Magazine article Sunset

The Season of Light: Botanical Gardens Invite You to Celebrate the Holidays. (Garden & Outdoor Living)

Magazine article Sunset

The Season of Light: Botanical Gardens Invite You to Celebrate the Holidays. (Garden & Outdoor Living)

Article excerpt

By December, most deciduous trees and many perennial plants have slipped into a sort of long winter's nap. Like such plants, the horticultural institutions that collect them used to snooze through the winter too. That's not the case anymore. Visit the West's botanical gardens and arboretums during the holiday season, and you'll discover some brilliant sights: luminarias glowing along garden paths in Phoenix and Thcson ... a glittering cactus garden wrapped around a chocolate factory near Las Vegas ... electrified lightscapes depicting flora and fauna from Albuquerque to Denver.

Indeed, once-staid horticultural institutions now offer everything from elaborate light displays to family-oriented workshops in wreath making and other crafts. Besides offering displays and classes, most institutions are also good places to find interesting garden-oriented gifts.

Here are 12 venues around the West where horticulture and holiday cheer come together.


Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

MAIN EVENT: Las Noches de las Luminarias, 5:30-9:30 Dec 6-7. Seven thousand luminarias glimmer along garden paths and cast a magical glow on desert plants. About a dozen musical groups perform, and hot cider and cookies are free. Tickets, sold in advance only, are available at the Garden Shop, by phone, or online. $14, $4 ages 5-12, under 5 free.

CLASS: Creating Ornaments from Desert Plant Fibers, 11-2 Dec 1; $31 ($25 members). Preregistration required.

SHOPPING: The Garden Shop, a volunteer boutique offering holiday crafts.

INFO: 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix; or (480) 481-8188.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

MAIN EVENT: Luminaria Nights, 5:30-8 Dec 6-8. Two thousand luminarias illuminate the 5 1/2-acre gardens. Music, a model train display, hot cider, and cookies round out the festivities. $5 ($3 for members), $2 ages 3-11, under 3 free.

SHOPPING: Gift shop in the historic Porter House (built in 1925) offers holiday items, including intricately patterned luminarias crafted from recycled cans by artist Wendi Probst.

INFO: 2150 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson; or (520) 326-9686.


Denver Botanic Gardens

MAIN EVENT: Blossoms of Light, 6-9 Dec 1-31. The gardens gleam with 300,000 lights strung on trees. Bell ringers, carolers, dancers, and musicians perform nightly. Be sure to see the elegant topiaries decorated with fruits and leaves by horticulturist Ebi Kondo. $7, $5 ages 3-15, under 3 free.

CLASSES: Sparkling Snowmen (for ages 3-5), 10-11 Dec 4; $7 child and parent. Holiday Extravaganza (wreaths; for ages 6-10), 10-noon Dec 7; $34 per child. The Perfect Christmas Tree (for ages 3-5), 10-11 Dec 11; $7 child and parent. Decorations from the Dirt (natural decorations), 10-noon Dec 14; $30 per family. Pre-registration required.

SHOPPING: The Gift Shop offers garden books, cards, and glass ornaments in the shape of columbines and hummingbirds handcrafted by artist Daniel Crump.

INFO: 1005 York St., Denver; or (720) 865-3500.


Ethel M Chocolates Botanical Cactus Garden, Henderson

MAIN EVENT: Light the Night, sundown-10 Nov 20-Jan 5 (closed Dec 25). More than 250,000 lights outline cactus and other desert plants on 4 acres surrounding the chocolate factory. Santa visits 5:30-7:30 on Saturday evenings through Dec 21. Free.

SHOPPING: The Ethel M Chocolates factory store offers more than 60 kinds of confections.

INFO: One Sunset Way, Henderson (near Las Vegas); or (888) 627-0990.


Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Albuquerque

MAIN EVENT: River of Lights, 6-9 Dec 1-29 (closed Dec 24-25). Hundreds of thousands of lights form sculptures of Southwestern plants, animals, and other scenes. Choirs and musicians perform through Dec 23. …

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