Tohono Chul

This sculpture of a horse is but one of several pieces of art in the Tohono Chul Botanic garden.

Tohono Chul is a botanical garden located in Tucscon, AZ.  Although not as famous as the Desert Museum or the Saguaro National Park, it is a fine garden and well worth a visit. 

The design elements are worth noting.  They have erected many walls, installed doors, made little courtyards and patios and otherwise have developed a nicely subdivided space.   The purple wall was one of my favorites.

This brightly painted wall provides year round color and a great foil for the Virginia creeper familiar to Spokane gardeners.

It’s a warm, desert climate, so the garden incorporates citrus as well as many varieties of cactus.  The organ pipe cactus is quite mature, with many more stems than a saguaro.  They made use of desert trees to provide some shade, but also note the winter interest with the bright bark.  Acacia willardiana is a particularly white barked tree whose bark is even more decorative thanks to peeling.   It may remind you a bit of a birch, but it is brighter and not so huge at maturity. 

Building rooms in gardens adds both intimacy and interest. Tohono Chul has many such rooms.

Acacia willardiana has fabulous bright white, peeling bark. Not hardy but worth admiring.


Cacti were abundant, and some had colorful fruit whereas a barrel cactus was actually showing bloom in January.   The sculpture of a horse included cacti surrounding it.  A vulture sculpture had a drooping cactus.  Large spaces such as the sin agua garden (not watered, rarely watered) had some big masses of opuntia cactus.

This patch of prickly pear is in the sin agua garden.

A few plants were ones which overlap with our garden.  Russian sage, penstemon and yucca baccata were among those we grow and sell here.  I also grow a number of agaves and those are well represented in their collection.  We grow lantana as an annual.  In Tucson, it  survives outside year round.

Bird lovers will adore this garden.  The birds adore it.   There are many species in southern AZ, and they are very colorful.  The hummingbird garden has birds year round.

So if you visit Tucson, I highly suggest Tohono Chul for the plant lovers and garden lovers.  Great design ideas abound and lots to see.  The Desert Museum is something of a zoo, and great for families with young children.  If I had time for only one garden in Tucson, Tohono Chul it would be. 

Even in January this barrel cactus was in bloom.