Red Butte Garden and Arboretum
Salt Lake City, Utah
September 2008

This 160-acre garden opened in 1985. About 30 acres is developed gardens, the rest is a natural area with trails through a rugged natural landscape. The plant collection features more than 1,500 species from around the world. The garden is a participating institution of the national organization, the Center for Plant Conservation.

entrance sign

The entire place is set into the side of a hill. You enter through a nice visitor center with maps and interpretive materials, and a small gift shop. Within the building, you need to go up a pretty long staircase to go out to the gardens, but when you walk out onto the courtyard, the view is spectacular.

entry patio

A beautiful wisteria arbor is the entry to the Herb Garden. The vine wasn't in flower but the pods and foliage still make a striking entryway.

wisteria arbor

The Herb Garden itself is nicely laid out and features a wide variety of plant material but I was disappointed by the lack of interpretive signage. I think the real interest of an herb garden lies in the uses of plants so without interpretation I found it rather mundane. There were some signs. A nice one talked about the use of plants in beverages. However, there was almost nothing about the uses of individual plants. Maybe there was a brochure that provided information, but we didn't find it.

Passing through another wisteria arbor takes you in to the Medicinal Garden then into the Fragrance Garden. These three gardens are all similar. All are slightly sunken gardens with sloping plantings surrounding them, and all feature a well laid out system of beds and paths. However, all share the same problems as well. Maybe it was the time of year but they all have a certain sameness and monotony. Despite their sunken nature, everything feels very flat - the plants are all the same height, the hardscape is all low. When things are in bloom in spring and summer, I'm sure this failing is well hidden, but in fall and winter it's a definite problem. There are certainly interesting contrasts in color and texture, but added relief would improve the experience.

Fragrance Garden

At the north end of the garden is a lovely small pond. During our visit there was a lot of construction going on at one end of the pond. They're building a new amphitheater and rose garden. I'm sure the new additions will make this an even more spectacular area of the garden.


A real highlight of Red Butte is the new Children's Garden. From the topiary at the entrance to a sculpture of the Tin Man sunning himself, the garden is full of fun and whimsical features, as well as opportunities to learn about plants and gardening.

entrance to children's garden tin man sculpture

There are a lot of great things about this garden, not least its spectacular location tucked against the mountains and canyons. Wonderful features in the garden include an arbor of espaliered pear trees,

pear espalier pear tree

handsome walls and spectacular perennial borders.

sandstone wall perennial border

I'd love to go back and see the new Rose Garden and Amphitheater when finished, and see everything at a different season.

To se more photographs of Red Butte, click
here to visit the website of Red Butte Garden and Arboretum.

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