Stunning Scenery and Interesting Insects

Elena Garcia

Tucson is set up as if there were two different worlds within one city. One world is dense with a large area that is crowded with people and filled with buildings, restaurants, stores, and much more. The other world is spaced out; it has fewer people, is farther away from the first, and consists of wide open areas. These open areas are scattered with cactus life and towering mesquite trees. It is a common experience, that looking from an outside perspective, a desert environment can be summed up as dry and dead. However, this second world has soft greens that can only be associated with our regionally specific plant life. This generalization of dead plant life can’t be associated with the gem that is the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

In most places, you would have to travel outside of the condensed and heavily populated areas to see the wide open landscape flourishing with plant life. For this reason, Tucson is blessed to have the Tucson Botanical Gardens (TBG). Located within these concentrated areas Tucson Botanical Gardens offers the peaceful experience of being surrounded by captivating green-blooming plant life. This experience allows you to escape your everyday pattern of packed grocery stores and backed-up traffic. Katie Rogerson, Director of Education and Public Engagement, explains this feeling best by stating “TBG’s mission is to connect people with plants and nature through art, science, history and culture. We pride ourselves on being a place for urban respite.”

In November of 2022, I was able to visit Tucson Botanical Gardens with my family. It turns out this was the perfect time of year to go. The biggest concern in Tucson is always the weather, but the weather was perfect. It was just cool enough to walk around without losing half of your body weight in sweat – which is a common occurrence. However, it wasn’t too cold to the point of needing a jacket.

Butterfly Exhibit

When going into TBG the first thing to do is check-in through the admission window where you are greeted by an employee and given a TBG sticker. During my visit, my family and I were greeted by the sweetest little boy well before we even walked into the gardens. This little boy was occupied by his mother and at that very moment the most important thing to him was being able to say hi. He would look back at my family, wave hi, turn around, walk with his mother, then turn back at us again. This adorable cycle would continue until he and his mom were greeted by the TBG employee. They were admitted and welcomed and my family and I were next in line. After being admitted we were first told to see the Butterfly exhibit since it was closing soon.

The butterfly exhibit is the most well-known section within the Botanical Gardens for a reason. When going into the butterfly exhibit we met with an employee who explained that the butterflies were not native to Tucson and needed a warm, damp, tropical environment. When walking into the building the first thing you grasp is the temperature difference. Since it was an evening in November, the minute we walked in from the cool Tucson fall weather we were met with a wave of heat. This feeling reminded me of walking into a warm cozy house from the cold outside temperatures. The second thing you notice, and the most important thing, is the butterflies. It’s like once you step into this greenhouse-like atmosphere you are transported into a different world. You are immediately met with butterflies flying all around you. It is amazing to note how unbothered the butterflies are by all the people. They are so comfortable with people that the same butterfly landed on my sister twice – which she thought was a result of her wearing a red shirt.

Nuestro Jardin – Barrio Garden

During my visit, the most recent holiday was Dia de los Muertos. In correlation with this holiday, the Nuestro Jardin – also known as the Barrio Garden – area was filled with marigold flowers and lanterns. Dia de los Muertos is a large part of Mexican culture which means it is a large part of Tucson. Something that jumped out to me was the local shrine to la Virgen de Guadalupe. This shrine was filled with candles, rosaries, and pictures of people’s loved ones. This shrine was a beautiful representation of what family can mean.

This was my favorite section in TBG because it felt the most like home. It felt this way because of my Mexican-American heritage and the fact that many of my family members, including myself, have lived in Tucson their whole lives. This specific garden is a tribute to Tucson’s Mexican-American culture; according to TBG’s website “Nuestro Jardin honors Tucson’s traditional Mexican-American neighborhood gardens with a charming and colorful display of flowers, trees, herbs, and objects commonly seen in barrio gardens.” I feel that this garden has met its objective which is why I felt so at home in this area.


One of the most magical aspects of the Botanical Gardens is that each section is like being transported into a new dimension. You can go from the desert terrain of the Tohono O’odham Path and the Cactus & Succulent Garden to the green and flowering Rose Garden and Floral Ramada. To me, the layout is somewhat of a maze, but instead of that being a negative it allowed me to get lost in the beautiful surroundings. It allowed me to independently wander and put my focus on plant life instead of a checklist to see specific areas. Some other great designs were multiple metal fountains and lights everywhere. There were lights lining pathways and were also configured into trees.

The Botanical Gardens is a nice place to go with your family and friends, but it is much more than that. When you allow yourself to drown out all of the noise of your daily life and busy schedule these gardens can feel like taking a deep breath. No matter how many times you go you will always find something new. Living in Tucson all of my life I can’t count how many times I’ve been to Tucson Botanical Gardens, but every time I am amazed. I am amazed at the extremely friendly staff, the wholesome atmosphere, and the extraordinarily beautiful decor. The Tucson Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to get away and relax.


Elena Garcia is a native Tucsonan and a freshman at the University of Arizona.