ACG's flower crowns at the homecoming block party. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Alumni Association.

Workshops and Tour Schedule

Allen Centennial Gardens are excited to offer hands-on learning opportunities to deepen your relationship with plants! You don’t need to be a green thumb either, but you can expect to improve your love of growing and working with plants. We think there is something here for you whether you are creating art with plants or touring our many different garden spaces looking for inspiration to take home. These events and tours support the garden and embody our mission by providing opportunities for our visitors, interns, and staff to continue learning form the many beautiful spaces within ACG.

Starting in June 2024 on Saturdays, we will be hosting weekly tours ($5) in the garden and offering our build your own bouquet ($10) opportunity. These are great ways to meet and possibly work with countless seasonal flowers from our thousands of different plants.

Tours, Every Saturday June 1 to August 3

June 1 to August 3rd | 9:30 and 11:30 am – Tour Allen Centennial Garden’s  many diverse spaces and learn the gardener sense behind each. Join the 45 – 60 minute tour for $5 per person.

Build your own bouquet, also on Saturdays

June 1 to August 3rd | 9:00 to 11:00 am – Arrange them? I can hardly lift these… Build a bouquet of flowers for $10.

House plant level up

June 8 |  @ 9 am – Learn a few DIY container techniques and plant propagation skills to add pizzazz to your house plant planters and plant collections.

Designer pots often can be expensive and not quite what you need for your houseplants whether they lack drainage or they don’t have the color you want. Instead come learn with us how to make your own designer pots from the containers you know and trust! Learn how to marble paint pots, drill custom drainage holes, and propagate new houseplants. Marble an old pot and spice up your plant corner by painting it with a mixed and swirled array of color. We will show you how to make custom planters out of any mugs, bowls, or vases so you can apply this to any container you have lying around. Then, we’ll teach you all the strategies you will need to propagate some house plants which you then get to pot up and take home. This project was designed for those aged 18 and up. 60 minutes. $30

Floral greeting cards

June 8 | @ 11 am – Create stationary with pressed and dried flowers up to 5 pieces. Learn how to press flowers with a press or to make a simple DIY press at home.

Create thoughtful stationary with pressed and dried flowers up to 5 pieces and learn how to press flowers with a press or to make a simple DIY press at home with cardboard and an office fan. We’ll go through all the steps from harvest to cracking open the presses for the big reveal. This is a fun way to slow down. We love the cards since they encourage us to write more letters! 45 – 60 minutes. $10

 

Watercolors

June 22 | @ 9 am – Learn how to extract color from seasonal plant parts, strategies to modify colors, and a few watercolor tips. Work towards a garden inspired landscape painting.

Harvest flowers and leaves, grind with mortar and pestle, add a dash of water, and transfer to a watercolor palette. These simple steps yield remarkably vibrant colors that change throughout the season. We will teach the basics for extracting color and then share the colors around the table. We will provide a brief introduction to some of the most ‘colorful’ plants and provide you the opportunity and tools to harvest and test your own. (Many of these are easy to grow reseeding annuals and perennials.) Finally, we’ll turn you loose with watercolor paper and you will have a relaxing time painting simple, (and possibly, more elaborate) plants and scenes. 60 – 90 minutes. $25

Flower pounding on cotton

June 22 |  @ 11 am – Smash those flowers. We’ll be working on cotton fabric that’s 45” x 25” to make an elaborate floral table runner that can also be split into a bandana.

Harvest, arrange, and hammer out a cathartic art piece. Flower pounding is exactly what it sounds like with extra little twists. Flowers, fruits, leaves…anything with a pigment goes, and as you slam these materials into the fabric you release their colors and echo their forms from the growing season! From hulk smashing the most delicate flowers to gently tapping leaves to get accents or layers, we will walk you through everything from selection, harvest, and hammering your pieces together. We’ll be working on cotton fabric that’s 45” x 25” to make an elaborate floral table runner that can also be split into a bandana or divided for other projects. . We will pretreat the fabric to make the colors more vivid and more colorfast. 60 – 90 minutes. $20

Flower pounding on paper

July 6 |  @ 9 am – We will demonstrate how to hammer gently to print onto watercolor paper. Participants will have the opportunity to create 5 prints.

Harvest, arrange, and hammer out a cathartic art piece. Flower pounding is exactly what it sounds like with extra little twists. Flowers, fruits, leaves…anything with a pigment goes, and as you slam these materials into the fabric you release their colors and echo their forms from the growing season! We will walk you through everything from selection, harvest, and hammering your pieces together. Flower pounding can be done onto a variety of surfaces. For this project, we will demonstrate how to print onto watercolor paper. Participants will have the opportunity to create 5 prints which readily make greeting cards or simple floral or landscape paintings. 60 – 90 minutes. $20

Plant based dyes: intro

July 6 | @ 11 am – Learn the basics of growing and dying fabric with four different plants. Everyone will get to take home 6 fat quarters of cotton 22” x 18.

Come and dye with us! Come learn the joy and experimental process of working with natural plant based dyes by working together with other workshop participants to transform different dye plants into your own unique colors. We’ll have at least four different colors and an array of examples pre-made to serve as our guide. Learn how to harvest in our dye garden for all the necessary materials. Interested in growing these plants? They’re easy to grow or forage, we’ll show you! 

As we experience the process, we will discuss the importance and impact of plant based dyes throughout history, consider the differences and complexities of dyeing animal based fabric versus plant based fabric, and learn about the chemical process involved in making your plant based dye permanent. This is a great introductory course because it works with different techniques for dye extraction and fabric preparation.

Everyone will get to take home 6 fat quarters of cotton (22” x 18”). These may be used for future projects like quilting or hemmed into a napkin. You will have the knowledge to be able to grow your own dyeing materials! This 90-minute project was designed for those aged 18 and up. 90 minutes. $50

 

Plant based dyes: blue

July 20 | @ 9 am – This workshop is a deep dive into the color blue and will teach two techniques for dyeing fabric blue.

The best blues are not born, they’re grown (in the garden) and it’s easy. This workshop will teach two processes for extracting indigo from three different plants–Indigo Indigofera tinctoria, Japanese Indigo Persicaria tinctoria, and Woad Isatis tinctoria. Indigo is different from most color pigments which dissolve in water and then affix to fabric. Instead, Indigo is a solid in water…

The first technique uses only salt water and elbow grease to affix the indigo to the fabric and yields light blues. This is a fun hands-on technique to use with Japanese Indigo and takes advantage of the plant’s succulent leaves.

The second technique will require some potions skills to extract the color blue, dissolve it in water (by changing pH), then sticking it to your fabric as a yellowish dye. Finally, like magic, it will change to blue as the fabric is exposed to oxygen.

This project will include a handy reference, an indigo growing guide, and allows you to take home one dad hat in light blue and one tee shirt in a slightly darker shades. One reason we enjoy working with indigo is that it does not require the pretreatment of fabrics and can be readily utilized with natural fabrics–cotton, wool, linen, and silk–you may have at home. 90 minutes. $55

Watercolors

July 20 | @ 11 am – Learn how to extract color from seasonal plant parts, how to modify colors, and a few watercolor tips. We will demonstrate painting a flower.

Harvest flowers and leaves, grind with mortar and pestle, add a dash of water, and transfer to a watercolor palette. These simple steps yield remarkably vibrant colors that change throughout the season. We will teach the basics for extracting color and then share the colors around the table. We will provide a brief introduction to some of the most ‘colorful’ plants and provide you the opportunity and tools to harvest and test your own. (Many of these are easy to grow reseeding annuals and perennials.) Finally, we’ll turn you loose with watercolor paper and you will have a relaxing time painting simple, (and possibly, more elaborate) plants and scenes. 60 – 90 minutes. $25

 

Plant based dyes: upcycle

July 27 | @ 9 am – Bring in a piece of natural clothing that is thrifted or faded, and we’ll bring the sexy back with plants. Choose from four colors.

Join us to thrift and upcycle natural fabrics–100% cotton, linen, silk, and wool. Take those faded garden button downs that fit great and turn the color volume back up!

Wondering about what you’d like to dye? Once you sign up, we will provide tips in the weeks preceding the event. We’ll go over some of our recent upcycle projects with tips and tricks for selecting something worth transforming. We will have four seasonal colors to choose from 2 that compliment darker fabric and 2 that improve lighter fabrics. We’ll go over growing and even do some of the harvesting!

For maximum color absorption, this workshop may require you to pick up your article of clothing one week later on the following Saturday. This is dependent on your color choice.

This workshop is designed for each participant 6-8 oz of fabric to dye. This might be a button down shirt (M is around 6 -7 oz), a tee shirt (6 – 8 oz), or three pairs of socks (2 oz each). This is important because most dye recipes call for 1 part plant material to 1 part fabric. Natural fibers (100% cotton, linen, silk, and wool) are a must as synthetic fibers take up less color or none at all. 90 minutes. $40

Dry flower wreath

July 27 |  @ 11 am – Bend, snip, and arrange an everlasting wreath overflowing with texture and color. Wreaths will range from eight to twelve inches across.

Some flowers look better dried and these will look great all the time. We’ll have many of the classics like strawflower, winged everlasting, and wheat on deck, plus a host more. (There will be too many to list them all.)

Our team will be ready to go over the drying process so you can begin to generate your own materials from your own garden. While there are good flowers to dry… We encourage you to dry new things. Some of our best projects come from what you might not consider to dry first.

Working with heavy duty wire, floral tape, and floral wire, we’ll demonstrate a basic process that will allow you to create a stunning wreath for any season. The process allows you to create something very chic and minimalist or depending on your mood something substantial and full. 60 – 90 minutes. $25

General Information and Parking

We recommend navigating to the Observatory Drive and Babcock Drive corner. Plan to head north on Babcock Drive. The entrance to the garden is on Babcock Drive. You are welcome to drop off in the circle but we are not allowed to park there. Google maps will sometimes confuse the garden’s address (620 Babcock Dr, Madison, WI 53706) and navigate to Leopold Residence Hall.

Street parking is free on the weekend. Consider near the Garden on Babcock Drive (lot 34), near Porter Boathouse on Babcock Drive (lot 35), and near Babcock Dairy (lot 40). There is paid parking in the Observatory Drive Ramp next to Steenbock Library (lot 36). Lot 36 costs $4 for the first two hours. More information about parking on campus can be found here: https://transportation.wisc.edu/visitor-parking/

Workshops are held rain or shine. In the event of inclement weather, we will move inside the DC Smith Greenhouses and do things there. Should this need arise before the start of our program, then participants will be notified via email two hours prior to the event. If the weather looks unfavorable please check your email before heading out. All the needed plant materials will be brought to DC Smith Greenhouses (465 Babcock Dr, Madison, WI 53706).

Private Programs

Interested in a private program? We would welcome exploring the options. These include all of what’s above and more. To learn more fill out a contact form here.