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The Tucson Botanical Gardens is an urban garden in the heart of the city, stretching for five and a half acres. The Gardens consist of 16 scaled gardens crafted by different artists, eleven of which rotate annually in order to showcase new emergent artists. The gardens are diverse, and can include much more than traditional gardens, such as a Prehistoric Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Zen Garden. Tours are available or wander on your own. Afterwards enjoy a cool drink in the Café Botanica or visit the Gardens' gift shops.

  • Welcome sign
  • Founders Rutger and Bernice Porter
  • More of the Gardens
  • Gift Shop
  • Map of the Gardens. (Tap image to enlarge)
  • More of the Gardens
  • More of the Gardens

The Tucson Botanical Gardens finds its roots in the young couple of Bernice Walkley and Rutger Bleeker Porter. Neither were Arizona natives; Bernice from New Haven, Connecticut, and Rutger from Hollywood, California, and Rutger had an especially keen interest in plants. Rutger made a living doing landscape work, and in the early 1930s, Bernice’s father hired Rutger to do some work on their land. Bernice and Rutger hit it off immediately, and they were married in 1931. Soon after, the couple began the Desert Gardens Nursery, which was dedicated to growing and celebrating the local plant life.

The Porters’ garden developed from many planting experiments with a mixture of natives and Mediterranean plants. Over the years, the original garden began to reflect the sturdier choices for the Tucson climate. A wonderful landscape of winding walks, low adobe walls, fountains, and lovely greenery evolved around the home. Today, the Historical Garden contains many of the original plants from the Porter estate including citrus, roses, privet, sweet olive, nandina, pomegranate, Aleppo pine, pyrancantha, iris, chaste-tree, jasmine and other plants of that era. The oasis style represented in this garden is typical of large Tucson gardens dating from the 1920s to the mid 1960s.

As the Nursery and their family grew, the Desert Gardens Nursery moved a number of times, until Rutger retired in 1958, and died soon after in 1964. That same year, a coalition had come together, headed by Harrison G. Yocum, to create the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Around that time, Bernice had begun opening the space of the Desert Gardens Nursery to nonprofits and other groups, and word got around about the potential formation of a botanical garden. By the 1970s, Bernice worked together with Harrison’s group, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens were founded on the property of the Desert Gardens Nursery. From there, the Gardens continued to expand and gain more traction through the assistance of horticulturalists and artists alike.

Since it became open to the public, the Tucson Botanical Gardens has renovated and expanded the property while preserving the Porter Family legacy as an important piece of Tucson history. 

1. "Official Website," Tucson Botanical Gardens, accessed November 7, 2016.
2. "Visitor Information" Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
3. "Contact Info./Driving Directions," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
4. "Events: Upcoming and Continuing," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
5. "Tours," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
6. "Map of Gardens," pdf, Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
7. "Café Botanica," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
8. "The Gardens Gift Shops," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
9. "History," Official Website, accessed November 7, 2016.
10. "Facebook page," accessed November 7, 2016.
11. "Tucson's Botanical Gardens," YouTube video, (3:05), accessed November 7, 2016.