Saturday, March 31, 2012

Betty Ford Alpine Garden

The naturalist setting of the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail
The Betty Ford Alpine Garden near the ski resort of Vail, Colorado is a lovely place for an early morning or late afternoon stroll. Not interested in climbing Mt. Flora to see Moss Champion, a ground hugging tundra flower, you can do so at the garden with Fifi or an aged P in tow.  If you are of the fur coat, Lexus-with-a-bow set then lunch in Vail and you will have an outing.

The garden gift shop
The entrance to the Garden.  Like most great things in Colorado there is no entrance fee!
Trees, flowers and winding paths.  Each route reveals something new.
There are four main gardens constructed between 1989 and 2002.  Don't expect to see just Colorado flowers, however.  The garden have collected alpine and high-altitude plants from around the world.  Visitors can wander between the Mountain Perennial Garden, the serene Mountain Meditation Garden, the Alpine Rock Garden, and the latest Children's Garden.

Columbine actually comes in many colors.
Another path
This could be a shot of manicured path in Rocky Mountain National Park
I confess that botanical gardens can be overly neat for my tastes.  I once went on a vacation to Vancouver Island Canada and visited the Butchart Gardens.  The formality, rigidity and never ending structure of that garden were a harsh contrast to the wild, chaotic, moss-coated old growth forests north of the city.  The Alpine Garden has some of that and you won't think for a moment you are ogling the wildflowers on Shrine Mountain, but the organizers have done a good job of adding waterfalls, rough hewn steps, and large shrubs of I'll-grow-as-I-please Columbine...enough to give visiting New York socialites a  Disneyland-ish taste of wild Colorado.

Ok Alpine curators, what is this flower?
An American Red Squirrel was chattering away in the tree above this bench but declined to have his picture taken.
One of the many water accents
The garden is located at exit 176 in Vail near the Ford Amphitheater.  Follow the frontage road east  to a large parking lot near some baseball fields and tennis courts (Ford Park).  Follow the path that leads to the amphitheater, go past its entrance until you see a small green cottage.  The entrance to the garden will be on the right.

Several artistic tree trunks watch over visitors.
Looks like another type of Columbine
So, if you are in Vail or just passing through, stop for a moment for a breath of fresh mountain air and a dose of vibrant color at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden.  You will learn something about the unique adaptations plants make to high-altitude while soothing the soul.  If you are a hiker like me, remember that returning to civilization every once in a while is a good thing, so take a shower, put on something besides sweat stained hiking pants, and use the gardens as a means of easing yourself back into the real world.  It will be less jarring than the traffic through the Eisenhower tunnel!


gumo said...

Wow! I never knew about this place but now it is on my must-do list. What a beautiful place and seems very visitor friendly. Thanks for telling us about it with you words and awesome photos.

Linda W. said...

Looks like a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing.