Desert Botanical Garden: a perfect place for plant enthusiasts who love art


The double-crested saguaro cactus is a work of natural art found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.


Scottsdale, Arizona is a fabulous place for art and nature lovers. I’ve always thought of myself as an Island Girl or water baby, as I so love being by the ocean or a large body of water. But being back in Scottsdale after a 13-year absence brought back all the memories of why I love the Sonoran Desert–and this particular part of Arizona–so much.

Arizona is unquestionably a state filled with natural wonders, as it is home to the Grand Canyon. I’d had the pleasure of exploring that part of the state even before my first trip to Scottsdale. But as my travel writing pulls me in so many directions, it sometimes takes an effort to get myself back to roads previously travelled. Thanks to a travel writing colleague, I learned of a chocolate body wrap being offered at a Scottsdale resort, and so in the spirit of research, I and a friend made our way by air to Phoenix and the short drive to Scottsdale for a week of fun and chocolatouring in the Arizona sun.



We really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes horticultural tour at the Desert Botanical Garden.

There is no better way to familiarize yourself with the various cacti and succulents of the area than to spend a day at the Desert Botanical Garden, located in Papago Park on the outskirts of Phoenix. We took the behind-the-scenes horticultural tour in the morning, and a guided tour with a volunteer in the afternoon, followed by independent exploring and a great afternoon meal at the DBG’s Gertrude’s restaurant before heading back to our hotel.


The guided tour at the Desert Botanical Garden taught us much about the local plants and history of the region.


Chihuly glass sculptures among the cacti add colour and texture to the grounds at the Desert Botanical Garden.

In addition to the wonders of the natural flora and fauna of the region, the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) is home to a collection of colourful and whimsical sculptures from a number of world-renowned artists. I loved the Chihuly glass sculptures that welcome you as you arrive at the DBG, as well as the playful work of Japanese artist Jun Kanaeko.


I had fun playing among the tanukis, the whimsical Japanese raccoon dog sculptures created by artist Jun Kanaeko.

I’d love to return to the Desert Botanical Garden in November for the Chilies and Chocolate Festival some day soon. Exploring the savoury side of chocolate is a passion with me. Arizona proved to provide many terrific chocolate experiences for us–including great bean-to-bar chocolate at Zak’s.

And be sure to give yourself time to explore the Desert Botanical Garden during your visit to Phoenix and area any time of year. I’d recommend at least a three-hour visit, and more if you’ll really enjoy learning about the anthropology and plant life of the Sonoran Desert.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

83 Responses

  1. Joe Parsons says:

    For plant enthusiasts who are also avid art lovers, botanical gardens offer a paradise where nature’s beauty meets human creativity. With vibrant blooms serving as living canvases and sculptures nestled among verdant foliage, these gardens ignite inspiration and awe at every turn. It’s the ultimate fusion of botanical wonders and artistic expression, providing a haven where passions for plants and art intertwine harmoniously.

  2. Nuevoly says:

    Your words are so insightful. Your posts always know how to make me think and I thank you for that.

  3. Akdu says:

    The Desert Botanical Garden is a paradise for plant enthusiasts who have a deep appreciation for nature’s artwork. This exquisite garden showcases the breathtaking beauty of desert flora, combining botanical wonder with artistic expression. It’s a must-visit destination where the natural world and creativity harmoniously coexist, offering an immersive and captivating experience for all who visit.

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  5. DW says:

    I think we once caught the California desert at either the beginning or end of the bloom and even then, it was very pretty. I can now see why you like to spend so much time in AZ

  6. dong ho dw cap says:

    Very nice! I love the Chihuly cacti ones best. I visited Arizona a couple of times and really enjoyed the visit, plus cactus gives great tequila 🙂

  7. June Patrick says:

    The Botanical Garden at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve is home to the largest collection of Mojave Desert cacti and succulent plants, featuring 110 acres of display gardens, natural gardens, and wildlife habitats. Just roll-out your picnic blanket and enjoy silver screen hits under the desert night sky. Before the movie starts, watch live entertainment and enjoy fun movie related activities.

  8. Linda says:

    As a lover of desert landscapes, plants and art – this is the most perfect combination for me!
    Arizona is right up there on my ‘Must Do’s” – But you’ve just pushed it up a notch 🙂

  9. Wendy Peck says:

    Wonderful article, Doreen. I was here ten years ago, and it still ranks as one of my favourite exhibits anywhere. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Arizona, but the paths and exhibits slowed me down and made me really LOOK at what I had been seeing. You do a great job bringing these little gems to life for people. This one is worth a trip to Arizona (not to mention how gorgeous the weather is at the worst of our winter).

    • Thx so much for your comment, Wendy. Yes, the DBG is really a gem. I was there on a previous trip to Scottsdale, but it was a brief visit, and didn’t give us time to really immerse ourselves in the experience. This time … we spent almost the entire day there, and loved every minute of it. 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best places to eat in ScottsdaleMy Profile

  10. I love the work of Dale Chihuly-will have to add this to my list of Chihuly installations to visit.

  11. Shaily says:

    Wow! This is such a lovely garden and quite innovative idea. The double-crested saguaro cactus look fascinating. And those succulents are so beautiful! This is definitely a must visit botanical garden. Thanks for sharing this lovely experience! 🙂

  12. Lill Dusablon says:

    The Gardens are lovely especially at Christmas and in March when everything starts blooming! There is nothing as beautiful as a cactus in full bloom!

  13. Like you, I’m usually an island or beach girl. But I do also enjoy seeing all the diverse parts of my country. The flowering desert plants are gorgeous!

  14. The desert botanical Garden sure has a wild kinda beauty. Cactii is always fascinating as they are beautiful in their own way and are fighters and survivors who have blazed their own way in the desert sands. The sculptures in the garden make for a fascinating backdrop to these cacti.

  15. Ami Bhat says:

    Its amazing how lovely the cacti are. I love the flowers on them . Attempted growing one at home but I think I overfed it water 😉 This is inspiration for me to start again.

  16. Nathan says:

    Interesting attraction which combines the best of both worlds – nature and art! Would definitely love to visit the Desert Botanic Gardens, is it very hot there?

  17. We visited that attraction many years ago, well a couple of times. One time, though, with me kids, and a ranger collected a 7-8 foot rattlesnake from an area right next to the parking lot. Not at all disconcerting.

  18. I love desert environments, including Arizona, and I loooove botanical gardens but have never been to a desert botanical garden, and I think I’d absolutely love it! I particularly like the addition of modern sculpture into the Scottsdale garden, I know I’d really enjoy that! One to bookmark for my next trip to this part of the world!

  19. neha says:

    I have not been to a desert botanical garden so far. The varieties of cactus here are so awesome, and so are each of the plants. From the very big to the very small. I love plants and I would definitely love to visit here one day.

  20. Jeri says:

    I’ve never been to a desert botanical garden, but these photos are great as were all the ones of cacti that you posted on Instagram. There’s something otherworldly about them.

  21. I loved this post because it has probably been 10-12 years since I visited DBG in Phoenix. NIce!! I learned so much about different types of cacti and love the succulent gardens. 😉

  22. Gwendolyn says:

    Lovely article Doreen! I love the Chihuly glass lit up at nighttime events at DBG. Another great event to check out is the Las Noches de las Luminaries; beautiful lights and decorations all over. I will absolutely be attending the Chile & Chocolate festival this year to support our friends at Zak’s Chocolate. Maybe a specialty Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale AT the Botanical Garden 🙂

  23. Botanical gardens are such interesting places. I always enjoy seeing all the different plants as the variety always amazes me! And, seeing one that focuses on cacti would be really neat. I’d sign up for the behind-the-scenes tour too as you learn so much that way!

  24. I love the various museums around Arizona–this one is now on my list for next time!

  25. Love the mix with the art. I did a road trip through Arizona years ago, I think I went there too. And the organ pipe national parké The cacti in Arizona is amazing.

  26. I’ve never been to Arizona but it sounds beautiful. Glad you found a chocolate connection there – but then I’m sure you could find chocolate anywhere. The trick is finding amazing chocolate 🙂

  27. Michele says:

    Looks amazing, these type of plants are so stark but so interesting. I love the ones that look like stones and have flowers on them. I would love to have a wander around the gardens.

  28. Carol Colborn says:

    Oh, you were in my neck of the woods! We should have met. I am glad you enjoyed the Desert Botanical Garden!

  29. Laverne says:

    Being an avid gardener I loved the behind the scenes tour. I never thought the desert landscape would be so beautiful in its own way! Doreen captured the visit to DBG BEAUTIFULLY!

  30. I’d love to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale. Your top/first image is fantastic! That alone sold me!

  31. Phoenicia says:

    On first opening your website, I wondered what on earth the cactus was! It looks as though it has eyes and a mouth – obviously all in my imagination. What a beautiful garden. I imagine the plants and flowers are watered regularly due to the dry air.

  32. michele h peterson says:

    It really is surprising how much beauty there is in the desert. And a chocolate spa treatment makes it all that much better!

  33. The desert and its blooms are amazingly beautiful. . .I’d always thought of it as a drab, barren landscape until spending some time in Arizona. What a beautiful place!

  34. Botanic gardens and art are two of my favourite things, so the Desert Botanical Garden would be a great place for me!

  35. Cindy says:

    The Desert Botanical Garden is one of my favorite places, and the upgrades they did a few years ago made it even better. But I didn’t know they did tours that would let me into their behind the scenes greenhouses. . . think I had better look into that this year!

  36. I’ve been to the Desert Botanical Garden and have always wanted to return. Your post was the next best thing!

  37. Margaret says:

    Loved your peek-a-boo playfulness with the Japanese art figure! Glad you were able to have an extended vacay and take in so many interesting sites.

  38. Kemkem says:

    Very nice! I love the Chihuly cacti ones best. I visited Arizona a couple of times and really enjoyed the visit, plus cactus gives great tequila :-), so what’s not to love?

  39. Betty Jackson says:

    looks like another great tour for a chocolate lover. Thank you for all the info on desert plants. We did not do those tours when we are there and I now see what we missed. Note to self – Slow down and see it all when traveling. Thanks Doreen.

  40. The Desert Botanical Garden is great. I’ve visited several times and each time gained a new appreciation for the Sonoran desert. I have attended the Chilies and Chocolate Festival. I enjoyed it. That was a number of years ago, before I knew you. Given all I’ve learned about chocolate from you, it would be interesting to attend the festival with new eyes.

  41. Janet May-Hewson says:

    The botanical garden looks so beautiful. I wasn’t aware of the art factor in it. I love Chihuly glass. I hadn’t heard of Jun Kanaeko but love the whimsical figures. I’m always learning something new with your experiences. Thank you for sharing your touring experience with us.

  42. Andrea Kovarcsik says:

    Wonderful post, Doreen. 🙂 I’ve always wanted to visit Scottsdale. That chocolate wrap sounds amazing!

  43. Battulal says:

    Stunning pics..desert can be so cool… love your post Doreen, thanks for sharing it.

  44. Give me a ‘barren’ desert landscape over a manicured garden any day.

  45. Lenie says:

    Doreen, this is fabulous. I had no idea so much beauty could be found in the desert. I was awed by the double-crested saguaro cactus and loved the cactus that looked like stones with little pink/purple flowers.
    Aren’t you glad you’re a chocolatourer if it takes you to such fantastic places?

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