When I think of the desert, I think of dry, brown, arid environments with little to no life. I also think of hot fudge sundaes, but that’s because my brain has a hard time letting go of that extra “s” in the word dessert. While my original thoughts have some validity to them, I recently discovered the desert has a unique beauty that goes beyond the dry brown climate.
A trip to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ is all it took for me to open a small piece of my heart to the desert. For as long as I can remember, succulents have been one of my favorite types of plant. Little did I know a cactus is technically a succulent. You can tell I didn’t study horticulture in college.
I also had no idea there were so many species of cacti. I was familiar with saguaro (I think we all are), barrel, prickly pear (thanks Jungle Book), and a few others I recognized visually (though I don’t know the names), but I discovered so many more.
Octopus cactus (legit), teddy bear cactus (you touch it and it sticks on you and won’t let go), ones that had hair, and ones that looked like a fence.
The cacti were educational, but the original purpose for this adventure was to see the Jun Kaneko sculptures littered around the gardens. Jun is a Japanese American artist who specializes in large, hand built ceramic sculptures. The majority of the sculptures we saw were of giant heads. They were weird, but a good kind of weird.
Kind of like me.
The gardens are spread over five trails, winding and looping together in one way or another. It took us two hours to cover it all, walking at a comfortable pace. It was a tranquil place and I found myself leaving much calmer than I walked in. The garden had sections for different plants, including an edible garden.
My favorite thing about the gardens were the reminders that nature is healing. They have sensory gardens to relax the mind scattered around the property, fountains trickled water, birds chirped in the trees, and the air was fresh. My favorite sculpture and location had a fountain, and a view of the surrounding mountains.
I could have sat there for hours.
This experience was a good reminder that beauty is found anywhere, and sometimes it just takes a shift in perspective. I didn’t think the desert was ugly necessarily, but I didn’t jump out of my seat to call it beautiful either. What shocked me the most while visiting this garden was all the green. Green trees, green cacti, green succulents.
Who knew the desert could have so much green in one place.
The paths were surrounded by desert dwelling organisms, and every so often we’d stumble upon some sculptures. Art is funny, and really anything can be viewed as art depending on..you guessed it..perspective. Anything from a red line drawn on a black sheet of paper, to tall bear/pig hybrid statues.
The one with stripes was my spirit animal. #twins.
Art can come in all shapes and sizes, and everybody has their own preference. I enjoy art in many forms from written words, to paintings, to sculptures like these. Art offers a unique view into the mind of its creator, and has its own therapeutic and meditative benefits. Finding art within a garden makes a lot of sense when I think of it like that.
One day, when I grow up, I will have a large garden next to a tiny home. I will spend my free time outdoors soaking up the meditative benefits of fountains, and nature, and it will be my place of zen. These botanical gardens have a powerful way of giving you the same benefits you’d get from meditation, and for that I’m a fan.
Maybe I’ll even have a Jun Kaneko giant head, don’t they look like they’re meditating?
My family bought a membership to these gardens, and I can’t wait to visit again at a different time of year. I don’t anticipate much will change with the plants, desert terrain doesn’t have seasons, but the different activities and exhibits will be fun. If I lived in Arizona I would come here once a week to recenter my focus and sit near my favorite labyrinth.
The goal of meditation is not to control your thoughts, it’s to stop your thoughts from controlling you.
Q: What’s your preferred biome? I have three: grassland, temperate deciduous forests, and taiga.
33 thoughts on “Desert Botanical Garden”
Looks like a fun place to visit!
It was great!
OMG – I LOVE places lithe this! Last time I was in AZ I went to the Arboretum at Flagstaff. I will have to put this on my places to visit next time I head out that way! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Ohhh and I will have to check out that arboretum! I went to one in Ohio that was excellent, but haven’t been to one since.
If you ever come to PA you will HAVE to check out Longwood Gardens – it’s beautiful especially in the spring and over the Christmas holiday. It’s an all day trip for sure – they have amazing fountain shows there too! Such a cool place and I believe it’s considered one of the best gardens in the US!
Adding to the list!!
you will LOVE it – they have cats wandering around patrolling sections to keep other critters from eating the bulbs and seeds – LOL! Not a lot of people know about them.
I love trying to find them – and I know you are an animal person too!
Yassss omg. I’d go just for the cats haah.
LOVE those sculptures. I’m with you with the biome. Those are my exact three! And also, I feel you with the small house and large garden. Our plan is to have a small house like a cottage or cabin-style house in a wooded area and grow our own greens and vegetables. The plan is to move back to Washington when we’re done with our nomadic lifestyle and live out in North Bend or something like that. Ha! But, we’ll see where we’ll really be in a couple of years… Can’t hurt to dream a little, right?
Dude, we’re destined to be best friends. SAME. I’ll be your neighbor and we can share produce. 😂 without dreams there can be no reality! Gotta start somewhere!
Neighbors and sharing produce sounds awesome!
I should get one of those giant heads and put it on my van 😉
Hahaha best idea ever. Although you’d likely have a hard time driving with the extra weight. 😂
My biome is anything that’s warm almost all year round! And… I’m SO happy I’m finally living there. 😉 It was 75° here this week but only 59° back home when I briefly visited. I’ve found my “spirit animal” weather! If that type of thing exists… 😜 THANK YOU, as always, for the reminders to slow down, meditate, and take care of ourselves!! 🙏🏻
Hooray for finding the perfect location! 75 is a good temperature, but I do love me some 59. Hahaha
I shared this with two friends. One was in the same garden last week. The other is going nuts over succulents.
I don’t know what my favorite biome is. I know for sure it isn’t the deep south of the US. The heat and humidity are incomprehensible. And I can’t deal with the frozen north because I lived in upstate NY and in eastern New England for 28 years. I just couldn’t handle the length and intensity of winters up there. I’d lose my mind about mid-March. DC is like Baby Bear’s bed: just right.
Same garden!? How funny, small world! It’s all about finding that happy medium!
PS – You blend! – Kat
HA, that was my goal! 🙂
The Desert Botanical Garden sounds magical! I love, love, love cacti and succulents, so I basically NEED to go!!
You would LOVE it.
Desert is my preferred habitat though mountains are a close second. High desert here in ABQ works well for me I guess.
You’re right about the color in the desert. It is often hidden in plain sight among all the browns and tans but if you find the green cacti or the red flowers or yellow blooms it pops out at you all the more. Come back to the desert after the rainy season and I think you will be amazed at how much color and life there is!
For the record the sailor in me always misses the sea so I could easily be an islander at any given time.
I keep my mind open to the possibilities in the desert, I do tend to visit in summer and winter. Thus I don’t see much of the rainy season.
Come down anytime. The desert loves you.
First an answer to your question. The desert has always been my favorite Biome, followed by temperate rainforests.
I’m going to have to check out the Desert Botanical Gardens the next time Niecie (my girlfriend and co-blogger) visit her grandparents there. Sadly I think our trip was canceled this year, so we’ll have to find somewhere else to go.
On a side note, I’m really excited to have found your blog. As a travel/adventure blogger, my self it’s always great to find others in my niche.
Hi Tobias! Glad you’ve found me too, I’m always looking for likeminded internet friends! I hope you two are able to visit the gardens someday, esp of you prefer the desert. 🙂
I absolutely love the desert. I spend 3-weeks in Tsaile Arizona for a documentary project in 2015. It was an absolutely magical experience.
Those sculptures looks so intriguing, randomly placed in a cactus garden of all places haha!
So random, but so fun!
You and the bear/pig look good together.
Cacti are cool, yo!
Bahaha, thanks boo.
This this this: “This experience was a good reminder that beauty is found anywhere, and sometimes it just takes a shift in perspective.” Totally agree that art is everywhere and I love discovering it 🙂 Also can we PUHLEASE travel somewhere together because ugh how fun RIGHT.
I would sell my left shoe to travel with you! That would be epic. We WILL meet, mark my words!