One perfect day at the Tucson Botanical Garden

Andrea Gómez Romero
Visit the botanical oasis of Tohono Chul Park in Tucson.
Browse the sensational succulents and other Southwestern plants at this Arizona garden

Why go now: In a word, flowers. In late April, saguaros pop little white blossoms that look like Easter bonnets. Trust us, it's cool.

Brake for cactus: Tucson is home to the world's largest regional cactus and succulent society (, and montly meetings are open to the public.

Go native: Desert Survivors (Closed Sun, 1020 W. Starr Pass Blvd., 520/791-9309) is your spot for super-rare natives like red barberry.

Stranges souvenir: Living rocks (Lithops) resemble tiny sea cucumbers and are great for a lonely windowsill. Browse the mother lode at Plants for the Southwest (closed Sun, 50 E. Blacklidge Dr.,

Oodles of noodles: The 17th Street Market (closed Sun, 840 E. 17th St., 520/792-2588), in the Warehouse Arts District, specialized in ethnic groceries, including more than 50 types of instant-ramen bowls.

Three times a farm: If you miss the Friday farmers' market, there's another one Saturday--and a third on Sunday (times and locations at

An amusement park of plants: Located 10 worth-it miles north of downtown, Tohono Chul Park is a 47-acre botanical oasis with paths, nine gardens, galleries, greenhouses, and shops. See the wildflower displays of the Sonoran Seasons Garden, then hit the tearoom ($, 520/797-1222) for lunch. The dish to try: sinus-clearing red posole, best enjoyed on the rear patio so you can watch the action in the Hummingbird Garden. $7, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte,

One-stop idea shop: Landscape architect Margaret Joplin is a recycling wizard with fresh ideas on garden decor. At Pure Beauty, her nursery/studio/storefront, scrap metal becomes abstract wall hangings, plastic light fixtures turn into planters, and a steel disc transforms into a wheeled pot coaster. Open Mon-Fri, by appointment Sat-Sun, 2719 E. Broadway Blvd., 520/623-8068.

Butterflies and irises: Tucson Botanical Gardens are a lush retreat tucked into the city's heart. This month, the bearded irises are in Blu-ray and the tropical greenhouse's Butterfly Magic features winged wonders from Africa and Australia. For a peek at botany's dark side, catch Wicked Plants. $12, including both exhibits (through Apr 30), 2150 N. Alvernon Way,

The Tiffany of garden stores: Family-run for more than 70 years, Harlow Gardens deals in local artists' one-of-a-kind patio a 3-foot-high metal snake wearing a cowboy hat. Something more practical: Pick up a biodegradable flowerpot made from rice husks. 5620 E. Pima St., 520/298-3303.

Veggie burger with a side of tacos: La Cocina's sleepy Mexican village interior belies a global menu focues on seasonal ingredients. Sure, you can order tacos, but the Vietnamese salad rolls and edamame hummus deserve attention--as does a Sonoran-style cosmo with hibiscus-infused vodka. $, in Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., 520/622-0351. 

Make it a weekend: Let yourself be coddled at the Arizona Inn, a 1930 resort sprawled over 14 groomed acres near downtown. None of the 95 casita-style rooms is the same--if you're lucky, you'll get one with a patio overlooking the cactus garden and fountains. From $259;

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