Betty Ford Alpine Gardens MapOur gardens offer a wide range of flora in uniquely designed areas, from our educational Children's Garden, tranquil Meditation Garden and dramatic Alpine Rock Garden. Discover our uniqueness and diversity using the links provided below.
- Kid's Amphitheater and Solstice Stones
- Hike up the Gore Creek- Children's Garden
- Schoolhouse Garden
- Schoolhouse Museum and Gift Shop
Mountain Perennial Garden
- Perennial Borders
- Primula Garden
- Seeping Mountain Waterfall
- Sempervivum Wall
- Peony Collection
- Water Garden & Waterfall
- Himalayan Garden
- Alps of Western Europe
- Observation Point
Mountain Meditation Garden
- Waterfall and Floating Rock
- Meditation Areas
Alpine Rock Garden
- Waterfall, Lower Pool and Patio
- Bog Garden
- Saxifrage Garden
- Rocky Mountain Alpine Garden
- Dryland Montane Garden
- International Alpine Crevice Garden
- Mountain Conifer Borders
- Alpine Pools
- Aspen Grove
- Log Cabin
1. Kid's Amphitheater and Solstice Stones
The Kid's Amphitheater is located in the Children's Garden. It serves as an outdoor classroom for our Children's Programs and Summer Lecture Series and a gathering space for both children and adults. The surrounding garden is representative of the natural landscape adjacent to Gore Creek in Vail Village. The Solstice Stones frame sunrise and sunset at summer and winter solstice.
2. Hike up the Gore Creek - Children's Garden
This garden simulates a climb alongside Gore Creek from 8,200 feet - the elevation of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens - to the summit of the Gore Range at 13,000 feet. Beginning in the Kid's Amphitheater, interpretive signs lead visitors through the different life zones up to the alpine zone in the heart of the Gore Mountains. This impressive mountain range forms the backdrop of the gardens themselves and the focal point for this adventure.
3. Schoolhouse Garden
Horticultural Therapy Programs are conducted in this garden, providing gardening opportunities to those whom would not otherwise have them. The raised beds in the Schoolhouse Garden are currently planted with herbs and vegetables suited to our high mountain climate. Over time, the beds will be planted with medicinal and useful plants of mountain cultures worldwide. Our research so far includes plants used by the Ute Indians that once lived in the Vail Valley, the plants once grown by the Incas of South America, the mountain people of India and some of the remote Himalayan valleys in Nepal.
4. Schoolhouse Museum and Gift Shop
Built in 1922 and utilized until 1938, this one-room schoolhouse was the third schoolhouse used in the Vail Valley. The Schoolhouse acts as a small museum and contains many original relics including desks, chairs, chalkboard and woodstove. It also houses the gift shop for Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The gift shop is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day and provides customers everything from birdhouses and feeders to small garden tools and T-shirts
5. Perennial Borders
The mixed perennial borders that comprise the majority of the Mountain Perennial Garden contain more than 1,000 varieties of both traditional and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs demonstrating the diversity of plant material that grows in the this mountain landscape. With an increasing focus on species originating from mountain regions around the world, this garden has something interesting and beautiful to see throughout the season. Included in the Perennial Borders are two mounded island beds, a long raised border and a xeriscape garden border. These beds were among the first to be constructed and planted at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
6. Primula Garden
This small island garden displays a diverse array of Primula or "primrose" species. Primula is one the most widespread and variable of all alpine genera, occurring on nearly every continent and in most conceivable conditions. There are approximately 400 species inhabiting pondsides, screes and rock crevices. Being mainly mountain plants many are intolerant of long warm summers making them ideal candidates for our high elevation climate with cool summer nights. The genus was named from the Latin 'Prima' meaning first, since many primula are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring.
7. Seeping Mountain Waterfall
This quaint waterfall was the first water feature built at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. It is constructed of many layers of flagstone and is similar in appearance to naturally occurring mountain seeps. Moss and Sempervivum species proliferate in the moist shady crevices.
8. Sempervivum Wall
These unusual succulent plants originate from Europe, W. Asia and N. Africa. There are approximately 33 species and many cultivars. They are often called 'Hens and Chicks' because of the way they produce offset 'chicks' around the central 'hen' rosette.
This shaded slope spanning the south end of the Mountain Perennial Garden displays mountain woodland perennials thriving under cover of aspen, cottonwood, ash, crabapple and spruce. Prominent species in this area include Trollius chinensis, Fritillaria imperialis and Aquilegia caerulea 'Kristall'.
10. Peony Collection
There are approximately 33 species of peony, many of which are classified as herbaceous perennials and others as shrubs. They occupy mountain habitats, mainly grassy slopes, scrublands and open forest areas. They mostly origate from Europe and Asia although there are two species native to West North America, Paeonia brownii, from pine forests and sagebrush in British Columbia to WY, CA and Nevada and P. californica, a similar species found only in California.
11. Water Garden & Waterfall
This dramatic and photogenic waterfall is the primary focal point of the Mountain Perennial Garden. Clear mountain water cascadesover a large boulder cliff, flows under a bridgeand meets a beautiful pond garden. Left to naturalize for more than ten years, the pond is now one of the most attractive areas in this garden.
12. Himalayan Garden
The Himalayan Garden sits to the south of the Mountain Perennial Garden waterfall. Shade is cast by the garden's only original tree, a large Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta var. latifolia, a widely spread western North American native. This garden was constructed in September of 2003 thanks to a grant from the North American Rock Garden Society. Naturalistic stone terraces and peat beds were created to accommodate plants that prefer a slightly more acidic soil type. Several species of lily, gentian and primula have already been planted along with bergenia and the stunning Himalayan blue poppy, Meconopsis horridula. We have incorporated a wide variety of unusual high Himalayan plants including rhododendron and rheum species. This garden provides us with opportunities to incorporate a number of choice plants we can't grow elsewhere in the garden.
13. Alps of Western Europe
The high mountains of Europe are known as 'Alps'. Plants in this garden come from the Pyrenees between Spain and France, and from the French, Swiss, Austrian and Italian Alps. The Alps have been well explored for alpines for many years and many of the most well know alpine plants originate from this area. Plants such as the Trumpet gentian, Gentiana acaulis and Leontopodium alpinum or Edelweiss need no introduction.
14. Observation Point
The Observation Point provides a quiet place for respite under a Narrowleaf cottonwood tree, Populus angustifolia. It offers views over the plants of the Western Alps to the Water Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden and out to the slopes of Vail Mountain with the Vail Ski Area beyond Gore Creek.
15. Waterfall and Floating Rock
Surrounded by a lush green garden of mountain meadow plants including numerous Carex species, Castilleja ligulifoia and Lilium philadelphicum, the Waterfall and Floating Rock are the focal point of the Mountain Meditation Garden. They closely resemble the many alpine waterfalls and pools present throughout the Rocky Mountains, but also impart a meditative Asian garden tradition. The garden area will be renovated in the near future to allow us to further expand our alpine and sub-alpine plant collections.
16. Meditation Areas
The Mountain Meditation Garden has benches in three different locations in the garden giving the visitor a variety of peaceful places to relax. One can view the Waterfall and Floating Rock directly, nestle beside the waterfall and overlook the floating rock, pool and stream or slip into a "room" of evergreens for a more tranquil experience.
17. Waterfall, Lower Pool and Patio
This spectacular waterfall descends forty feet over large granite boulders and under three massive log bridges into a pool that represents the many beautiful sub-alpine pools fed by snowmelt and springs in the Rocky Mountains and other mountain regions throughout the world. The patio offers dramatic views of the Alpine Rock Garden and its signature waterfall and is home to more than twenty beautiful weddings each season.
18. Bog Garden
Although called the bog garden, this garden actually represents a Colorado fen; a wetland that accumulates partially decayed plant matter or peat. Fens are the only type of peatland in Colorado; they have constant movement of water unlike bogs, which have no inflow or outflow and which support acid loving plants such as sphagnum moss.
19. Saxifrage Garden
This garden is a taxonomic collection of the genus Saxifrage. Some of the most spectacular alpine plants in the world, these plants are found throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere and into South America. There are 480 known species many of which are alpines that form spectacular evergreen domes or mats which thrive in rock gardens. The Saxifrage Society is a British society devoted to the genus and has a very informative web page with information and publications available.
20. Rocky Mountain Alpine Garden
This spectacular, north facing wall of quartizite boulders is home to a large part of our collection of Rocky Mountain alpine plants. In the deep vertical crevices in the walls cliff dwellers such as Telesonix jamesii and Heuchera halli cling to the rocky soil and flowers of Lewisia tweedyi thrive. The amazing woolly head of the Rocky Mountain thistle, Cirsium scopulorum caused a stir in mid summer emerging from between the rocks. Many shrubby penstemon flourish on the well drained soils with Penstemon rupicola growing alongside P. davidsonii ssp menziesii and P. fruticosus ssp serratus. The dark crevices provide a home for Linnaea borealis, the delicate twinflower, and Rocky Mountain clematis, Clematis columbiana var tenuiloba.
21. Dryland Montane Garden
Montane landscapes are generally those found at an elevation just below the sub-alpine zone. Montane landscapes with a southern or western exposure are indicative of dryland montanes. Dryland montane landscapes can often have significant slopes and generally very shallow and gravelly inorganic soils. In addition to fast-draining thin soil and strong sunlight due to exposure, plants in dryland montanes must also endure high winds and tremendous temperature variations due to a relative lack of snow cover. Dryland montanes make up a significant portion of the Rocky Mountain Region and contain a tremendous variety of plants that have found various ways to adapt to this harsh condition.
22. International Alpine Crevice Garden
This unusual crevice garden is reminiscent of the Czechoslovakian inspired gardens, where linear rocks are upended to form a series of vertical crevices, in a departure from the more traditional rock garden. Asperula pontica sprawls next to very floriferous forms of Lewisia tweedyi, taking advance of shaded clefts between the rocks. Tight buns of Draba polytricha, D. rigida and D. bryoides dot the garden amid the array of flowers from some twenty different Campanula species. Fresh from a recent expedition to the Andes, plants such as Calceolaria arachnoidea with its white, hairy leaves and purple pocket flowers grow in the open along with Calceolaria hypericina, Oxalis exigua and Loasa filicifolia.
23. Mountain Conifer Borders
These conifer borders demonstrate all the high elevation conifers native to the Southern Rocky Mountains. At the west end of the border walk Lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta spp latifolia are represented. Lodgepole forests are often called 'fire forests' due to their amazing ability to re-forest areas after fire. Because of this, lodgepole forests tend to be single species stands with even aged trees. These dark forests have thick carpets of acidic needles and nutrient poor soils and consequently very little diversity. They occur on north and east facing slopes at elevations from around 7,500 feet up to around 11,000 feet.
24. Alpine Pools
On the far north end of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are the Alpine Pools. Reminiscent of the crystal-clear ponds and lakes found in alpine areas around the world, the Alpine Pools overflow down and create the forty-foot Alpine Rock Garden waterfall.
25. Aspen Grove
One of the most common and beautiful trees in Colorado is the aspen, Populus tremuloides. Aspens are in the willow family and are closely related to cottonwood, birch and poplar trees. They are aggressive species that find their foothold in recently burned landscapes. Fire is essential to the proliferation of aspen in the wild. Aspen grow very quickly and form tremendous colonies of trees off of a single root system that can spread for miles. A grove in Utah is believed to be one of if not the largest living organism on the earth. In the understory of aspen groves, one can find a tremendous variety of plants including columbines, Aquilegia spp. lupines, Lupinus spp. and ferns.
26. Log Cabin
The log cabin near the north entrance to the Alpine Gardens was constructed to resemble historic mountain cabins and acts as a tool shed and workshop for the garden staff. Plants in the surrounding garden include thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus and red-berried elder, Sambucus pubens.