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Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver, Colorado

Based on reputation alone, the Denver Botanic Gardens were an essential stop on my recent cross-country roadtrip. The gardens are uniquely-designed and filled with eye-catching combinations, and the architecture throughout was just as appealing. The surrounding city buildings rising up beyond the gates made this verdant oasis seem all the more special. My only complaint was that multiple wedding parties had rented out portions of the garden that were then made off-limits, and they seemed to be around every other corner.

Ostentatious wedding parties aside, we had an amazing experience, and we were lucky enough to catch a show of my favorite sculptor, Alexander Calder, whose works were spread throughout the grounds. Already elegant elements of the garden were accentuated with the addition of Calder’s delicately-balanced yet weighty creations. The Monet Pool’s dark waters, filled with submerged clusters of canna and waterlilies, proved a perfect stage for Calder’s “6 Dots Over a Mountain.” Water plays a big part in the garden, and often leads from one section to the next.

The El Pomar Waterway in the Romantic Gardens was especially fun. I loved walking along the path flanked on either side with feathery ornamental grasses.  On one side, a long pool with blue pots of spiky succulents is strikingly set against a yellow stucco wall. The adjoining O’Fallon Perennial Walk sets a similar linear view, lined with tall, blocky juniper hedges that rise out of a colorful riot of perennials.

Architecture is a key design element all throughout the gardens, and yet seems to blend into the landscape design elements. The most notable building is the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, a modernist creation of concrete and diamond-shaped panes of plexiglass, which looks almost as dazzling from inside as the views of the structure are from afar. The amusingly-named Science Pyramid strikes a futuristic tone, with its ominous dark, slanting roof overlooking a water garden and surrounded by several themed areas overflowing with flowers.

The Japanese Garden was a serene world of its own, tucked in one corner of the property, and the unconventional stony structure of the Rock Alpine Garden was another highlight.

Final Review: The Denver Botanic Gardens makes excellent use of its modest 23 acres, and creates an amazing network of interwoven displays that nestle nicely within each other. Little space is put to waste with gardens large and small that fit together beautifully. The only downside of my day exploring the gardens was sharing this magical location with demanding wedding parties. FOUR BLOOM RATING

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden