Garden Dreams – A Saturday with Portage County Master Gardener Volunteers

On March 30, the Portage County Master Gardener Volunteers are again hosting Garden Dreams at the Lettie W. Jensen Community Center in Amherst. Registration will be opening at 7:45 a.m. with opening comments at 8:40 a.m. The program runs until 3 p.m. Cost is $30 and includes a hot lunch catered by Ambrosia. A hearing loop is available.

The first session of the day is “Bird-Friendly Backyards” with Alan Haney. Birds provide beauty and drama to backyards, as well as benefits from their consumption of obnoxious insects. They are important components of nearly every terrestrial ecosystem on Earth and, with attention to their basic needs, we can make them an important part of our backyards.

Alan Haney is an Emeritus Professor of Forestry who came to Stevens Point in 1988 as Dean of the College of Natural Resources. He returned to full-time teaching and research in 1998 and retired in 2007. He now devotes his energy to writing, consulting, forest management and lectures. His published work includes Jewels of Nature, an examination of the ecology of 92 species of birds common to central Wisconsin. His areas of expertise include ecosystem restoration, adaptive management, savanna restoration, avian ecology and climate change. In this presentation, Haney will review the fundamental things birds require and share specific examples and stories from his own yard where he has kept a close watch on birds for most of his life.

“Bee-utiful Design” will answer the question, “What does your garden look like from a bee’s perspective?” Attendees will come to understand how bees see flowers, and learn basic bee-garden design and bee-friendly gardening practices that make gardens a bee haven. This lecture, by Katey Pratt of Olbrich Gardens, will leave everyone buzzing with excitement.

Pratt is a horticulturist in the Event and Rose Gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens and has worked in the landscape industry as a landscape designer, planning and overseeing residential garden installation. Her gardening interests include native bees, beneficial insects, edible flowers, canning, and all things related to design, sculpture and art.

The organizers are welcoming back Jeff Epping, Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Gardens, for the afternoon program, “Creating a Garden Sanctuary.” Green sustainable gardens make sense for many reasons – they’re good for the environment and they’re good for humans. Birds, bees, butterflies and all the other awesome creatures in the world need a place to live and flourish in. With ever-diminishing natural spaces, there’s a need to create sanctuaries for them in home gardens. And everyone wants a beautiful garden to enjoy, and to spend less time and energy maintaining it. Attendees will see how Epping and his staff have created such outdoor spaces at Olbrich and at his home, as well as innovative ideas from gardens across the country.

As the Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens for over 20 years, Epping oversees the horticultural operations and garden designs of over ten inspirational display gardens, show-casing the best plants for south-central Wisconsin. Epping and his staff practice and preach sustainable gardening, which is reflected in their award-winning garden designs and environmentally conscious cultural practices. Their designs put plants at the forefront to create gardens that celebrate the region, enhance the senses and satisfy our desire to connect with the natural world.

The doors open at 7:45 a.m., and there will be coffee and other hot beverages available until 8:30 a.m., along with light refreshments, but these cannot be taken into the auditorium.

The Lettie W. Jensen Community Center is located at 487 North Main Street, in Amherst. Registration deadline is March 25. Registration flyers are available at the Lettie Jensen Community Center, the Amherst Library, and various locations throughout Portage County. The registration flyer is also available for download at For more information contact Cindy at or 715-345-9776. There are no refunds on registration, but registrations are transferable.

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