America’s West is full of natural beauty and biodiversity. From mountain forests to expansive deserts, this region is home to a magnificent array of plant species. Native vegetation and international plants coexist together with the care of talented, knowledgeable gardeners and staff of the West’s unique botanical gardens. Filled with both international and home-grown flora and fauna, these gardens are where natural wonders merge with human artistic expression. Themed gardens both delight and educate groups with the sights, sounds, and fragrances of wildflowers, native grasses, and exotic plant life.
“Garden spaces have so many benefits for our health and wellness,” says Dani Hielscher, marketing manager at Filoli mansion and gardens in California. “They speak to a condition that is universal for many—the desire for contact with nature, a sense of purpose with tangible results, and the desire to find beauty and respite in the world around us. Breathing in the fresh air and taking in the visual beauty is a feast for the soul.”
Gardens like those at Filoli across the West take advantage of the unique plants native to the area and the horticultural experts who bring the world’s natural wonders to our own backyards. Whether travelers decide to structure an itinerary around these impressive gardens or add them as a relaxing stop on a busy travel schedule, a garden trip gives groups a chance to slow down and find calm amid life’s hustle and bustle.
Looking for the ultimate desert garden experience? The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix proves that beauty can flourish even in the harshest of landscapes. With over 140 acres, the garden is home to 50,000 resilient and unique desert plants, including cactus, trees, and flowers native to the world’s driest locations. Visitors can wander the garden’s five themed trails, which feature exhibits and a rotation of art installations. There’s nothing like viewing the beauty of a cactus forest as the desert sunset burns bright in the background.
Just 30 minutes south of San Francisco in Woodside, Filoli was once a country home for an illustrious family and now offers house and estate tours, plus access to 16 acres of lovely gardens. Each summer, fragrant hydrangeas and roses bloom in the gardens where a range of warm-weather festivities take place. While guided tours are available, the self-guided approach allows guests to experience Filoli at their own pace. “Stop at the places you love and find your place in the garden,” Hielscher says. “There’s always something blooming and something new to see no matter what time of year you come.”
This fall, the new Japanese Heritage Shōya House will open at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. “The new Japanese Heritage Shōya House will offer a glimpse into rural Japanese life some 300 years ago and provide insights into that culture and its sustainability practices,” says Karen R. Lawrence, president at The Huntington. This will be the latest addition to the property’s 16 existing themed gardens, which include rare and beautiful plant life originating from several continents and climates. Visitors can also explore the Camellia Garden—with 80 different camellia species—or the succulent-lined paths of the Desert Garden.
The state of Oregon offers several notable gardens. In Silverton, The Oregon Garden spans 80 acres and is composed of over 20 specialty themed gardens, including the Pet-Friendly Garden, where visitors learn about pet-safe gardening; the Children’s Garden, complete with a hobbit hole, dinosaur dig site, and treehouse; and the Medicinal Garden, which illustrates the beneficial properties of many plants. Visitors can independently wind their way through the themed gardens or hop aboard a narrated tram tour.
In Portland, aka the “City of Roses,” the International Rose Test Garden has served as a test site for the flower since World War I. The garden, located in Washington Park, now hosts an impressive 10,000 rose bushes of 610 different varieties, which bloom from late May through October. While in Portland, don’t miss a stop at The Grotto. This 62-acre garden sanctuary, maintained by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary, is a serene place for personal reflection and communion with nature. Visit the Rose Garden and discover shrines, chapels, and a cave carved out of a cliff face.
Residents of Tyler sure love their roses. Dubbed the “Rose Capital of Texas,” this city is home to the Tyler Rose Garden and several rose-themed events throughout the year. The Tyler Rose Garden is the largest public collection of roses in the United States, boasting more than 32,000 bushes. Groups can explore the garden’s walkways, ponds, fountains, and meditation spaces before picking up some rose-themed mementos at the gift shop. Visit Tyler in mid-October to participate in the Texas Rose Festival, an annual event since 1933. Groups can view spectacular rose displays, attend the Queen’s Coronation and Rose Parade, and marvel at the intricate Rose Queen gowns, which are preserved in the Tyler Rose Museum.
Written by Danielle Devota
Featured Image: Filoli; Credit: Filoli