Desert Botanical Garden Review – Phoenix's Spectacular Desertscape

Chihuly. Music. Butterflies. The list goes on.  But the reason to go to the Desert Botanical Garden  is the Desert Botanical Garden.  You need to see for yourself how sand, rocks, cacti and other desert flora and fauna create an ever-changing, colorful, texture-rich ecosystem cum garden. This is nature at her finest, most creative—triumphantly conquering the stress of temperature extremes, drought and exposure.

Wildflowers just starting to bloom

For 69 years, the Desert Botanical Garden nestled amid the red buttes of Papago Park, has played host to one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants.

Chihuly glass sculpture

Wear your walking shoes—it sits on 145 acres and has more than 50,000 plants on display. And sprinkled all over this area are the magnificent Chihuly glass sculptures, blending so well with the landscape, we sometimes did a double take.

Chihuly glass sculpture

Then again there were the times when the Chihuly just made our jaws drop!

Chihuly glass sculpture

The Chihuly sculpture will only be displayed at the Desert Botanical Garden until May 31, so get your calendar and plan to go.  In case you need another nudge, take a look at this one:

Chihuly glass sculpture

As stunning as every Chihuly is, the Garden is not resting on it cactus laurels.  Expansion and new vision is evident everywhere. In 2002, the Garden created a new entry and admission area and in 2008, the Garden opened its Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries and opened the Ottosen Entry Garden.

Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries

Other innovations include a self-guided audio tour, an in-school curriculum for Arizona teachers and a new way-finding system.  We can personally endorse the way-finding system—we followed the winding road through the “forest” of desert plants and found our way out effortlessly: everything was well-marked.

Not incidentally, we follow one of those well-marked paths to the Patio Café for a delightful, eclectic afternoon concert by Lyra, a talented couple who played guitars (acoustic and electric), violin, a Lyra-invented string instrument called the ViolaLyra, and, amazingly, snare drums. They fiddled around and played some of their original compositions--showing off a repertoire that spanned Stephen Foster to the classics--and then  finished with a raucous rendition of “Wipe Out” that had all the baby-boomers in the crowd tapping our feet and clapping our hands. We worked up such an appetite, we had to have a delicious lunch in the Patio Café.

Lyra in concert

What?  Glass sculpture isn't your thing? The Chihuly sculpture is by no means the only attraction to complement the desert garden: here’s a sampling of more current Events and Exhibits presented by the Garden:

  • The Spring Butterfly Exhibit until May 31 invites you to experience the magic and wonder of the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion.
  • Spiked! presents Chihuly nights until May 14 gives you a chance to mix, mingle and marvel a the Desert Botanical Garden’s new Thursday night social event (for the over-21 set) featuring the incredible glass artwork of Dale Chihuly.
  • Spring Jazz in the Garden Concert Series until June 26 is a hip way to celebrate Fridays.
  • Now Open! The Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries encourage you to explore the great diversity of form, texture and color found in this wondrous array of plants from around the world.

We were very pleased to take the convenient Desert Botanical Garden FREE shuttle from the Metro Light Rail station, Priest Dr./Washington. Every 15 minutes from 9 am  to 7pm. You can't beat door-to-door service until May 31.

Desert Botanical Garden 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008, 480-941-1225,

Photos: Desert Botanic Garden and Herb Simms

This is our last stop on our Metro Light Rail tour, but look for more trips like this on Splash!

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