Garden Reinvestment & Renewal

Core Trail Revitalization

Over the next five years, three new galleries will become part of the core trail.

Current Situation

The Desert Discovery Loop Trail is the core of the Garden’s experience and presents our identity, mission, messages and collections. Visitors to the trail view the Garden’s outstanding plant collections and interpretive displays about deserts, arid land plants and the history of the Garden. Modifications to the trail have been ongoing since the early 1990s, but much of the development has been adapted to fit the existing trail spaces. As we celebrate the gardens and collections that are the priceless legacy of the past 75 years, we recognize that significant renewal and improvements are needed, including a coordinated framework for presenting and interpreting coherent groups of plants – cacti, succulents and other Sonoran Desert flora – with new galleries, and more visitor amenities such as seating, lighting and drinking fountains.

Proposed Initiative

We are committed to maintaining the best of the Garden that is our legacy and to putting in place new displays and experiences that will become the celebrated gardens of the future. The Master Plan for the Core Trail, completed in summer 2012, outlines a ­­­series of renovations that are both fresh and traditional, true to our core identity, atmosphere, culture, ecological health and function of current pathways and galleries. The overarching goal is to build upon our heritage to create new visitor destinations and amenities; improve circulation patterns; provide more spaces for programs, events and learning; highlight existing views and landscape features; and enhance visitor interactions through dynamic interpretations.

Desert Terrace Garden

Drawing visitors from Ottosen Entry Garden southward into the core trail, bold plantings in this curvilinear passageway will focus on the stunning range of desert plants from around the world. Tiered planters will display permanent plantings distinct to the Garden’s collections, including key signature species such as agave, prickly pear and boojum. The Desert Terrace Garden will serve to build excitement about the Garden experience by offering glimpses into the Sybil B. Harrington Cactus & Succulent Galleries, the Lewis Desert Portal and staged views of the red buttes of Papago Park. In the Desert Terrace Garden, we will begin to tell the story of the Garden’s mission and history.

Lewis Desert Portal

From the canyon-like enclosure of the Desert Terrace Garden, guests will emerge into the open expanse of the Lewis Desert Portal. This 50 foot circular plaza will become the central hub of the Core Trail, orienting and preparing guests for their exploration of the Garden. The Portal will offer shaded seating, water stations and a gathering space. In the evening there is also potential for hosting small special events.

Featuring elegantly designed plantings and a dramatic architectural trellis, displays will intensify the presence of signature species from the Garden’s collections. Tiered planters will define the Portal’s northwest and northeast quadrants, creating an amphitheater-like backdrop and directing views west to the Papago Butte and southeast to the Garden Butte. This framing device dramatically accentuates visitors’ first views of the Core Trail.

Heritage Garden

North of historic Webster Center are the Garden’s original plantings, a dramatic reminder of the vision and legacy of those who founded the Desert Botanical Garden and helped make it the world-renowned institution it is today. This is the ideal place to share the story about the Garden’s past, present and future.

The Heritage Garden incorporates two unique and dynamic areas: the Contemplation Garden, nestled among the oldest plantings in the Garden, and the Cardon Plaza, featuring views of the Garden’s popular giant cardons, planted in 1939. Both areas will provide a dramatic reminder of the vision and legacy of our founders, Gertrude Divine Webster and Gustav Starck.

The living collections that are part of the historical displays are the foundation of our 75 year history. New plantings, combined with the historic displays, will exemplify the Garden’s message about stewardship and preservation.

The story of stewardship is a window into time – looking back over 75 years and looking forward to the next 75 years. The Heritage Garden will interpret the story of the Desert Botanical Garden through:

  • People: our founders and those who have shaped and supported us;
  • Place: the unique desert landscape, both geographic and architectural;
  • Plants: a diverse and remarkable collection of cacti and agave that have adapted to survive against a harsh and beautiful landscape.

Our goal for the Heritage Garden is to create a garden that in 75 years — 2089 — will be as compelling and treasured as the historic cardon cactus display is today.

New Horticulture Center

Current Situation

The definition of horticulture – “the science or art of cultivating plants” – confirms the central place of this department in everything the Garden does. Working in five greenhouses built over 25 years, the Garden’s talented horticulture team operates in facilities inadequate for the current and future needs of seed collection and storage, maintenance, research, plant propagation and sales. In addition to the critical need for modern greenhouses, shade houses and seed storage facilities, the Garden must also address the lack of gardening classrooms and public tour space needed to showcase the full plant collection and scope of behind-the- scenes activities at the Garden.

Proposed Initiative

If the Garden is to provide the care required to maintain world-class plant collections, and use those collections for conservation, research and educational public programs–and this is the goal–then renovation and expansion of horticulture facilities are essential. A new Horticulture Center will allow Garden scientists and horticulturists to not only maintain but expand our special collections – including rare, threatened and endangered species – supporting the Garden’s goal of regional leadership in research and conservation. The new facility will also provide members, visitors and industry professionals an opportunity to see behind-the-scenes operations, a key education and outreach priority. Classes will be offered that showcase best practices for growing arid-adapted plants in the Sonoran Desert, a link to the proposed Community Gardening Initiative.

New and Expanded Butterfly Pavilion

Current Situation

In 2002 the Garden opened the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Butterfly Pavilion as a spring exhibition of hundreds of live North American butterflies with lush garden displays and interpretive signs. The popularity of this exhibit prompted the addition in 2004 of a fall exhibit of monarch butterflies and their migration story. Originally funded for five years and extended via a generous bequest from Jonathan Marshall, both exhibits have been a popular destination for thousands of school children and visitors of all ages.

The current location of the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion limits our ability to integrate new interpretive and educational exhibits. The location also does not allow us to increase the size of the structure to accommodate more visitors, which is especially needed during our busy spring season.

Proposed Initiative

The Garden proposes to develop a new Butterfly Pavilion and improve educational opportunities by incorporating a Caterpillar Nursery and an Emergence Chamber to let visitors view all stages of a butterfly’s life. The addition of the emergence chamber will provide additional butterflies to the exhibit. The pavilion will be relocated to the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail, and the Marshalls will continue to be recognized for generously funding the original project. Placement in the wildflower trail provides a thematic link to the story of plant pollinators, and the expanded facility will feature significant educational displays about the butterfly life cycle, pollination and how to create a butterfly friendly garden. The new “Butterfly Landing” will also provide welcoming activity spaces for children, families and special event audiences.