July 25, 2022
“The garden has been my retreat, my laboratory, and my playground,” Rita Thomas told us at the Madison Fling, a 3-day tour for gardeners on social media, held last month in and around Madison, Wisconsin. For 35 years, Rita has been playing in her Fitchburg garden, learning about plants and design as she went along. Today she describes herself as “a plant collector, seeking out the unusual, the best of the species, or the latest introductions. My major interests have been native woodland plants, daylilies, and irises.”
As at other Madison gardens, I was struck by the number of gorgeous clematis. Rita encourages vines to twine up into her trees, adding a surprising spark of color amid gray branches.
Backlit purple clematis rambling through a conifer’s bristly branches
Behind a picket fence in her back garden, Rita grows vegetables next to a charming, slope-roofed shed.
The fence makes an irresistible scaffold for another clematis.
Along one side of the garden, a fully screened shade house is made inviting with white wicker, a hammock, and a hanging chair.
Shade lovers in shades of green
In the sunny center of the garden, a metal pergola sheltering hot-pink, wrought-iron chairs holds court. The bright sun made it hard to capture details of the surrounding plantings.
Another angle shows how far her backyard extends, with the distant fence shadowed below several large trees, giving her an enviable mix of shade and sun to garden in.
An old tree stump makes a perfect perch for a pebbly birdhouse, with purple clematis twining upward.
Another stump supports a raven sculpture.
Look closely and you can see another raven atop the metal pergola.
Fellow Flingers Theo and Kevin of The Fuchsietum
I marveled over this clematis with streaky purple-and-lavender petals.
Up the side-garden path, where elevated beds sparkle with colorful gazing globes atop black posts.
And where martagon lilies nod beside a blue gazing globe.
Up next: The wildly imaginative and epic-scale gardens of the Epic Systems campus. For a look back at Flinger fun at Rotary Botanical Gardens, click here.
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