Find out what is cultivating at area botanical gardens
What is a Botanical Garden?
In its simplest definition, a botanical garden is a garden open to the public (often with a greenhouse) for the culture, study, and exhibition of special plants, with an emphasis on conservation.
Why are Botanical Gardens Important?
Here in New Mexico, a botanical garden offers an oasis in the desert—often with lush and fragrant spaces that are both peaceful and inspiring. “Botanical gardens are living museums whose collections are plants, as opposed to art or historical relics. Visitors are offered the opportunity to discover and learn about a multitude of flora,” says Sarah Spearman, director of public affairs, Santa Fe Botanical Garden. It is interesting to note that many botanical gardens offer a variety of events to keep the public connected to the gardens, sometimes through education but also utilizing art, music, physical fitness, and more.
A (Very) Brief History
Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians are thought to be the earliest gardeners 3,000 years ago, and the Romans were also known for their green thumbs—and used plants for medicinal purposes. But gardens with underlying scientific purposes probably date to Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the last 30 years, botanical gardens have seen growth most likely due to the strength of the conservation movement. According to Botanic Garden Conservation International there are 1775 botanic gardens and arboreta in 148 countries around the world with many more being considered. For instance, the first botanic garden is being planned in Oman, and will house the first large scale internal fog-forest in a huge glasshouse.
Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden
The Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden, 2601 Central NW, has 36 acres of exhibits and showcases plants from the Southwest and around the world in its formal and whimsical gardens. Opened in 1996, it has more than 1.5 miles of paths, including the popular children’s garden that is guarded by a 14-foot topiary dragon,a Japanese Garden, and the Rio Grande Heritage Farm, a re-creation of a 1930s era farmstead. The garden’s BUGarium is also a highlight with plenty of icky, slimy, creepy bugs and arthropods—such as Malaysian walking sticks and African scorpions. “We want to be a welcoming place for our New Mexican community and are an oasis on the banks of the Rio Grande in the middle of Albuquerque. We have something to appeal to everyone—from quiet and beautiful gardens to fun places for children to immersive exhibits,” says Catherine Hubbard, ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden Manager. The ABQ Botanic Garden has earned national and international accolades, thanks to the efforts of the hardworking staff.
The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden also has a full roster of fun summer activities, here is a sample:
Summer Nights Concerts at the Botanic Garden
Lawn seating concerts every Thursday at 7 p.m. through August 10. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for New Mexico BioPark Society members, $3 for children 3-12, and free under 2 years. See the schedule.
Botanic Garden Brown Bag Lunch Seminar
Join BioPark staff and field experts as they discuss conservation science. – July 6 at 12:30 p.m.
Night Walk at the Botanic Garden
A guided evening tour in search of night-blooming plants, nocturnal animals, and night pollinators. Space is limited; pre-registration online is required. Walks are scheduled for July 25 from 7-9 p.m. and August 29 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Obon Festival at Japanese Garden
An annual Japanese tradition that celebrates ancestors – make floating lanterns during one of the Garden’s Summer Nights musical performances on August 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Did you know volunteers (18 or over) are needed for the ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden? As a horticulture volunteer you will increase your plant knowledge, practical gardening skills, and learn great gardening tips. While there is no special knowledge to join, although they do ask you to commit at least 60 hours per year. Volunteers receive a number of benefits such as free regular admission to all BioPark facilities (Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanic Garden), food and gift store discounts, and access to special volunteers-only events. One fun opportunity is to volunteer with the Garden Railroad – and learn to operate and maintain the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden’s G-scale model trains and exhibit.
Don’t miss out on the half price weekend coming up on July 22-23; NM citizens can visit the Zoo or Aquarium & Botanic Garden for $4.50 per adult and $2.25 per senior (65+) and $2 per child (3-12).
Santa Fe Botanical Garden
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden, 715 Camino Lejo, opened in 2013 and continues to grow each year. It celebrates and conserves the botanical heritage and biodiversity of the Santa Fe region—with a focus on education, community service, the arts, and the sustainable management of the nature preserve and public garden. The plant collections are either indigenous to New Mexico or capable of thriving in the arid Steppe climate with minimal water usage. “We also offer an ethnobotanical garden that features plants grown for medicine, basketry, tools and crops by New Mexican cultures throughout history,” says the Garden’s Sarah Spearman. The garden features art exhibits that celebrate artists and has become very popular for its winter Glow program that takes place around the holidays.
There are a number of programs at the garden that are geared for tots to older folks and all stages in between. For instance, Arts Alive! is a free program for families, Garden Sprouts program is for tots, most ages will enjoy the Sunset in the Garden Concert Series, and Tai Chi in the garden is a gentle movement class (fees apply for most). This summer also marks the first time Shakespeare in the Garden will be performed–launching with the Bard’s famous tale of magic, deception, revenge, and marriage—The Tempest. Tickets run $10 to $35 with an additional charge for a chance “unwind with the cast.” The show runs August 24-27 and Aug. 29 – 31 at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information. For information about all programming, visiting hours and prices, as well as volunteer and membership info, visit santafebontanicalgarden.org
Fabian Garcia Botanical Gardens
In Las Cruces at New Mexico State University, the Fabian Garcia Botanical Gardens are open to the public Monday through Sunday, from sunrise to sunset. Named for Fabian Garcia, a professor of Horticulture (1906-1945), he was named the first director of the State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1913 and produced the first reliable chile pod, which began the hot “Sandia” pepper. (The Chile Pepper Institute has a seasonal chile garden with more than 150 chile varieties.)
The Fabian Garcia Botanical Gardens has plenty of paths lines with prickly pear and cane cholla cacti, shaded by Mediterranean fan palms. If timed correctly, you also can smell honeysuckle and view peony, columbine, and rose blooms. Find out more
Living Desert Zoo and State Park
Although not technically a botanical garden, this State Park deserves mention in our wrap up. In Carlsbad, you can find a native wildlife zoo that showcases more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants that are native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The Living Desert State Park’s indoor/outdoor museum features hundreds of succulents from around the world. The 1.3 mile self-guided tour takes about 1.5 hours and allows visitors to discover sand dunes and mountainous areas with piñon and juniper trees contrasting with the desert floor.
Living Desert Zoo and State Park
Albuquerque Rose Garden
While clearly not a botanical garden, but worth a mention, is the Albuquerque Rose Garden, located on the grounds of the Tony Hillerman Library, 8205 Apache NE. This lovely garden with 1,200 roses provides a splendid experience for multiple senses. Its mission is to “promote and celebrate our national flower and to provide educational opportunities to increase the public’s knowledge of and appreciation of the rose.”
The garden is supported by City funds as well as donations from individuals and organizations from across the U.S. Created in 1962, with a major renovation completed in 1998, the garden will always be a work in progress. Less hardy roses are replaced by new varieties, roses that receive too much shade are transferred, and new beds are established.
The Rose Garden is always seeking interested volunteers to help maintain the garden. They meet on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer at 6:30 p.m. to deadhead, feed and weed the roses. “Bring a good sharp pair of pruning shears and heavy gloves. Look for members in the light green tee shirts. If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry–we’ll show you what to do.”
Find out more about the Rose Garden.
New Mexicans certainly crave garden-typse of environments since it is often too difficult and water intensive to do so at our own homes. Check out these options – and take some time to stop and smell the roses—it’s good for your psyche and well being.