Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver, Colorado
August 2010


This visit to Denver Botanic Gardens was planned so we could see the “Moore in the Gardens” sculpture exhibit. I love sculpture in public gardens and I’ve always loved Henry Moore’s work, so this was a perfect time to visit. My only previous visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens was about 20 years ago. I don’t remember any specifics about it but I do remember it being spectacular. While I was eager to see it again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sometimes things are better in memory than in reality. Also, I’ve seen a lot of great gardens in the intervening years so I expect more from a garden than I did twenty years ago. Would the garden live up to its reputation and my memory? I was excited to find out.

This 23-acre garden opened to the public in 1959. It has become an important and well-respected garden with great educations and research programs. It features more than 15,000 kinds of plants in its collections. The garden is active in conservation work and is a participating institution of the national organization, the Center for Plant Conservation. It is also offers an amazing visitor experience.

This is very much an in-city garden. It features lots of hardscaping with wide, paved pathways and lighting to accommodate crowds and events. Everything is clean, nicely designed and well-maintained so I wasn’t bothered by all the concrete.

Denver Botanic Garden entry

There are also lots of water features scattered throughout the property. Most are formal, like this one, but there are also meandering streams and quiet pools.

Water Feature

Most of the gardens, like the Romantic Garden, are very formal as well. Formal gardens require a high level of maintenance to keep from looking shabby and the gardens at Denver are very well maintained. During our visit, we saw a large cadre of volunteers doing gardening. This not only keeps the garden looking great, it shows a high level of community support and involvement.

Romantic Garden

The Japanese Garden features beautifully sculptured trees surrounding a small pond. It is separated from the rest of the gardens by a ring of large conifers that provide a great visual barrier.
Japanese Garden

A highlight of the garden is the Tropical Conservatory. It has an interesting collection of tropical and subtropical plants, and nicely done interpretive signage. My favorite thing is a man-made ficus trunk that several stories into the canopy of the conservatory, allowing visitor’s to look down on the forest. This provides a very different perspective which I really enjoyed.

tropical conservatory

A section of the conservatory complex features a ‘green roof’. I’ve read about green roofs, and seen pictures, but this was my first opportunity to see one in person. There are several nice signs interpreting the concept and its value, which is important because the green roof itself just looks like a desert garden.

roof garden

The rock garden is very impressive, with more than 4,000 species from the world’s alpine regions. The garden is large enough that it features a variety of alpine habitats, including this beautiful pool.

rock garden

As I said, there are lots of great water features here, and the gardens uses them to display a great collection of waterlilies. They add great interest and beauty to the ponds. There are signs that tell how much work goes into maintaining these waterlilies which adds to the interest.

Lily Pond waterlily

In August, the entire garden is filled with color. The planting beds full of annuals and perennials are glorious.

Flower Bed


This is a truly spectacular garden, especially considering the difficult gardening climate of the mountain West. I would wish for more interpretive signage. Only a few of the gardens have adequate interpretation. And there is a woeful lack of plant identification labels. I’m sure labeling is difficult with so many herbaceous plants but I’d like to see them find a solution. A garden with such strong education and conservation programs should have better labeling. But that aside, this is a visually stunning garden.

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