Fall 2015

On Henry Mall

Ben Futa, curator at the Allen Centennial Gardens at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, uses a hand-held cultivator to remove weeds on June 4, 2015. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Ben Futa has one of the most beautiful workplaces on campus. And, as the new director of the CALS-based Allen Centennial Gardens, he loves the opportunity to connect visitors with its many splendors.

“What I like most is connecting people with plants,” says Futa. “People come in and say, ‘I’ve never seen this plant. What is it?’ Or they ask, ‘How do you get away with growing this in Wisconsin?’ And you get to share something with them.”

Futa comes to Allen from Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, Michigan, where he started as a horticulturist and eventually became manager of horticulture. Futa, who studied sustainability at Indiana University South Bend, also did an internship at Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Futa is already revitalizing Allen with a newly established year-round internship program offering students hands-on experience in the areas of public garden leadership, education and community programming, marketing and outreach, and plant records management. Another new program is Tai Chi in the Garden, offered in partnership with the Tai Chi Center of Madison.

All these efforts, Futa says, are intended to preserve and enhance Allen’s welcoming environment as the campus’ artful living laboratory.

“You don’t have to know a thing about plants,” Futa says. “Just come out and embrace the space.”

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