Tucson Arizona Public Gardens

To preview other Botanic Gardens in the West, go here.

cholla and prickly pear cactus
Prickly pear cactus with red fruits, spiny cholla and other native plants are typically found in the Tucson garden style.

There is a distinctive Tucson Garden style — at least in the older, more established neighborhoods. It is, quite simply, native plant gardening at it purest. The annual average rainfall of 12″ is usually enough for the plants — no additional watering required.

Many homes have been sited on the land to take up the floor space they need and little more. The landscapes around the homes have been left in their natural states with Palo verde trees (Cercidium), prickly pears (Opuntia), creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), and other no-maintenance native plants growing where and as they will. No vast spreads of water-guzzling green lawn in sight!

Tucson Botanical garden blue herb gardenHerbs grow in one of the historic gardens at the Tucson Botanical Garden which was originally a private home. The top of this pergola has been painted cobalt blue to match the tiles installed by the original owner and garden founder. 

In the Tucson Botanical Garden there are also cactus and succulent gardens, a butterfly garden — an enclosure that actually has butterflies in it — a backyard bird garden, a xeriscape garden, a children’s garden, and many more. The ramadas — essentially covered patios — are especially inspiring because of their diverse architectural styles and colors.

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Tucson childrens garden
The children’s garden is especially colorful.

Brilliant color on the walls in the Tucson Botanical Garden children’s garden contrasts with the subtle greens, grays and browns of the native plants.

Tucson is also home to Tohono Chul, another botanical park filled with native plants and demonstration gardens. At 50 acres, Tohono Chul is much larger than the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Horned lizard sculpture
A gigantic statue of a horned lizard holds a place of honor in the Tohono Chul demonstration gardens.

Tohono Chul park offers visitors winding trails through native vegetation, demonstration gardens that make great use of tile, an ethnobotanical garden, a riparian garden and a splendid art gallery.

We saw quilt-art and art glass exhibitions there. There is an entry fee and a charming tea room for lunch.

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) and creosote bushes dominate the landscape on the drive to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Saguaro and Ocotillo are two signature plants of the Sonora desert. Saguaro National Park landscapeOn day two of your garden tour, head out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum adjacent to the Saguaro National Park West outside of Tucson. Within the 21 acres that compose the museum grounds you will see a natural history museum, a subterranean earth sciences museum, a botanical garden, a zoo with animals in their natural environments, a hummingbird enclosure and a separate aviary — both of which you can enter. There are also miles of trails with spectacular views. There is an entry fee and 4 restaurants on the grounds.

To preview other Botanic Gardens in the West, go here.

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