Ford Alpine Gardens
Nestled in a dramatic mountain valley in
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are the highest
botanic gardens in the world at an elevation of 8,250 feet. Now nationally recognized, the garden
receives 100,000 visitors annually.
Just twenty years old this year, the gardens are
spread over five acres to include five distinct landscapes; Alpine Rock Garden,
Children’s Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden,
Mountain Meditation Garden
and a native ‘Back to Nature’ area. Plant collection groupings are based on
type of habitat, geographic origin, taxonomy and need for conservation.
A visit to the gardens in May and early June will
find the alpines at their best. Native
gems such as spring beauty (Claytonia spp),
alpine phlox (Phlox condensata) bloom
alongside alpine poppy (Papaver kluanense)
and well loved favorites such as old man of the mountains (Hymenoxys grandiflora) and sky pilot (Polemonium viscosum). In the Czech style crevice garden worldwide
alpine plants such as the alpine morning glories (Convolvulus sp) , spring gentian (Gentiana verna), Edraianthus
pumilio and Veronica bombycina
thrive in the rare mountain air.
A deep long snow cover in winter and dry summers
with cool nights provide ideal conditions for many difficult plants. Some
special plants are found in the Himalayan garden with lilies such as Notholirion bulbiferum and N. macrophyllum, Nomacharis sp and Lilium
duchartrei blooming with poppies (Meconsopsis
sp) and a variety of primroses.
For visitors the most sought after plants are the
European favorites. Huge trumpet gentian (Gentiana
acaulis) mats are covered with iridescent blue flowers accentuated by the
high ultra violet light at 8,000 feet. Traditional eidelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) looms over its
much prettier dwarf cousin Leontopodium
nivale and Ramonda myconi peeks out from the limestone crevices.
Later in the season, in July and August, the
perennial borders are at their peak with many traditional mountain perennials
enjoying the cool mountain air. A large variety of delphinium, foxglove and
monkshood species thrive alongside panther lily, deep red montbretia and
The changing of aspen leaves in mid to late
September herald the end of the season but not before the fall blooming
Himalayan gentians and a variety of autumn blooming crocus (Colchicum sp) have had their time.
To see for yourself visit the gardens next time you
head out west. The gardens are free of charge, funded by private donations and
grants. For more information visit the website at
Director of Horticulture and Research
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens