Upon arriving at the gardens I was struck by the stark contrast of bright flowers against the brown earth as well as the Chihuly glass sculptures delicately mimicking the cacti around them. The Desert Botanical Gardens host a wide array of art events every year from Chihuly sculptures to music and storytelling, yet another way the garden masterfully mixes nature and man made art.
Before touring the gardens,we sat down for lunch at Gertrude’s. This fine dining establishment far surpassed any restaurant I have ever encountered inside a park. We sat at an outside table next to a fountain, and the heat lamp by our table was quickly turned on. For the first course we ordered their pretzel with fondue style cheese, all made in-house. For lunch the menu offered a generous variety of salads, sandwiches, and desserts to choose from, and our friendly waitress even let us sample some wines from the area. They have an awesome dinner menu too!
While eating we enjoyed the beautiful view of the desert and were visited by a road runner begging for scraps. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I found the novelty of this roadrunner to be much more charming than the pigeons I am use to dealing with.
Even without a tour, visiting the Desert Botanical Gardenswas a very informational experience. By reading the plaques along the path we learned that cacti have wooden skeletons and can live up to 300 years. We also learned about the people of the Sonoran Desert through examples of how the Tonoho O’odham tribe lived. We walked through a short long hut made of dry grass that they used as shelter, and we practiced using a traditional mortar and pestle made out of stone.
At the time we were there, the entry fee was $22 for adults, $12 for students, and $10 for children. We decided, however, to buy a membership. Starting at $75, memberships offer unlimited entry, guest passes, discounts on events, and the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you are helping support a local effort that relies heavily on its visitors for funding.
Story by Marjorie Pichon - Photos by Marjorie Pichon and Bret Wirta