Denver Botanic Gardens: A Horticultural Oasis in the Mile High City

The Denver Botanic Gardens is a stunning 24-acre oasis in the heart of Denver, Colorado. Established in 1951, it has grown to become one of the top botanical gardens in the United States, known for its diverse plant collections, beautiful landscapes, and educational programs.

Plant Collections and Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens boasts an impressive array of plant collections and themed gardens, each offering a unique experience for visitors to explore the diversity of the botanical world.

The Rock Alpine Garden

The Rock Alpine Garden is a standout feature, showcasing one of the largest collections of alpine plants in the United States. This garden focuses on plants native to high mountain environments around the globe, including true alpines found above the tree line, chasmophytes that grow in rock crevices, and facultative alpines that thrive in harsh, cold conditions. Visitors can admire a wide range of alpine genera, such as Androsace, Dianthus, Draba, Primula, and Saxifraga.

The Mordecai Children’s Garden

Designed to nurture a love for nature in young visitors, the Mordecai Children’s Garden is an interactive space that encourages hands-on learning and exploration. This garden features engaging elements like sensory plants, water features, and educational displays that help children connect with the natural world around them.

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens is a serene and contemplative space inspired by traditional Japanese landscape design. This garden incorporates elements such as carefully placed stones, water features, and pruned trees to create a harmonious and tranquil environment. Visitors can stroll along winding paths, cross charming bridges, and appreciate the beauty of Japanese plants and design principles.

The Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory

Housing an extensive collection of tropical plants from around the world, the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory is a lush oasis within the Gardens. This conservatory showcases species from lowland tropical rainforests, with a particular focus on plants from Central and South America. Visitors can explore diverse plant families, including Orchidaceae, Bromeliaceae, Arecaceae, and Araceae, among others. The conservatory also features cultivated varieties chosen for their exceptional form and color, creating a vibrant and immersive tropical experience.

In addition to these highlights, Denver Botanic Gardens is home to several other notable collections, such as the Amenity Collection, which features traditional garden plants of the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions, and the Steppe Collection, which showcases plants from semi-arid regions around the world. These diverse collections and gardens offer visitors a rich and engaging experience, connecting them with the beauty and importance of plants from various ecosystems and regions.

Research and Conservation

Denver Botanic Gardens is not only a beautiful public space but also a center for botanical research and conservation. The institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge about plants and their ecosystems, as well as protecting rare and endangered species.

Helen Fowler Library

The Helen Fowler Library is a valuable resource for visitors, researchers, and scholars interested in botanical studies. The library holds a significant collection of botanical and horticultural materials, with a focus on the Rocky Mountain region and similar regions around the world. The collection includes general books, rare books, archival materials, and historical collections that cater to visitors of all ages, academic researchers, and general gardeners.

The library staff is available to provide research assistance, answer general questions, and help with inquiries about the library’s resources. While the physical library space may be closed at times, the staff remains accessible to support researchers and visitors remotely.

Natural History Collections

In addition to the library, Denver Botanic Gardens maintains extensive natural history collections that document the biodiversity of the southern Rocky Mountains and adjacent areas. These collections include:

  • The Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium of Vascular Plants (KHD)
  • The Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi (DBG)
  • The Denver Botanic Gardens Arthropod Collection (DBGA)

These collections serve as essential resources for understanding species diversity, distribution, and how landscapes and populations change over time. The collections are housed in the Freyer – Newman Center for Science, Art and Education, which provides improved spaces for storage and accessibility to researchers and the public.

Plant Conservation Initiatives

Denver Botanic Gardens participates in various plant conservation initiatives to protect rare and endangered species in Colorado and the surrounding regions. The living collections at the Gardens include native plants, some of which are part of conservation efforts.

The Native Plant Collection at the Gardens consists of over 700 species belonging to 323 genera, with a focus on plants that occur naturally in Colorado and the West. By maintaining these collections and studying the plants’ adaptations to the local climate, the Gardens contribute to the conservation and understanding of native flora.

Furthermore, the Gardens collaborate with other institutions and organizations on conservation projects, sharing expertise and resources to protect threatened plant species and their habitats.

Through its research facilities, natural history collections, and conservation initiatives, Denver Botanic Gardens plays a crucial role in advancing botanical knowledge and preserving the rich biodiversity of the Rocky Mountain region and beyond.

Education and Events

Denver Botanic Gardens places a strong emphasis on education, offering a wide range of classes, workshops, and programs for visitors of all ages. These educational opportunities cover diverse topics, from gardening and horticulture to art and science, catering to various interests and skill levels.

Adult Programs

The Gardens provide a variety of learning experiences for adults, including hands-on workshops, certificate courses, public lectures, and professional development seminars. These programs are designed for personal enrichment and cover a broad spectrum of topics related to plants, gardening, and the natural world.

Some notable adult education offerings include:

  • Certificate programs in Herbalism, Rocky Mountain Gardening, and Beginning Market Farming
  • In-depth, multi-session courses featuring guest speakers on various topics
  • Online and hybrid learning opportunities to accommodate busy schedules and limit travel
  • Botanical art and illustration classes for all skill levels

Children and Family Programs

The Gardens offer an array of programs designed to engage children and families in exploring the connections between nature, art, and culture. These programs encourage hands-on learning, creativity, and an appreciation for the natural world.

Some popular children and family programs include:

  • Seedlings Classes for toddlers and preschoolers, featuring stories, nature walks, and sensory-based exploration
  • Family Fun programs that encourage caregivers and children to learn and explore together
  • Homeschool enrichment programs focusing on close observations of nature, scientific exploration, and creative expression
  • Scout and community group programs that delve into the diversity of plants, trees, and ecosystems
  • Summer camps filled with games, activities, mindfulness exercises, and plants to take home

Special Events

Throughout the year, Denver Botanic Gardens hosts a variety of special events that celebrate the beauty and importance of plants, art, and culture. These events offer unique experiences for visitors of all ages and interests. Some notable special events include:

  • Seasonal festivals, such as the Pumpkin Festival and Blossoms of Light, which showcase the Gardens’ beauty during different times of the year
  • Concert series featuring live music performances in the picturesque setting of the Gardens
  • Art exhibitions displaying works by local, national, and international artists, often inspired by nature and the botanical world
  • Lecture series and symposia featuring renowned experts in horticulture, conservation, and related fields

By offering such a diverse array of educational programs and special events, Denver Botanic Gardens fulfills its mission to connect people with plants and foster an appreciation for the natural world. These offerings provide opportunities for visitors to learn, grow, and find inspiration in the beauty and wonder of the botanical realm.

Visiting the Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens is a year-round destination, offering visitors a chance to connect with nature and explore the beauty of plants in every season. With its convenient location in the heart of Denver, the Gardens are easily accessible for both locals and tourists alike.

Hours and Admission

The Gardens are open daily, with hours varying depending on the season. From Monday to Sunday, the Gardens are typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.1. However, it’s always a good idea to check the official website or call ahead to confirm the current hours of operation, as they may be subject to change during special events or holidays. Admission tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the gate upon arrival. Buying tickets online allows visitors to skip the line and ensures a contactless transaction. Ticket prices may vary depending on the season and any special exhibitions or events taking place.

Visitor Guidelines and Accessibility

To ensure a pleasant experience for all visitors, Denver Botanic Gardens has established some guidelines. Visitors are asked to treat the plants and gardens with care, refraining from picking flowers, walking through garden beds, or climbing trees. Picnicking is allowed in designated areas, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages3. The Gardens strive to be fully accessible for visitors with disabilities. Most indoor and outdoor gardens and facilities are wheelchair accessible, and the Gardens provide a map highlighting wheelchair and stroller accessible paths. Service animals are permitted in the Gardens, but pets are not allowed and should not be left in cars.

Guided Tours and Educational Opportunities

For those interested in a more in-depth experience, guided tours are available. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who share their expertise on the plants, landscapes, and history of the Gardens. Tours can be booked in advance and are a great way to discover new plants and gain a deeper appreciation for the collections. In addition to guided tours, Denver Botanic Gardens offers a wide range of educational programs for visitors of all ages. From hands-on workshops and lectures for adults to children’s classes and family activities, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and engage with the natural world.

Seasonal Highlights and Special Events

No matter the time of year, there is always something to see and experience at Denver Botanic Gardens. In the spring, visitors can admire the colorful blooms of tulips, daffodils, and other early-season flowers. Summer brings lush green foliage and vibrant annual displays, while fall showcases the changing colors of trees and shrubs. Even in winter, the Gardens remain a beautiful and serene destination, with holiday light displays and indoor conservatory collections to enjoy.

Throughout the year, the Gardens also host a variety of special events, from concerts and art exhibitions to seasonal festivals and plant sales. These events offer unique ways to experience the Gardens and provide entertainment for visitors of all interests. Whether you’re a passionate plant enthusiast, a casual visitor looking for a peaceful escape, or a family seeking a fun and educational outing, Denver Botanic Gardens offers a delightful experience connecting with nature in the heart of the city.