Thanks to a tip from Tucson blogger Cactus Haiku, I’m headed to my local branch of the Pima County Public Library to investigate their selection of Culture Passes. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to live in Tucson for over a year and not known that I could’ve been visiting museums and gardens or attending performances at the UA Arizona Repertory Theatre for free (and even bring a friend). What’s even more embarrassing, is that I live directly across the street from this incredible resource.
Despite the shame of my ignorance, I go merrily into my library and find a stand displaying laminated cards. They’re staring back at me like golden tickets for exactly the types of places that make my eyes grow large as saucers (much like my greyhound’s eyes when the words “walk” or “park” are mentioned). I can only check out one at a time, and only two a month, so I deliberate for some time before picking my first pass. Sticking to my theme of exploring for green, I select the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and practically bounce over to the librarian, handing over my prized selection, along with my library card.
Man, do I love libraries. Don’t even get me started.
I’m not really sure what I’ve gotten myself into, so after a little research online I’m plotting my route and planning to get to the gardens the next day when they open: which happens to be at 7:30 a.m. Perfect!
Checking out the card has given me a receipt, and its this receipt that I hand over to gain entry to the gardens when I arrive. I’m there during a quilt exhibit, which suits me just fine since I first learned how to quilt while attending college in Iowa–making trips to shop for fabrics in a naturally-lit barn within the Amish community of Jamesport, Missouri. Decades later, it still interests me and I can appreciate the time and talent it takes to create them. Each little out-building scattered throughout the gardens houses this temporary exhibit.
The Tucson Botanical Gardens is spread out over five-and-a-half acres, and has over a dozen themed gardens all connected with paths. There’s a Prehistoric Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Zen Garden just to name a few of my favorites.
Not only am I loving being one of few strolling along the garden paths, but the morning light is encouraging me to keep my camera at the ready. What’s catching my eye besides the green, are the lizards. Lizards are common in Tucson, (I even woke up one morning to find one in my bathroom…that’s a post for another day), but within this garden, I spy a particularly large and colorful one making his way down a brick path towards the café.I become so distracted with taking pictures of all the lizards and birds, that I unknowingly wander into the seating area of the cafe. A woman appears and asks me if I wish to be seated. I sheepishly admit that I was enjoying taking pictures of the wildlife and was led astray. She’s familiar with the lizards, and points to one in particular, explaining that she knows he’ll eat a berry from her hand. She demonstrates for me. I’m not yet clever enough to be able to take the shot when I need to, but it’s a nice, fun little moment in a quiet, lush garden that makes this simple introvert very happy.
On their website, the invitation to visit the gardens is beautifully presented. It reads:
“Now celebrating 40 years of living beauty. The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a unique gem not to be missed.”
I would have to say, they’ve got that exactly right.
Reflecting on my visit, these are my tips:
- Even though I was there at 7:30 in the morning, my clothes were sticking to me within an hour. I wanted more time to explore but I was insanely uncomfortable! Please dress more comfortably than I did. (You’re not always exposed to direct sun by-the-way. There are lovely shaded paths woven throughout.)
- Not physically fit? Neither am I, but it was absolutely doable. It may be a “dry heat” here in Tucson, but humidity does happen–so reread point #1!
- Check out their website before planning your visit for more details on upcoming events. During the summer, even your family pup can tag along during their “Dog Days of Summer”.
A garden is good for the soul. Have you got a favorite one? Share in the comments below!
(All photos by Jennifer R. Monroe)