The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix showcases an arrray of plants. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One sign of a special place is if you want to go back to it, especially if you want to go back unlimited times.

While I haven’t been to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix often, each time I go I’m glad I did.

A garden like this is always changing. Clearly, the plants are growing, with some removed and new ones taking their place. Depending on the season what is in bloom will always be different.

Then there are the special exhibits. Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s work was on display when I was there in October. His paintings and drawings, as well as a short film about him, lined the wall of an enclosed area, making it feel like a private museum. His oversized sculptures were scattered about the gardens.

What my friend loves to see each year is in the luminaries, which began in 1979. I might have to make a trip back one December.

The whole concept for the garden came about in 1939 when “a small group of passionate local citizens saw the need to conserve the beautiful desert environment.”

Some might question the desire to visit a desert garden when the entire area is full of desert plants. The answer is to have all the species in one place, to learn about how to care for them—which my friends did from one of the docents, to get ideas what to plant in your own garden, and for those who don’t live in this desert environment—to learn and appreciate this foreign flora. I was able to see plants I hadn’t seen before, or at least ones I don’t remember, like the crested whortleberry cactus.

And as the founders of this sprawling garden envisioned, it’s about conservation. I’m sure they would be astounded to see what Phoenix and the greater metropolitan area has become. A lot of desert plants have been uprooted and replaced with concrete. Preservation is clearly needed here and elsewhere.

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