Green Bay Botanical Garden connects people with plants by providing year-round educational and recreational experiences for everyone in an environment that engages, inspires, and refreshes. See it in action.
The Garden will be the leading educational, recreational, social, and horticultural destination enriching the quality of life in the upper Midwest.
Today, Green Bay Botanical Garden spans 47 acres full of natural Wisconsin scenes and features more than 85,000 breathtaking plants and flowers. 25 years ago, it was an undeveloped area with limitless potential. Nearly 25 years before that, it was an idea in the minds of a few passionate plant people. Here’s how almost 50 years of hard work, determination, and a special partnership got us to where we are today…
Ray Pagel of the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Ernie Ehrbar of Brown County Extension formed a Gardener’s Club which included members Bob Mongin and Paul Hartman. In the late 1970s, Hartman formed Plants in the Urban Environment (PUE), which explored potential sites for a botanical garden in Green Bay, including 90 acres on land belonging to Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute (now Northeast Wisconsin Technical College).
After several setbacks, it wasn’t until Green Bay Botanical Garden, Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit and a Board of Directors appointed, that NWTI signed a two-year lease for the 90 acres of land. An annual Garden Fair fundraiser began in 1986 to raise money for a botanical garden. In 1992, NWTC agreed to a 99-year lease for 30 acres contingent on a successful fundraising campaign of $1.4 million.
After completion of the Fischer Visitor Center, Donor Gate, and Mabel Thome Fountain, Green Bay Botanical Garden officially opened to the public in September of 1996. With Glenn Spevacek as Executive Director, several structures and garden areas were built through the late 1990s including the Stumpf Belvedere, Vanderperren English Cottage Garden, and many more, following the original Master Plan created by Buettner & Associates. Jerry Landwehr, Director of Horticulture, also created the first WPS Garden of Lights, beginning a beloved holiday tradition.
In 2000, NWTC agreed to lease an additional 17 acres to the Garden and built their first greenhouse on site. With Patrick Larkin and Don Hendricks as Executive Directors, the Van Den Wymelenberg Color & Foliage Garden, Wood Memorial Grove, and Green & Gold Hosta Society Display Garden opened. In the mid-2000s, the Garden implemented a plant identification system, Dennis Ledvina contributed dozens of trees to establish the Magnolia Grove, and NWTC broke ground for its Landscape Horticulture Learning Center.
After a year of construction, the Schneider Family Grand Garden opened for reimagined summer concerts and a focus on Wisconsin’s native plants, prairie land, and natural meadows. The Garden also hosted its first, wildly successful traveling exhibit, Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks.
In the following summers, the Garden highlighted the importance of pollinators with its home-grown summer exhibit, Butterflies & Blooms. Then, in 2021, the Garden celebrated 25 years of growing together with a blockbuster year full of events and the Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea exhibit, bringing the need for sustainable action to guests of all ages.
In 2022, the Garden officially announced the new Carol & Bruce Bell Children’s Garden, a natural wonderland where children in our community and their families will discover delight and wonder in their surroundings. The expansion will open in 2023.