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The landscapes of central and southern Arizona offer a beauty that’s almost surreal, especially to visitors from cooler, wetter climes
Despite — or perhaps because of — the hot, dry weather, the region is the site of many botanical attractions. One of the best is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
The garden is an oasis of (spiky) green in the middle of urban Phoenix. Five main color-coded trails lead visitors on gentle hikes over mostly level surfaces past more than 23,000 plants.
The Desert Discovery Loop Trail, the central trail in the garden, highlights desert plants from around the world, with a huge collection of cactus and agave species.
The Desert Wildflower Loop Trail explores the surprising beauty and color of desert wildflowers and includes displays about desert pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds.
The Center for Desert Living Trail will give desert dwellers ideas for their own sustainable landscapes, and spur envy in those living where the sun doesn’t shine, at least not often enough. Along with beautiful, xeriscape ornamental plants are an herb garden and edible garden.
The Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail passes through planted areas and near natural desert habitat, with jaw-dropping views of the surrounding mountains. Exhibits focus on the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert.
The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail looks at the human cultures that have sprung up in the desert, and at the plants used for food, fiber and medicine by the Akimel O’odham and Apache Indians.
Throughout the garden, attractive exhibits highlight specific ecosystems or plant families. The huge Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries, a covered, outdoor garden area, contain an immense variety of those plants, astonishing for their wide variety of forms, sizes and even colors.
The Kitchell Family Heritage Garden takes visitors back to the garden’s original plantings from 1939, with its own “contemplation garden” and “botanist garden.”
Visitors will also find a new butterfly pavilion, the dramatic Desert Terrace Garden and a new horticulture center where behind-the-scenes garden tours are available.
— Steve Stephens can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SteveStephens.