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A metamorphosis of love: local family turns grief into whimsical children’s garden

By Amanda Becker

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    HALES CORNERS, Wisconsin (WDJT) — A new space is now open at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners. Margie’s Garden was designed with kids in mind, and it’s like stepping into a storybook.

A winding path takes you through three acres of gardens.

An alphabet garden has a flower to represent each letter of the alphabet. Plus, there’s a number garden, a pollinator garden and a secret garden. All of them decorated with life-size sculptures and playhouses.

“There’s a flower shop that has postcards that were inspired by her love to send greeting cards,” said Jennifer Mares.

Mares and her family are responsible for bringing Margie’s Garden to the botanical gardens.

Margie Kezman is Jennifer’s mother, and in 2019 she lost a two-year battle with breast cancer. Kezmer’s family wanted to do something to honor who she was and the life she lived.

“We met with Boerner and asked them what aspects of the garden maybe could we help? What areas maybe were you hoping to have? When they said a children’s garden it just struck a chord with us because those were her two passions, both flowers and gardening and kids,” said Jennifer.

Boerner has been looking to add a children’s garden to their existing 40 acres of blooms.

“Just to bring the children into the gardens, and get them excited about the environment and excited about gardening,” said Shirley Walczak, the director of Boerner Botanical Gardens. “This garden has turned out greater than any dream that we had.”

The family wove all of the things Kezman loved into the space– from her love for peach roses to four cardinals, representing her favorite number.

“As far as when it comes to missing my mom and grief, it’s just been refreshing to have a positive way to remember her and have other people experience her full essence,” said Jennifer Mares.

She hopes this new space will inspire a child’s love for nature, or just give families a place to make memories.

“It’s a very special thing to bring our kids here,” said Mares. “We have three children and they unfortunately did not get to meet my mom and so it’s nice to come here and talk about her and share stories and be in such a positive environment.”

The family also created a nonprofit called “Margie’s Smile.” It paid to build Margie’s Garden, and they’ll also maintain it over the years.

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