By Ellen Henningsen, President, Blair Street Gardens Committee, Inc.

Wilson Green, a restful garden of trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, annuals and edibles, graces the western edge of Capitol Neighborhoods. On E. Wilson Street next to the Crowley Station, it is one of three gardens maintained by Blair Street Gardens Committee, Inc. (BSG). In addition to Wilson Green, the gardens are at the intersection of Williamson Street and John Nolen Drive in front of the Gateway Mall and on S. Blair Street next to MGE. All three gardens are on City property, and have been planted and maintained by BSG, an independent, nonprofit group of residents from the Capitol and Marquette neighborhoods, for over 30 years.

The garden on Willy Street – called The Gateway Garden – was transformed last fall into an urban park. BSG partnered with Avant Gardening & Landscaping to dramatically change the area into a destination for bicyclists and pedestrians. Avant generously donated its design and landscaping services, creating an innovative and beautiful design and donating countless hours of staff time and expertise. Re-grading eliminated the large, curved flower bed and created space for a patio. Retaining walls, a patio, and seating areas have been created. Several gravel pathways lead to the seating areas. Oak trees, a coffee tree, serviceberries, sumac, asters, goldenrod, and over 100 little bluestem grasses were planted in raised beds. The work will continue in 2016 with the addition of wooden benches and more native perennials. BSG’s website – – contains photos of the transformation.

BSG relies on neighbors to fund and maintain the gardens. Financial contributions (tax-deductible) are appreciated. Checks should be made out to Blair Street Gardens Committee, Inc. and mailed to Blair Street Gardens, PO Box 1333, Madison WI 53701-1333. If you are interested in memorializing a loved one with a memorial bench or tree at the Gateway Garden, please contact BSG at Volunteers are also needed. Dates for planting at the new Gateway Garden and for spring clean-up will be scheduled soon. Check our Facebook page or for the schedule – usually half days on a Saturday morning, and a few hours on a weekday evening. Or e-mail to receive e-mails about the schedule. If you are interested in helping guide Blair Street Gardens over the next season, please consider joining the Board of Directors. Responsibilities include one to three meetings a year, plus being available for input via e-mail. Or, if you prefer, you can participate on an informal basis. Email if you’re interested.

With your help, BSG will continue to beautify the gateway to downtown Madison for many years to come.

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