The Cays is located in the heart of downtown Ocotillo. We love our location, and the surrounding desert landscape that is so unique and beautiful in its own way. One of the activities for you to discover in the city offers a close up look at the beauty of the desert.
The Desert Botanical Garden has been an oasis of plant displays, research and teaching for more than 70 years. Its goal is to help visitors understand, protect and preserve the natural beauty in the desert.
The garden was started in 1936 by a group passionate about protecting the desert environment. They started the Arizona Cactus and Native For a Society to foster an appreciation of the Sonoran Desert.
Miles of Trails
The garden is spread out over 140 acres, with over 55 in cultivation. It has an astounding 50,000 plant displays in outdoor exhibits for visitors to enjoy.
There are an amazing number of things to see. In order to make the most of a visit, the best approach is to download a garden trail guide before arriving.
The garden is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from October to April. From May to September, the hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A list of just a few of the exhibits includes:
- Ottosen Entry Garden, close to the main entrance
- Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail
- Desert Discovery Loop Trail, which is brick paved and connects to all the other trails and exhibits
- Desert Terrace Garden
- Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail
- Center for Desert Living Trail
- Steele Herb Garden
- Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries
- Berlin Agave Yucca Forest
The garden offers tours to help you understand the intricate environment of the desert landscape. A wide range of activities are free with the admission fee or with membership.
One of the most popular activities is the Garden Flashlight Tour, a sensory experience that lets you feel, hear and see the desert at night.
Docents conduct tours throughout the year. These don’t require a reservation, just show up. The Garden Tour gives visitors a chance to check out the fascinating diversity of plants, including the towering saguaros, the tiny mammillarias, the strange boojums and the distinguished palo verdes.
Garden Discovery Stations are located in convenient areas to provide information about what you are looking at. Docents can answer a variety of questions about mesquite, agave, cacti and birds.
At certain times of the year, experts give 20 to 30-minute talks about the abundant life that thrives in the harsh climate.
The Birds in the Desert tour is offered in the early morning, allowing visitors to get a peek at the amazing number that inhabit the desert.
Ever-Changing List of Events
Check the garden guide to find out which event is on tap for your visit. The staff provides a wide range of interesting entertainment for locals and visitors.
Recently visitors were serenaded by the Domingo DeGrazia Spanish Guitar Band. Swing bands, the Phoenix Boys Choir and the Novo Mundo band have all been featured at various times.
Artists like Philip and Matt Moulthrop exhibited their new-turned wood. Other activities include watching caterpillars and strolling through the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion.
A wine and dine event explored the many uses of wine in the kitchen. A grow and learn event featured a healthy breakfast for every member of the family and community activities in the garden. The opening the butterfly exhibit was marked with a breakfast.
The opening the butterfly exhibit was marked with a breakfast.
Classes are available year-round in a wide, ever-changing variety. They require advance registration and payment. Topics include art, food, travel and adventure, children and family education and explorations in natural science.
Recent classes include permaculture, tai chi, yoga, gardening maintenance, perennial herbs, rose gardening in the desert and photography, among others.
Adventure classes have included a Lower Salt River Sunset Float Trip, Taste of Arizona at the Verde Valley, and a Japanese Garden Tour and Tea.
The Desert Garden Research Department conducts investigations into conservation, plant systematics and evolution, ecology and ethnobotany.
The department operates the Herbarium, Schilling Library, Anderson Laboratories, seed room and vault, the Center for Plant Conservation Greenhouse.
The department has living plant collections. Researchers have contributed to a wide array of publications that explore the desert landscape in scientific ways.
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