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Sunday, 24 April 2022

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

When you think of a desert what springs to mind? 

For most of us sand and cacti are probably the first two things we think of. But what about colorful flowers, trees and bushes? What about swathes of lush, green plant life? These may not be what comes to mind when we think of deserts, but there is a wealth of plant life that thrives in desert conditions and it can be all of these things. 

During our recent Spring Break we took a road trip to Phoenix, Arizona to visit friends. While we were there we spent half a day exploring Desert Botanical Gardens and it was absolutely stunning. A desert botanical garden may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, but trust me, this is one botanical garden that will blow you away.

Now, you're probably looking at that photo below and thinking "Hey, that looks like glass". And you'd be right! Desert Botanical Garden is currently home to "Chihuly in the Desert" an exhibition by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. Chihuly's glass sculptures can be found dotted around the gardens where their organic shapes add an extra touch of whimsy to an already magical landscape. What I love about this exhibition is that the striking glass sculptures add to the landscape without taking away from the natural beauty. They work so perfectly in unison. 


Desert Botanical Garden is quite large with over 50,000 outdoor plant displays spread over 55 acres. Visitors will also find a butterfly pavilion, an onsite restaurant and café, several learning centers and exhibition spaces, and of course, a gift shop. Restrooms and hydration stations are also dotted around the gardens. It gets pretty hot in Arizona (it was already in the 90s when we visited in March) so you'll definitely want to make use of those hydration stations!

The gardens are wheelchair and stroller accessible with wide trails winding through the different areas. The trails vary in length from 1/10 mile to 1/3 mile with each focusing on a particular theme including desert wildflowers, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert and the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop. I took so many photos during our visit that I can't remember which ones are from which trail, but believe me when I say that all of the trails are worth walking. My photos will be a little mixed up, but if you really want to know which trail a particular photo was taken on let me know and I'll try to work it out.

Ok, let's take a look around Desert Botanical Garden...


Given that our visit was in Spring many of the cacti and plants were in bloom. I always love seeing flowers blooming on cacti. There's just something about the harshness of the spikes and the soft flowers together that feels so otherworldly. Here are some of my favorite flowers from Desert Botanical Garden. Some look like flowers that you'd find blooming almost anywhere, while others take of shapes and formations that need to be seen to be believed. 


The blooming flowers are not the only splash of color to be found in Desert Botanical Garden. The Butterfly Pavilion along the Desert Wildflower Loop Trail is home to beautiful butterflies that flutter overhead and among the flowering plants. It's a beautiful spot and if you're lucky one of the butterflies might land on you. We weren't so lucky, but they were still lovely to look at. The Butterfly Pavilion has chrysalis on display behind glass and we were able to watch some newly emerged butterflies learning how to use their wings.


Want more color? How about those Chihuly glass sculptures I mentioned earlier? The Chihuly in the Desert exhibition consists of eleven sculptures placed throughout the garden, and an indoor gallery featuring glasswork and paintings. The sculptures vary in their structure but all take on a very organic appearance that compliments the landscape. If you've seen Chihuly glasswork before you'll be familiar with the classic shapes. These shapes include "Boats" (a boat form overflowing with an explosion of of glass forms), "Suns" (a ball made up of more than 1,500 pieces of entwined glass), "Chandeliers" (similar to suns but a little more gravity defying), "Towers" (free standing sculptures that soar upwards), and "Fiori" (the most organic pieces reminiscent of flowers). Seeing the sculptures outside amongst the desert plants is definitely a highlight but make sure not to miss the indoor display. The indoor display features some delicately beautiful sculptures and it also makes for a nice break from the harsh Arizona sun.  


Ok, now for all the important stuff you need to know for a visit to Desert Botanical Garden.

Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park at 1201 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona.

The garden is open daily from 7am to 8pm. 

Tickets start at $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for youth (ages 3 - 17). Members, children under the age of three and active military personnel (with valid government ID) are admitted free of charge. 

Timed entry tickets should be purchased in advance online at https://tickets.dbg.org/webstore/.

Chihuly in the Desert is on display through June 19th 2022 and is included with general admission tickets.

Phoenix gets really hot so make sure to dress for the weather and bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. 

Walking around the garden in the heat is pretty thirsty work so make sure to bring a refillable water bottle. There are 15 hydration stations throughout the garden where you can refill your water bottle or drink from the drinking fountain. Bottled water can also be purchased at the Patio Café on the Desert Discovery Loop Trail and the Garden Shop near the entrance. 

Make sure to stay on the trails at all time to protect the gardens.

For more information about Desert Botanical Garden and to purchase tickets visit https://dbg.org/.

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