Desert Botanical Garden
Backstory and Context
In the 1930s, a small group of local citizens became interested in conserving the fragile desert environment. One was Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck, who found like-minded residents by posting a sign, “Save the desert,” with an arrow pointing to his home. In 1936, they formed the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society (ACNFS) to sponsor a botanical garden to encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the uniqueness of the world’s deserts, particularly the local Sonoran Desert.
Eventually Gertrude Webster, whose home encompassed all of what is today the neighborhood of Arcadia, joined the Society. She offered her encouragement, connections and financial support to establish the botanical garden in Papago Park.
She served as president of the Society’s first Board of Directors and Gustaf Starck, W. E. Walker, Rell Hasket, L. L. Kreigbaum, and Samuel Wilson were the five vice president. The latter also served as Treasurer. Paul G. Olsen was Secretary. In 1938, after much work by the ACNFS, the board hired the Garden’s first executive director, George Lindsay, who oversaw the first planting on the grounds. The Desert Botanical Garden opened in 1939 as a non-profit museum dedicated to research, education, conservation and display of desert plants.
This is a living museum, and it changes naturally throughout the day and as the seasons change. It's one of only 44 botanical gardens in the United States accredited by the American Association of Museums. And Webster Center, the main building, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Plants at this breathtaking, world-renowned botanical Garden are maintained for scientific, educational and ornamental purposes. 139 of the species here are rare, threatened, or endangered. It's privately funded and receives no government funding.
Las Noches de las Luminarias is a stellar holiday celebration (and the Garden's main fundraiser) held nightly in December, with thousands of hand-lit luminaria bags throughout the Garden, several musical groups, food, wine, and snacks.