CO-Horts Blog

Monday, February 27, 2023

February is a time for planning...a garden visit

Posted by Mollie Freilicher, Tri-River Area CSU Extension

This time of year, I find myself planning a lot - the year ahead, the garden, and travel, among other things. When planning travels, it’s easy to incorporate a garden or two (or several… travel companions willing) into your plans and is easy to start if you haven’t before. Or, you may be a pro at this and already do plan your travel around gardens you want to visit.

There are lots of ways to discover gardens to visit. For travel throughout North America, you can visit the American Public Gardens Association website or the American Horticultural Society website to see a map of member gardens. Traveling to Maine? See if you can squeeze in a visit to the Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens. Anchorage? Check out the Alaska Botanical Garden! 

Searching for public gardens in Colorado on the
American Public Gardens Association website.

Closer afield, we have over ten APGA-member gardens right here in Colorado, and more within a half-day’s drive of our borders. If you are member of a local garden you may even have reciprocal membership privileges or be able to enjoy discounted entry to other gardens. 

Many CSU Extension offices also have gardens to visit (see here for a few or search for “CSU demonstration gardens” in your browser). Of course there are also other, often smaller gardens that can be just as worthwhile to seek out--and you don't have to wait. There's plenty to see in the "off-season" too. You can even do some armchair travel using these resources.

rock garden and flowers
The Chinle Cactus and Succulent Society Garden
at the CSU Extension Tri-River Area office
in Grand Junction.

Visiting gardens as a kid with my family made a big impression on me and made some of the most long-lasting memories I have of those family trips. During many a winter or spring break, we would visit my grandmother who lived in California. We would often visit local botanic gardens with her and I remember many visits to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista, CA. It was one of my first western botanical garden experiences and I can still vividly remember walking through the gardens with my grandmother, seeing plants I’d never seen before, and being surprised when a lizard ran across our path on a warm December day. A lizard! 

Visiting the garden was an activity that everyone enjoyed and, importantly, could do. It was accessible, with lots of benches for sitting, and had exhibits geared toward kids too. It was an easy way to see the local flora, some pretty far-flung plants too, and spend quality time with family.

We had other botanical adventures as well, including some well-known places like the San Diego Zoo (though the plants were not the primary reason for our visit), the Montreal Botanical Garden, and some lesser-known places like the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, NY. Closer to where I grew up, we would frequent several local gardens and arboreta. There was always something new to see, something new to learn about a place, and TONS of inspiration. 

terracotta pot with plant in it and signs that say "Notice my rhizomes." and "I grow from a bulb."
Engaging visitors at an exhibit at the U.S. Botanical
Garden, Washington, D.C.

yellow flowers with tower
Rudbeckia at the Montreal Botanical Garden,
from a trip with my parents. In the background
is the Olympic Tower from the 1976 Olympics.

Visiting gardens in different parts of Colorado has been a great way to get to know the state (last year I visited quite a few!) and I look forward to more botanical adventures this year. 

From a trip to the Betty Ford
Alpine Gardens in Vail in June 2022.

Visiting the Durango Botanical Gardens for
the first time in May 2022.

Let us know in the comments - what are your favorite gardens to visit?

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