Wisconsin Rapids Area

South Wood County Historical Museum, 540 3rd Street South

Originally the home of banker and papermaker Isaac

P Witter, the museum is situated on a hill overlooking the Wisconsin River. Thirteen beds surround the museum with something to see at all times of the year. Lush plantings of hostas, hydrangeas, ferns, and astilbes contrast nicely with the colorful rose and lily beds as well as the lively perennial border along the front walk.  The gardens were extensively updated in 2006 in preparation for the mansion’s 100th Anniversary celebration in July 2007 and were also featured in our 2007 Garden Walk. We were honored to learn that the Museum gardens have been selected to be included in a new book identifying the top 150 public gardens in Wisconsin.

With the varied flower beds on the 2 acre site, visitors and MG volunteers will surely find much of interest. Volunteers are assigned to a specific bed and are encouraged to choose plants for it and make suggestions for improvements. Work hours are at the convenience of each volunteer.  A group  work day is usually scheduled every spring and fall.  Any interested MGV or interns are invited to assist.  Contact project leaders Michaeleen Erickson or Betty Havlik for more information or visit the South Wood County Historical Museum website.


Wisconsin Rapids Zoo, 1900 Gaynor Ave

The Wisconsin Rapids Zoo Gardens have been an ongoing project of the Wood County Master Gardeners since 2000. The gardens have been designed, created and maintained by the Master Gardener volunteers, along with other interested community members. The Zoo  averages 200 visitors day. It is a great place to visit in Wisconsin Rapids!

All of the gardens have a theme and educational focus. Signs on display at each garden explain the focus of the garden, while individual and groups of plants are labeled. The horticulture education center, housed in the petting zoo, has information on all the gardens as well as many handouts on horticultural practices and activities for kids.


Step through the main gate and be greeted by an ever blooming garden of irises, day lilies, sedum, cone flowers, and salvias, with a variety of hostas brightening the shade of the gate. Here you’ll find Grandma’s Garden, which is a nice to place to relax on the bench to enjoy the plants that your grandma might have grown. Nearby, Grandma’s Cottage garden is a burst of color with the lilacs, peonies, irises, columbine, roses, zinnias, and delphinium. The Alphabet garden has painted letters corresponding to the names of the plants. Across from the Alphabet Garden is the Rock Sign Garden, so named because it features a display case of Wisconsin rocks and minerals.  Here you’ll see a great variety of coneflowers, sedum, and rudbeckia.

Two fairy gardens add a whimsical touch. The main faerie garden is behind the wishing well and is built into a small hill. Look for the fairies hidden among the dwarf plants and tiny houses. This little village is for display only, but Grandma’s Garden has a smaller faerie garden that is designed by children visiting the zoo and invites their play.

A few steps away, across from the duck pond, the Butterfly Garden is always full of activity with butterflies, birds, and bees enjoying the variety of plants. Plants include penta, lantana, coneflowers, rudbeckia, salvia, joe pie weed, Queen of the Prairie, delphinium, and monarda, to name a few. Be on the lookout for the metamorphoses as the summer progresses.

At the back of the zoo, the Meditation garden is another place to sit and relax. It is a peaceful garden with a variety of plants in texture and structure. Various grasses, evergreens, peonies, sedum, birds nest spruce, and day lilies provide a quiet place to visit.

The Flowing Flowering Fountain beds are planted with perennials and annuals that do not require as much water as some of the other gardens and demonstrate how raised beds can enable people of all abilities to garden.

The Children’s Garden is a very popular place as it has a small pond. Irises bloom in the pond. Goldfish hide under the bridge and kids love to cross the bridge and play in the water. A serpent covered with vines and a tunnel provide a place for kids to play. The teepee is a great place to get into the shade. Four raised gardens are also in the children’s garden. Each year the plants in these gardens will demonstrate different kinds of gardening techniques such as companion gardening, tall plants, veggies, tomatoes, squash, unique or unusual varieties of plants.

Behind these gardens are the newly developed native planting gardens. This garden features plants native to Wisconsin prairies or perennial gardens.

The shade garden, situated under mature pines away from the main activity canters, is full of varieties of hostas, astilbes, bleeding hearts, ligularia, cimicifuga, ferns, and coral bells and provides a quiet, cool, peaceful place to sit and enjoy the breezes.

There is always something new at the Zoo gardens. The “Zoo Crew,” the team of Master Gardeners and community volunteers, spends many hours planning, creating, and tending these gardens. Anyone is welcome to join them for their weekly work session every Monday starting at 8:30am.



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