Open year-round from sunrise to sunset, the Sawtooth Botanical Garden is not only a gorgeous spot to explore but also a venue for events, classes, and opportunities for learning more about species native to our high-altitude area. Located on Highway 75 at the turn into Gimlet subdivision, the Garden is also conveniently located along the bike path, making it the perfect destination for tourists and locals alike looking to explore a little of the Wood River Valley’s backyard.
Founded in 1994 by a small group of local passionate gardeners and environmentalists, the Sawtooth Botanical Garden is a non-profit located on five acres dedicated to different displays within a public garden.
Part of what makes the Garden unique is its mission to represent the five biomes of south-central Idaho. Thus, the master plan of the garden has five major gardens representing these biomes: Sagebrush Steppe garden, Lava Rock garden, Alpine garden, Montane garden and Riparian garden. Carol’s Wildflower Garden, named for Carol Blackburn, the Garden’s horticulturalist, also shows native species of Idaho, specifically wildflowers.
In addition to those five distinct areas are a number of other gardens, most notably the Garden of Infinite Compassion, created in September 2005 to honor the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Wood River Valley. The space is meant to be meditative and allow a space for contemplation. Sixteen dominant rocks in this garden represent the 16 Arhats or disciples of Buddha. The Serenity Pond features riparian plants and has a Brazilian quartz crystal in the center. When the Dalai Lama visited in 2005, he donated a beautiful prayer wheel filled with a million hand-written prayers. The wheel weighs 400 pounds and was hand-made by goldsmiths and painters in Dharamsala, India.
A number of spaces and structures throughout the Sawtooth Botanical Garden make it more than a place to view plant species but somewhere to enjoy the day. The Ellen Long Garden Pavilion, named for the late Ellen Long, provides views of the mountains to the north and is a perfect venue for events. The Visitor’s Center acts as both gathering place and community center where one can take a break from the heat, learn about upcoming workshops, or talk to knowledgeable staff about the Garden. This space can also be used as a venue for meetings and workshops as well. The Garden’s Education Beds on the southeast corner of the property are a space for both children and adults to get hands-on education about how plants grow and where food comes from. During growing season, these beds have a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more and one can also see multiple ways to recycle organic matter to be used in the garden.
The Greenhouse has seen many changes and uses over its 20 years including a space for relaxation, a production garden, a venue for festivals and parties and is now planted with a citrus grove and education and demonstration beds as well as an area for classes and events year-round.
The Sawtooth Sandbox is a play-space for children with picnic tables, sandbox toys, nets, and buckets. Children can build sandcastles and catch water skippers in the nearby stream.
Classes and Events
The Sawtooth Botanical Garden hosts events, classes, and workshops year-round for both adults and children. Classes might include using native plants to make medicinal salves and tea, watercolor sketching, wreath-making, origami ornaments, and more. There are many annual events that take place at the Garden including the Garden Tour in July, the Summer Gala in August, fall pumpkin chucking, the annual Bug Zoo, and wildflower walks. The Garden is also available for rent for private events and parties. Check their website for upcoming classes and events.
There are several ways to be involved in the Sawtooth Botanical Garden beyond visiting. One can volunteer or become a member which gives free admission to the Garden year-round, 10% off purchases at the Garden Gift Shop, discounted admission to the Garden Tour, and discounts on retail purchases at several local businesses. Memberships are available at individual, family, and business levels and allows the Garden to offer an inspirational space for the many people who visit the garden, participate in its programming, or utilize its other resources.