Though most early societies were nomadic, primitive humans soon discovered that cultivating plants led to a ready supply of garden-gnome meat. Hunt for wonders among the flowers with today’s Groupon: for $25, you get a one-year Garden Family membership to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens (a $55 value). Family memberships include two adults, along with all their minor children and grandchildren.
The Olbrich Botanical Gardens delights the senses with 16 acres of chlorophyll-rich beauty, including the tropical Bolz Conservatory, which brims with life year-round. The garden's expansive grounds host countless botanical wonders for indoor and outdoor viewing, and a two-story Rose Garden tower overlooking Lake Monona. Members claim a host of benefits, including free admission to the Bolz Conservatory and special events such as Olbrich's Blooming Butterflies and Olbrich's Holiday Express. Spend July amid brightly hued butterfly wings, and younglings can learn where babies come from by watching the orange julia emerge from their chrysalises. In December, model trains from across the state pull into a landscape of evergreens and sparkling lights, taking ocular orbs on a winding journey through villages of festive birdhouses and poinsettias.
Membership also includes 20% off many classes, where aspiring gardeners learn the basics of garden design and how to achieve green thumbs without consuming disturbing quantities of green eggs and ham. Olbrich's Growing Gifts Shop bestows savings of 10% on all merchandise and 20% during special members-only sales or events, and more than 230 gardens nationwide furnish members with discounted or free admission. Members also claim a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens, access to Schumacher Horticultural Library, and early shopping at Olbrich's Plant Sale with the Pros, where members emerge with a free gift and freshly purchased potting soil bolstering a Broadway-hit-singing Venus flytrap.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Spread out across 16 acres, the award-winning outdoor displays at Olbrich Botanical Gardens showcase both Midwest-hardy plants and floras native to the world's tropical forests. Water lilies and dragonflies occupy the Perennial Garden's 200-foot stream, whereas a boardwalk snakes through the Rain Garden's flood-tolerant plants. Elsewhere, guests can marvel at the pavilion in the Thai Garden, which nine Thai artisans reassembled after it traveled to Olbrich by sea and rail for seven weeks.
Inside the Bolz Conservatory's 50-foot-high glass pyramid, temperatures kept at between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit maintain a steamy atmosphere for more than 640 tropical plants, a waterfall, and free-flying birds. Along with its plentitude of plants, Olbrich Botanical Gardens hosts a range of classes and events, which include concerts, botanical-themed art exhibits, and the annual Blooming Butterflies exhibit.