Come see the West abloom at these stunning outdoor oases

Best Public Gardens of the West
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Public gardens are an escape from the daily grind of driving, working, and hustling. They’re where we can take our time, pausing to look up at a robust oak or down at a delicate orchid. Public gardens educate through workshops, lectures, films, and model gardens, teaching us lessons for our own yards. 

This week, from May 13 to May 19, is the first annual National Public Gardens Week, and the following gardens are celebrating with a series of events honoring public enjoyment of botany, community engagement, environmental sustainability, and all things spring.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery

This lovely dry garden on a former fruit farm in Walnut Creek, California specializes in drought-tolerant plants. For National Public Gardens Week, they are hosting a bevy of events, including a Free Admission Day, succulent garden workshops, a soil talk, and a nursery sale. If you can’t visit, get xeriscaping tips from the book (by a former Sunset garden editor!) The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from The Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado, is the world’s highest garden at an altitude of 8,200 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Speaking of great heights, the garden features a must-see 120-foot waterfall. For its National Public Gardens Week event series, the garden will hold a master gardener workshop training attendees on how to grow sustainable shrubs, trees, and plants, as well as a talk entitled “Tajikstan & Uzbekistan: Plants and Adventures Along the Silk Road,” where Nick Courtens will discuss his travel to document flora for a new Central Asia-inspired rock garden. If you can’t make it for this week’s special events, fret not: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are free every day and open year-round. 

Sherman Library & Gardens

This Corona del Mar, California oasis, laden with a rose garden, a fern grotto, a Japanese garden, and a tropical conservatory bursting with orchids, gingers, and heliconias, is hosting a different themed day for every day of National Public Gardens Week. From a Culinary Gardens Day featuring a Garden Fusions Dinner to an outdoor movie night for Sustainability Day, goat yoga for Wellness Day, and a Fuchsia Festival for Family Day, there are options for every kind of garden lover.

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

This lovely volunteer-run 3.4-acre rose garden in Temecula, California features 2,000 rose bushes best enjoyed before the heat of June. The garden is celebrating with a week of gardening workshops and lessons, concluding National Public Gardens Week with a first-bloom concert on May 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Leach Botanical Garden

Portland’s Leach Botanical Garden, which features 16 acres of alpines, medicinal herbs, camellias, rock garden plants, and ferns, is joining the nationwide festivities with a day of celebration on Friday, May 17. The garden seeks to function as a practical lab for environmental education and the physical sciences, so the event will feature a nature tour and a honey tasting. There will also be an ikebana exhibit, plant and garden tool sales, and live music.

Tohono Chul

At this 49-acre suburban Tucson, Arizona garden, admission will be free on Friday, May 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in celebration of National Public Gardens Week. The garden is known for its native fan palms and saguaro cacti, its stunning backdrop and geology wall explaining the rock formations of the Santa Catalina mountains, and its Sin Agua rainwater harvesting garden and Sonoran Seasons garden showcasing the five seasons of the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert.

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