The Wildwood Zoo in Marshfield has been in existence since the early 1900s. Today it covers over 60 acres and houses many different North American mammals. The zoo also features a number of gardens including a sensory garden. The ‘Sensory Garden’ features a wide variety of flowering and non-flowering plants designed to encourage the touch in a unique and tranquil setting.
Current Master Gardener involvement began in 2005. At the time, the zoo gardens needed a great deal of care and it took several years to reclaim them. The first year in the sensory garden was spent mostly in pruning and removing dead shrubs. In the following years – more pruning,planting and mulching. All this work allowed the sensory garden to be returned to its original purpose and design so visitors will experience the sense of sight, sound, smell. It made a big impression on the Marshfield Park and Recreation Department which lead to them request the Wood County Master Gardeners oversee the care of all the gardens within the zoo including the care and oversight of the ‘Native Garden’, one of the newer areas.
Our goals have been and continue to be to improve all the gardens by removing invasive plants, replace dead plants, add trees, and enhance the current beds with better plant varieties. We are also working to add more varieties to the native garden. Normal maintenance includes weeding, pruning, and mulching as needed. Most recently, in keeping with the zoo’s philosophy of showcasing North American mammals, we have been making a concerted effort to install plants that are appropriate for Central Wisconsin.
An exciting addition to the Marshfield Zoo is a new bear enclosure with two Kodiak bear cubs. In 2016, we are going to try the “Know Maintenance” approach, introduced by Roy Diblik, with the areas around that enclosure. Plans include designing beds with plants that “play well with each other” with the goal of establishing a natural look that fits in with the theme of the zoo and , once established, can survive without extra mulching, fertilizing, or watering.
Challenges we have encountered include geese (they love to pull out new plants!), chipmunks, rabbits, poor soil and weather. We have experienced both drought and flooding.
The Wildwood Zoo is open year ‘round. In the spring a variety of flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs bloom early. During the summer, an assortment of perennials including iris, hosta, daylilies, black-eyed susans, catmint, Asiatic and oriental lilies, and astilbe, to name a few, color the landscape. In addition, barrel planters of annuals, vegetables, and some perennials add season long-interest. In the fall, look for grasses, sedums and hydrangeas.
The winter brings a dazzling holiday light display to the
Wildwood Zoo. The Rotary Club’s Winter Wonderland was
started in 2006. With over a million L.E.D. lights and multiple
displays, this is an event not to be missed. There is no
admission charge to the Rotary Winter Wonderland; however
free will donations of food and cash are accepted to help
the local food pantries.
Built in 1880, the now restored Mid Victorian house was home to Marshfield pioneer industrialist, mayor, and eventual 18th governor of Wisconsin, William H. Upham and his family. Located at 212 W Third Street, it now serves as the center for the North Wood County Historical Society.
A revitalization of the one acre landscape began in November 2011, with a goal of establishing a garden in keeping with the historical nature of the property. Master Gardener volunteers worked cooperatively with North Wood County Historical Society members to remove overgrown and undesirable trees and shrubs and rejuvenate three established garden areas. Soil improvements of compost and topsoil were donated and delivered by the city of Marshfield. In the spring, Sky High Juniper trees and Summer Wine ninebark bushes were planted along with many perennials in the first garden located on the east side of the property. Annuals were planted among the perennials in garden number two, the Memorial Garden. In the third garden, beneath a large evergreen tree, hostas and Raspberry Pulmonary were introduced.
Since that time, work has been ongoing to improve the visibility of the historic home by removing overgrown foundation plants and establish new planting areas to complement the home. An old stone walkway was reclaimed from over grown sod. Twelve miniature Mock Orange shrubs were planted along the lifted stones. A new entry garden to welcome tour guests to the front doorway was begun in 2015 and will be planted with plants representative of an early 1900s cottage garden.
Of special interest, the Heritage Rose garden, planted in 1993, came about by finding a photo of William Upham’s wife, Mary, admiring a rose in a back yard garden. Historical shrub roses were planted in a formal design utilizing a pergola, arbors and bowers. The rose types were chosen on the basis of what were the popular plantings in the years of 1887 – 1911. Thirty seven shrubs of multiple varieties are mostly one time bloomers occurring in mid June. The Upham Heritage Rose Garden is perhaps the only rose garden in the state of Wisconsin dedicated only to historical old shrub roses. It is maintained by the Master Gardeners, who will replace some of the twenty-two year old plants in the future. The rose garden is viewed by hundreds of visitors during tour hours of Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. There is no charge for viewing when the museum is closed.
There is much to see and learn at this Wood County jewel. Activities in the house and the garden take place throughout the year, including Christmas. For more information about the Upham house and garden, visit the website at http://www.uphammansion.com