The new $2 million children's garden at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners is now open.
Margie's Garden, located just west of Boerner's Education & Visitor Center, contains loads of kid-friendly features, including an alphabet garden, numbers garden, playhouses and whimsical sculptures of bees, butterflies and caterpillars.
The colorful, inviting space — about two acres in total — also boasts sound makers, slides, a "flower shop" with free postcards, little libraries and a small stage with a seating area.
And what kid wouldn't like a rustic bridge leading to an "enchanted cottage?"
"Margie's Garden is a special place for children and their families to smile and engage in the joys of nature," a message from the Kezman family, the project's donors, says on a sign in the garden. "It invites visitors to put away the technology and play in the dirt. To expand their imagination, to smell the flowers, to walk and talk with each other."
The seeds for the project were sown in 2019, when Tim Kezman approached Milwaukee County Parks with the idea.
Kezman wanted to honor the memory of his late wife, Margaret "Margie" Kezman, who had died in May 2019, and offered to fund the installation and ongoing maintenance of the garden at Boerner, 9400 Boerner Drive, Hales Corners.
The Milwaukee County Board signed a development agreement for the project in 2020 and construction started in July 2021.
The garden's doors were opened to the public on July 1.
A grand opening will take place at 12:30 p.m. Friday, July 8. It will include a ribbon-cutting and small flower pots will be provided to kids so they can plant seeds.
Ellen Hayward, President/CEO of the Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens, said it's been a long journey, including pandemic-related delays, but it's been worth it to see the finished product.
"I just love it. It's beautiful," Hayward said. "If I were a little kid, I'd love it. I love it as an adult. I walked through it myself alone and I found it very peaceful, intriguing. The colors are wonderful. The sculptures are original. It's a very nice, engaging space for kids of all ages."
Rosheen Styczinski, owner/principal of New Eden Landscape Architecture, said she's "absolutely thrilled" to see their vision become reality.
At a recent preview night event, she said they had the opportunity to see over 100 families and children visit and explore Margie's Garden.
"Each corner and nook were activated with children running from place to place," Styczinski said in an email. "It was gratifying to see the garden used as we intended, and the comments were overwhelmingly enthusiastic."
She said it was important for New Eden to capture the essence of Margie Kezman's love of flower gardens and children and incorporate that into the space.
"The Kezman family shared their thoughts and ideas for the garden and were a vital part of the whole process from the beginning," Styczinski said.
Margie's Garden is ADA-accessible and stroller-friendly. The kid-friendly paths are soft with a spongy feel.
The entire garden is fenced in with one main entrance/exit (with emergency exits on each side).
Entrance to the garden is included in paid admission to Boerner Botanical Gardens. Children 5 and under get into the gardens free.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Boerner Botanical Gardens has a new $2 million children's garden