explore nearby public gardens and landscapes
Text by Tyler Phillips

It’s that time of the year that reminds us how fortunate we are to live in the Valley of Sun. With daytime temps ranging in the 80s, a slight breeze in the air, colorful wildflowers in bloom and the faint fragrance of orange trees beginning to blossom we are drawn to the outdoors. What better way to stretch our legs and take in the fresh springtime air than explore some of our local gardens and natural landscapes. Here are seven of our favorite spots.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Located in neighboring Superior, this Sonoran Desert oasis spans 323 acres and dates back to the 1920s, making Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park the largest and oldest botanical garden in Arizona. Bordered by the Picketpost Mountain, it’s home to over 3,000 species of arid land plants found worldwide. The park’s winding 1.5-mile Main Trail takes visitors through a cactus garden, palm and eucalyptus groves, a demonstration garden,  greenhouses, exhibits that showcase Australian and South American flora and fauna, as well as aloe, vegetable and herb gardens. There’s also a visitor center and gift shop, guided bird and wildflower tours, and an annual plant sale. Feel free to bring your well-behaved dog along and don’t forget your camera. Through April, Arboretum hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and shift to 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the warmer months of May through September. https://www.btarboretum.org

Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

Nestled around the main branch of the Glendale Public Library, the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is home to over 400 species of plants, all labeled with their botanical and common names. This award-winning garden is a living example of the diversity and abundant amount of low-water-use plants available for use in planning a lush, diversified and inviting garden. The Rain Garden features rainwater harvesting with native Sonoran Desert plants that are maintained by the runoff from the library’s roof. The Cactus Garden contains over 250 different species of cacti and succulents native to the Sonoran Desert as well as adapted plants from Africa and South America. The Habitat section showcases local specimens that fair well in the shade and the The Food Forest features desert-edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and succulents that local homeowners can successfully grow, harvest, and enjoy in their own landscapes. Be sure to roam The Tree Trail with small and medium-size desert-adapted. Open daily from dawn to dusk, admission is free. www.glendaleaz.com

Carefree Desert Gardens

Complete with a plant identification checklist, the four-acre Carefree Desert Garden is ideal for a self-guided walking tour. There are desert plant specimens, a meditation area, fountains, playgrounds and a splash pad.   One major sight is the Carefree Sundial landmark. Constructed in 1959 and standing at 35 feet tall, it measures 90 feet in diameter, and extends 72 feet in the air to mark the North Star by night. Events include the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden and Christmas in Carefree, the Little Free Library Book Exchange, and concerts at the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Entry hours are 24/7, and admission is free. www.carefree.org

Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve

Arizona State University has operated, protected and preserved the site since 1994 and established the Center for Archaeology and Society, The Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve encompasses 47 acres in the North Valley. The preserve is home to the largest concentration of Native American petroglyphs, more than 200 native plant species, and wildlife in their natural habitat which include javelina, bobcats, coyotes, and rattlesnakes. Opportunities to explore and learn more about the site and indigenous cultures are available through docent-guided tours, sunset tours, publications and an on-going lectures series. Programming includes the Archaeology Festival and Life in the Desert series. The preserve has now reopened with limited hours, on Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. https://shesc.asu.edu/dvpp

Desert Botanical Garden

This local treasure, located on 140 acres in Papago Park, was established in 1937. The Garden, as we affectionately refer to the property, hosts tons of events and activities. There’s the too-many-to-mention onsite workshops, art exhibitions, Cactus and Cocktails, Luminaria, Flashlight Tours, Birds in the Garden, Desert Landscape School, Cactus Clubhouse, the Music in the Garden series featuring local talent, Dinner in the Desert and the annual performance by the esteemed Ballet Arizona. This month be sure to meander through the colorful Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail and view the current large-scale living sculptures Wind, Water, Earth created by Natasha Lisitsa and Daniel Schultz of Waterlily Pond Studio. The April hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. From May to September visitors are welcome at 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. www.dbg.org

Japanese Friendship Garden (RoHoEn)

Spanning 3.5 acres in Phoenix, Ro Ho En – better known as the Japanese Friendship Garden – has been open to the public since 2002. The gardens have over 50 varieties of plants, as well as stone footbridges, lanterns set aglow in the evening, a Koi pond with over 300 colorful fish, and a 12-foot waterfall. Guests can register to take part in classes. There’s Aikido, based in part on the ancient sword and staff traditions of the samurai in Japanese history, Cool Nihongo to learn about the Japanese culture, and practice the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging at Inspirational Ikebana. RoHoEn offers both guided and self-guided tours, annual events like Otsukimi Full Moon-Viewing Festival, and monthly High Vibration Gong Sound Journey meditation sessions. Garden hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday from October through May, and the garden is closed from July to September. www.japanesefriendshipgarden.org