Denver Botanic Gardens what to see

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Forget everything you think you know about boring botanical gardens! The Denver Botanic Gardens are a vibrant oasis in the heart of the city, inviting you to lose yourself in landscapes from around the globe, marvel at the artistry of nature, and maybe even find a new appreciation for the humble zucchini.

A World of Plants at Your Fingertips

Picture this: one minute you’re strolling past delicate blossoms and the soothing sound of water trickling over stones in a landscape inspired by traditional Japanese gardens. Next, you’re surrounded by the rugged beauty of desert plants, their sculptural forms a testament to the resilience of life. Before you know it, it feels like you’ve been transported to a lush rainforest filled with exotic orchids and leaves the size of elephant ears.

The Denver Botanic Gardens excel at creating immersive experiences. The Steppe Garden alone is a revelation for those who think “dry landscape” equals “boring landscape.” This space celebrates the unexpected vibrancy of tough-as-nails plants. Spiky surprises, bursts of unexpected color, and textures that demand to be touched showcase that arid-adapted doesn’t mean lacking in beauty. “There’s a sense of wonder in seeing plants that flourish with minimal resources,” says a landscape designer who specializes in water-wise plantings.

Collections focused on specific world regions take your horticultural exploration even further. Stumble upon a hidden grove filled with plants that thrive in alpine climates, or lose yourself among the bizarre beauty of the South African Plaza. These areas transport you to far-off lands with each step, sparking both wanderlust and maybe a newfound appreciation for those little succulents in a pot on your windowsill.

More Than Just Pretty Flowers

While the gardens are undeniably stunning, their mission goes deeper. “We showcase the importance of plants to the ecosystem, to our food supply, and to cultures across the globe,” explains a curator at the gardens. You’ll find edible gardens demonstrating what can be grown in the Denver climate, medicinal plant exhibits, and interactive areas highlighting the delicate balance of our planet’s diverse habitats.

The Denver Botanic Gardens also champion sustainability initiatives for home gardeners. Their water-wise plants collection helps visitors envision beautiful gardens that don’t guzzle resources, a crucial consideration in the often drought-prone West. Educational programs turn the gardens into a living classroom for both students and adults.

The gardens become a canvas for artistic expression throughout the year. Large-scale sculpture exhibits by renowned artists dot the landscape, often incorporating natural elements for a unique dialogue between art and the cultivated plant world. During the summer months, concerts echo amidst the flowers, adding a delightful soundtrack to your stroll.

The Magic of Chihuly

If you’ve ever stumbled upon a picture of impossibly vibrant, fantastical glass sculptures seemingly sprouting from flowerbeds, chances are you were looking at the work of Dale Chihuly. The Denver Botanic Gardens have hosted multiple exhibits of his work, the ethereal glass creations adding a touch of the surreal amidst the botanical wonders.

One of the joys of the Denver Botanic Gardens is that there’s no “wrong” season to visit. Spring explodes with bursts of tulips and flowering trees. Summer means the Monet Pool, inspired by his water lily paintings, reaches its peak glory. Fall brings blazing foliage, and they even embrace the magic of winter with festive Blossoms of Light displays that turn the gardens into an illuminated wonderland.

Tips for an Awesome Visit

  • Timing is Everything: If you crave solitude, avoid weekends and go during the quieter weekday mornings. For special events like concerts or sculpture exhibits, plan accordingly as they can get crowded.
  • Give Yourself Time: The main Denver site is 24 acres, and there’s also a location on the grounds of Chatfield Farms. This isn’t a place to rush through; let yourself linger and get lost down winding paths.
  • Embrace the Learning: Download the gardens’ app for plant ID and bonus info, or consider a guided tour for deeper insights.
  • Eat & Shop: There are on-site cafes, and the gift shop offers a well-curated selection of botanically-themed goodies beyond the usual kitschy fare.
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