts and lifestyle reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.