While spending Thanksgiving week in Scottsdale, Arizona we received a recommendation to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. We chose a quiet Wednesday afternoon to head to the garden, which is about 20-30 minutes away from Scottsdale.
The Desert Botanical Garden is committed to the conservation of desert plants specifically those found in the Southwestern United States. The 50 acre garden is located in Papago Park and it contains a large selection of plant species – if you’re new to this area of botany, you will be amazed, as I was, at the variety of cacti and other endangered species. In all, there are 139 rare plants at this garden and over 300,000 visitors each year. The garden contributes a lot to education and research and constantly features unique exhibits.
Currently, the Desert Botanical Garden is featuring glass sculptures by the artist Dale Chihuly. Chihuly’s work can be found in over 200 museums globally; a Chihuly installation is located even at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, but this one in Arizona is his first exhibit in a desert setting. Chihuly: The Nature of Glass is a collection of unique glass-blown works creatively positioned amidst the plants and cacti of the garden. Many of the Chihuly glass works weave in synch with the natural beauty of the plants but at times they pop out, through vibrant colors, reminding you of their separation from nature, the possibilities of human imagination and its power of fantasy and creation.
During our visit, we were truly impressed by the placement of the installations throughout the garden and the large variety of desert life. It took us about 45 minutes to walk through the garden following the path around the grounds. The installations use the natural landscape beautifully; we were very impressed with the variety of forms, colors and positioning of the works throughout the garden. Our favorite was an old wooden boat, filled with blue, glass-blown pieces resembling flowers and various other shapes. Another Chihuly signature is the “chandalier” idea behind many of his pieces – these are hanging objects of various shapes. There were two of three chandelier pieces hanging throughout the garden – one more mesmerizing than the other.
The garden is very easy to navigate through clearly marked paths. You will also receive a map of the garden with your ticket. If you’re going with children, there are frequent stops along the paths where you can engage in quick activities to learn more about the plant and animal life of the desert. There are signs throughout the garden to indicate different species. For the Chihuly exhibit, we used the audio guides as we walked. I would highly recommend you do the same if you would like to learn more about the artist and the motivation behind his glass creations. Many are very autobiographical – some botanical forms for example are inspired by the artist’s childhood in Tacoma, Washington.
If you plan on visiting the garden, make sure you make a reservation for the Chihuly exhibit. You can do so by going to www.dbh.com. You will be asked to register for one of three times during the time. This type of reservation system allows for guests to enjoy their visit comfortably without over-crowding. The three timed sessions are 8 a.m.-noon / noon-4 p.m. / 4 p.m.-8 p.m. If you’re a member, admission is free; otherwise, admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children. Some membership levels also have free guest passes.
In general, the Desert Botanical Garden is open 7 days a week, year round except July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Usually the garden is open 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. though during evening hours certain trails are closed. There is always free admission for members.