Day trippin’ at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Article and photos by Celeste McNeil
The Denver Botanic Gardens is a 24-acre oasis in the heart of the city. Located next to Cheesman Park, the York Street gardens host a large array of stimulation for the senses.
Featuring Denver’s first green roof and the first conservatory in America entirely made from concrete and plexiglass; the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory gained landmark status in 1973, in part due to its unique design. Each plexiglass pane was specially designed to direct condensation to the concrete supports, and thus not drip on visitors admiring the tropical foliage inside. The conservatory holds more than 11,000 square feet of plants, with viewing from multiple levels from paths, the balconies or climbing stairs wrapped around a two-story concrete banyan tree replica.
While showcasing many varieties of plants and flowers from around the world, the Denver Botanic Gardens hosts Dryland Mesa, the world’s first Xeriscape demonstration garden, created in 1986. The Gardens also includes the largest collection of cold temperate climate plants in North America. Plants from Colorado and neighboring states feature prominently throughout.
Many cactus and succulent plants are dispersed throughout the property, and unusual and small plants are identified in the succulent and cactus house. Some other permanent gardens include the Japanese Garden, Rock Alpine Garden, Romantic Gardens, Mordecai Children’s Garden, Bonsai Pavilion, Monet Pool, Science Pyramid, Herb Garden, O’Fallon Perennial Walk and a Victorian Secret Garden.
The Sensory Garden includes more than 300 different plants which evoke all five senses. This specialty garden was designed in 2009 for horticultural therapy programs. Individuals with disabilities and the elderly generally participate in therapy programs where plants are brightly colored and have interesting textures and smells. The garden also includes a kaleidoscope lens to view colored leaves in a new way.
The Denver Botanic Gardens also hosts art installations and shows, concerts in the central sunken amphitheater and various tours throughout the year. Activities for children and art classes, some virtual, are also offered. Advanced tickets are required to enter the gardens and to participate in any classes, tours or other events.
Denver Botanic Gardens was created in 1951. Both the Gardens and neighboring Cheesman Park are on top of an old languishing cemetery. While most of the interred bodies were removed in the 1890s-1950s, grave goods were still being discovered into the last decade. Both the Gardens and Cheesman Park are often included in haunted tours and local ghost stories.
For more information, visit botanicgardens.org.