October is a welcome time to get back outside as temperatures start to cool. Desert or xeriscape demonstration gardens provide a fun way to enjoy the outdoors with the family. Since many of the gardens have shady places to enjoy a picnic lunch, you can plan to spend some time exploring and enjoying the surroundings as you build ideas for your home landscape. This is just in time for fall planting. Visit our Demonstration Gardens page to find one near you, and learn more about our featured demonstration garden below:
Visit Carefree Desert Gardens
Look no further than a few miles in the North Valley to find a horticultural escape known as Carefree Desert Gardens (CDG). Whether you seek solitude, gardening information, family entertainment or simply appreciation for desert plants, this is the place! Its small 4-acre size makes it easy to enjoy works of local sculptors, the famous Carefree Sundial, entertainment events, the artistically designed fountain and water features, all nestled among specimen plants whose arid habitats are worldwide.
What You’ll Find
Here plant lovers will see splendid specimens of Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma), Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), crested saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea forma monstrosus), Adams tree ocotillo (Fouquieria diguetii), giant viznaga (Echinocactus platyacanthus), Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) and many others. Included in the design are mass plantings of golden barrel cacti and strategically placed groupings of columnar cacti (e.g., crested cereus (Cereus hildmannianus forma monstrosus). Meticulous eyes will spot the most outstanding specimens, now decades old.
Bringing the Garden to Life
Years ago, the site of CDG was nothing more than a sandy open space where visitors and business owners parked their vehicles. In 2002, the Town of Carefree made the bold decision to create a garden. The current hardscape was created, irrigation was installed, and native landscape plants were planted. In 2011, a local landscape company collaborated with the Town to beautify the garden. In the ensuing months, they brought in truckloads of boulders, thousands tons of dirt and stunning plants. With few exceptions, CDG remains as it was installed then.
With the help of volunteers, a logo and walking tour map were created. The map followed a path of carefully selected plants for which signage was developed and installed. The plant list was made part of the walking tour map that was available for visitors to pick up at a Sundial kiosk. As part of an educational arm for CDG, a horticultural seminar series was implemented featuring presentations by experts in their fields. These are still running today on the first four Saturday mornings of each calendar year. In an official ceremony, Carefree Desert Gardens was dedicated on November 13, 2011.
“For more than 20 years, Carefree Desert Gardens has been a landmark, encompassing all Carefree represents – a love and respect for the Sonoran Desert, education, art, and family. We are blessed to have such a jewel in the center of our Town and encourage everyone to share in the experience.”
Inspiring Other Gardens
It wasn’t long before other municipalities took notice of the CDG project. Following the Town’s leadership in creating a stunning town center landscape and horticultural program, others began similar water-wise beautification projects. As Mayor John Crane says, “For more than 20 years, Carefree Desert Gardens has been a landmark, encompassing all Carefree represents – a love and respect for the Sonoran Desert, education, art, and family. We are blessed to have such a jewel in the center of our Town and encourage everyone to share in the experience.” Today Carefree Desert Gardens stands as a pioneering creative endeavor, demonstrating far and wide, the unparalleled beauty the desert provides to those who just take the time to look and appreciate.
Plan for a lovely afternoon and see for yourself. You’re in store for a most memorable treat!
Carefree Desert Gardens is a public botanical garden located amongst shops, restaurants, and businesses in downtown Carefree at 101 Easy Street. Situated on four acres, visitors can stroll and enjoy rare and fascinating desert plant specimens on a self-guided walking tour.
Photos: Steve Priebe and Donna DiFrancesco
Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog, Pamela Slate, is a retired Maricopa County Master Gardener. She is the past Chair for the Carefree Horticultural Seminar Committee and served as a Horticultural Coordinator for the Wallace Desert Gardens. Pam also served as a Vice President on the Board of Directors and as a member of the Collections Committee for Boyce Thompson Arboretum.