Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 50 - Allen Centennial Gardens

I have never been to the Allen Centennial Gardens. Although I have always wanted to visit this fixture of the University of Wisconsin campus, I never made time to make the short trip to the location. To correct this ridiculous fact, I made a visit to the gardens one of the “must do” events on my “I have never…” list. Unfortunately, our abundant rainy weather has made visiting the gardens a challenge most days since the beginning of my journey. As a result, I knew I wanted to visit the Allen Centennial Gardens at the first opportunity I had once the summer weather finally set it. With a break for the wet, overcast conditions that have plagued our state over the past several months, today finally presented a chance to make that plan a reality. In turn, Rachael and I decided to head to the gardens after work this evening. In anticipation, I arrived home this afternoon and quickly gathered my things to make the trip.

The entrance
Rachael and I arrived at the gardens a little after 6:00 pm this evening. As we pulled up to a parking space just outside the garden grounds, I took note of the quiet summer campus around us. Without a person in sight, our surroundings seemed much like a ghost town as we crossed the street and entered the large gates of the Allen Centennial property. The historic brick home at the property’s center loomed large as we walked the small stone driveway before us. Walking past the walls of the gardens, Rachael and I stopped briefly to take in the lush greenery surrounding us. With natural beauty abundant, it was apparent we were both struggling to pinpoint where to start.

A few moments passed before I motioned to the wooded garden to our right. “Let’s go this way,” I said as I took a few steps toward a stone path leading into the dense foliage at the back of the house. Rachael followed close behind as we walked down the narrow path under an arched, rose-laden trellis and beyond a massive birch tree. I looked around at the beautiful space around us as beams of light broke through leaves and tipped the edges of flowers and leaves in gold. Walking on, Rachael and I found our way to a dimly late space in the garden’s back corner. The fragrant aroma of flowers in bloom hung heavy in the air as we wrapped around a mass of plants reaching toward the sky. We stopped for a moment to comment on some of the plants around us and take in the sight of bumble bees happily buzzing around stalks of white flowers stemming from a grouping of plants. Enamored with the space around us, I smiled and brushed my hand over some leaves at my left. I was already struck by the Allen Centennial Gardens, and we had covered less than a quarter of the grounds.

After a short while, Rachael and I decided to make our way down the left side of the gardens after encountering a pair of people on the wooded path. We walked down a laid brick path through a massive vegetable garden grown thick with frondescence before coming upon a tunnel of leaves clinging to a massive white trellis. Turning into the tunnel, we continued down the brick path into a grassy courtyard containing a gazebo. With each step I noticed some unique feature of the garden that captivated me. Losing myself in the scenery, I took a deep breath and stood in the sunlit courtyard for a brief moment. I knew then I was in a special place that should have been a part of my life long before today.

The front of the garden

Eventually, Rachael and I continued through the remaining portions of the garden. Accompanied by birds and rabbits, we walked around the massive coy pond at the center of the garden and past the sound of falling water tumbling over the stones of a man made stream. We traversed the rocky crop of succulents at the garden’s front and crossed back over the coy pond on a beautiful bright red bridge. We were encompassed by magnificence, and we were reveling in every minute of it. After some time wandering the gardens, Rachael and I finally made it back to the heavy gates at the property’s entrance. We took a few minutes to sit in the sunlight before deciding to exit the gardens and take a brief walk down observatory drive. With the sun resting just above the horizon, we ultimately found our way back to our car and headed home for the night, relaxed and content after a beautiful evening in the gardens.

My first trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens was one to remember. I was surprised to discover the breadth and diversity of the garden space, and I was spellbound by its beauty. After today’s “I have never…” experience I know the Allen Centennial Gardens will become a routine occurrence in my life. Although the garden’s beauty is enough to make a habit of visiting the space, the peace of mind that came with our trip was enough to help me let go of the worries and stress I felt after a long workday, and there are few things in my life that have that ability. With that in mind, I can only define my first trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens as a special one that will undoubtedly stick with me for some time.

One last photo... Bunnies!

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