In 1939, a small group of local residents decided the beauty of the desert where Phoenix sits should be preserved. One of these citizens was Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck. He, along with the others, began posting signs proclaiming, “Save the Desert.” This was the start of Desert Botanical Garden.  

The social influencers of the time, such as Gertrude Divine Webster, saw the signs and offered support, enabling the garden’s presence to grow. Fast forward eight decades later and today anyone can see the work these individuals put into preserving the Arizona desert. The Desert Botanical Garden blossomed from a dream into a living museum to be enjoyed by all.  

In April 1934, a dedicated group of sixteen men and women organized the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society, whose aim was to save part of the desert by creating a botanical garden. 

Because of the group, and members of The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette who helped raise funds through newspaper ads and radio airtime, the Society was able to select several acres of Papago Park for their garden. Since the terrain was both rolling and flat and had plenty of light and shade, the park offered a place where plants from desert climates around the world could grow.

Visitors can experience what led these founders to nurture this particular spot. The Garden is surrounded on either side by the Papago Buttes, showcasing the grandeur of the Arizona landscape.  

This Garden isn’t just for looking at the local flora and fauna; it hosts many events. Every year it stages fall and spring butterfly exhibits and a fall and spring music series. There is the Dog’s Day in the Garden event and a seasonal plant sale. The Garden also hosts a Día de los Muertos celebration and a Chiles and Chocolate Festival.  

Every year the Garden also hosts an art exhibit, with artists such as Dale Chihuly and Jun Kaneko displaying their work. This past season, it offered an exhibition called Electric Desert, where lights and sounds were combined to make the night shine.  

The newest art exhibition is titled Wild Rising by Cracking Art. Based out of Milan, this showcase features more than a thousand animal sculptures all made of recycled plastic to call attention to global and local sustainability. Wild Rising will run from October 12 through May 10, 2020.  

The Garden also offers a plethora of classes and workshops. These range from photography to cooking, history to science, landscape and gardening, to travel and adventure. Kids’ camps are also offered. 

The Desert Botanical Garden has grown over 80 years and prides itself on providing  fun events and learning opportunities for all ages.  

Looking toward the future, the Garden will continue to increase the number of art exhibits, classes, partnerships and new experiences it offers for both kids and adults, encouraging even more people to visit this wondrous garden growing right in our backyard.  

For more:



Ancient Grains for a Modern World

Oct. 2

Music in the Garden

Oct. 4-Nov. 22

Fall Plant Sale

Oct. 19-20

Strange Garden

Oct. 25-26

Día de los Muertos Celebration

Nov. 2-3

Chiles & Chocolate Festival

Nov. 8-10

Dog’s Day in the Garden

Nov. 16

Las Noches de las Luminarias

Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-8, 13-15, 17-23, 26-31