The day before we flew to New York City, I showed my sister-in-law a few of the sights in Madison. Olbrich Gardens is always on my tour guide list–rain or shine, anytime of the year. We had sunshine so we toured the 8 outside gardens, all themed. (If it is rainy or cold, the inside conservatory is filled with plants from the tropics, growing amidst walkways, bridges, waterways, and koi, birds, butterflies.)
One of our favorites is the Thai Pavilion and Gardens. The workers had just finished filling the reflection pools as we arrived. There were also wheelbarrows of plantings to be put in, but we didn’t wait to see the results. It will be even greener next visit.
No nails, no screws, and no metal fasteners of any kind were used to craft the Thai pavilion, the centerpiece of the Thai Garden. It was assembled by Thai craftsmen in Thailand, then dis-assembled and shipped to Wisconsin. The Thai artisans then re-assembled the pavilion in the Gardens. (The pieces arrived on the last plane to fly out of O’Hare Airport on 9/11. The Thai took that to be a good omen.)
The open-air pavilion, called a “sala” in Thailand, is 40 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 30 feet high. It was a gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association and the government of Thailand through its king, and it bears the Royal seal of the Thai crown.
The Gardens feature plants suitable for a Wisconsin climate that give the feel of those found in a Thai garden. There are hardy, large leafed plants, shrubs and trees, pruned to mimic the look of tropical plants. The plantings are designed to promote a serene setting – de-emphasizing color and emphasizing texture and form.