The Riverside International Friendship Gardens is a collection of stunning public gardens that celebrate the relationship La Crosse, WI has with its sister-cities in Ireland, Norway, Russia, France, Germany, and China. The gardens are open to the public at any time Riverside Park is open. The gardens are designed to be a beautiful reflection of the appreciation the city has for the different cultures that all share this planet.
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Visitors are greeted by two stone dragons as they enter the Chinese Garden, which celebrates La Crosse’s sister-city of Luoyang in China. The walled garden is reflective of the walled gardens of noblemen in ancient China. The small space symbolizes the entire world represented in a single small garden. Feng Shui was used in the garden’s design to create a free-flowing movement and bring good fortune. Unique forms of plants, architecture, water, and rocks are all part of the Chinese Garden.
The German Garden at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens was inspired by Friedberg, La Crosse’s sister-city in Germany. In southern Germany, fruiting shrubs, roses, and hydrangea fill the gardens during the summertime. The rock garden set atop a hill echoes a mountain slope and features dwarf conifers, as well as short, tough plants. Visitors will find a fountain in the garden’s friendship square, or Gemeutlichkeitplatz, as well as a pocket watch sculpture almost six feet high by Wolfgang Auer.
France’s Epinal, a city full of flowers, served as the inspiration behind the French Garden, which features a more formal design. The garden’s includes a pavillion that overlooks a rose gadens, a patterned garden, and a knot garden. This knot garden features a parterre and cut hedges that form a geometric pattern. The walk through the French Garden is lined with topiaries. Imported roses from Epinal, as well as a collection of daylily and hydrangea, are also featured in the garden.
Visitor may be able to catch a glimpse of a face behind a small waterfall, as well as several trolls, in the Norway Garden. Plants typically found on a farm in Norway are also on display in the garden, such as blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. Shrub roses introduced to the garden include the Sigrud, Sven, Lena, and Ole types. Digitalis, Norway’s national flower, adds more color to the garden. Guests enter the Norway Garden through its stunning “torvtak,” which is reflective of the sod-roofed structures often seen in Norway.
Gardens in Russia are typically informal, aiming to create a natural setting. This can be seen in the Russian Garden at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens. The trees of the garden are displayed in groves. A beautiful structure along the river called a besedka can be seen by visitors, similar to the one that exists in Dubna, La Crosse’s sister-city in Russia.
The Ireland Garden features a riverside amphitheater, as well as a mill wheel modeled after a larger version in Bantry in Ireland. A Celtic cross pattern can be seen in the center of the garden’s walkway. Filling the garden are plants suggestive to the green of the country of Ireland, such as wildflowers, mosses, ferns, hostas, and hydrangeas.
405 East Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-791-4769