On Friday, gardens around the country swing their gates open free of charge in celebration of National Public Garden Day — a day highlighting the work of public gardens in conservation, education and environmental preservation. Valley gardens, including the Desert Botanical Garden and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, join the national celebration by offering free admission all day Friday.
Desert Botanical Garden director of marketing John Sallot said this national event is the kick-off for most gardens around the country, though it is on the tail-end of sunny Arizona’s peak garden season.
“We’re offering free admission (on Friday), and what people will see is the garden in its full May glory,” Sallot said. “All of our cacti are blooming, the trees are blooming, and admission to the butterfly exhibit is free as well.”
Visitors willing to drive a little farther can enjoy the walking paths, history and bird tours offered Friday at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior. A 30- minute drive east of Mesa, the Arboretum — one of the few dog-friendly public gardens — is nestled in the high desert hills and enjoys cooler weather than the Valley, said Paul Wolterbeek, who coordinates public events at the Arboretum.
“The point of a day like this is to get people out who have never been out (to the Arboretum) or haven’t been in a long time,” Wolterbeek said.
Friday’s events kick off with a 6:30 a.m. bird walk through the Audubon Society recognized bird area, where it is common to see Yellow Warblers, Green Heron and Lazuli Bunting birds. At 8:30 a.m. Phoenix historian Sylvia Lee leads a walking “History of the Arboretum” tour, recounting the garden’s early days in the 1920s. As the day starts to heat up, visitors can view a slideshow in the Lecture Room of historical garden photographs Aboretum director Mark Siegwarth recovered from private and museum archives. The collection includes pictures never seen by the public that recount the life of naturalist Colonel William Boyce Thompson.
Coupons for free admission to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Desert Botanical Garden are available at www.bhg.com/gardening/celebrate-national-public-gardens-day.
• 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last admissions at 4 p.m. Friday. Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. (480) 941-1225 or www.dbg.org.
• 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Boyce Thompson Arboretum, 37615 U.S. Highway 60, Superior. (520) 689-2723 or arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/index.html.