About the Gardens

A botanical garden amidst a historic estate

The Paine estate features twenty garden areas for public enjoyment and education. In concert with the historic architecture, the garden designs create outdoor “rooms” showcasing a wide variety of plants. Like the Paine mansion’s rooms and galleries, the gardens are designed to create a variety of intimate and grand settings. 

Set against the backdrop of the mansion, the gardens showcase perennials that are especially hardy in Wisconsin’s climate as well as trees, shrubs and wildflowers native to the state. Displays of annuals and bulbs change each year and present new varieties and unusual combinations to inspire every level of garden enthusiast.

Two chairs in front of a historic mansion

The Founders' Vision

When Nathan and Jessie Kimberly Paine began planning their new home in the mid-1920’s, they envisioned more than a house, but an elaborate setting in the style of an English country estate. Once the family’s cow pasture, the Algoma Boulevard property was vacant and had several majestic oak trees that Nathan admired. He envisioned a house that appeared to be carved out of the woods, and as the plans for the house developed, he oversaw the planting of five hundred trees, mostly evergreens, that triple-ringed the property and created a secluded glade.


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Terrace of a stone building covered in greenery

English-Inspired Gardens

When the estate opened to the public in 1948, it was called the Paine Art Center and Arboretum, with “arboretum” referring to the predominance of trees as well as shrubs and vines. However, over time, the original landscape design waned as aging, diseased, and damaged trees needed to be removed. The grounds evolved into a series of interconnected gardens reminiscent of English country estates. Although the landscape design has evolved, Nathan and Jessie’s pride in their English heritage continues to be reflected in various plant materials and garden designs.

Water fountain in a courtyard at evening

The New Formal Garden

During the summer of 2017, the Paine constructed a new elaborate formal garden. The garden is located along the Paine property’s eastern border adjacent to the new conservatory-style building, which was constructed in 2012. Designed by an award-winning, internationally recognized landscape architect, Doug Hoerr of Chicago, the new garden features an elaborate, symmetrical design with two fountains, stone architectural elements, two long pergolas, and a variety of planting beds. The design is inspired by the romance of English country estates while complementing the character of the historic Paine property.


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11:00 am–4:00 pm

The Paine is closed Saturday, March 25, 2023.