Founded in 1985 by the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation & named in 1988 in honor of former first lady Betty Ford, an internationally acclaimed collection of alpine plants in the Rocky Mountains
To protect the alpine environment through education, conservation and living plant collections.
Betty Ford Alpine gardens is the leading global advocate for alpine environments
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is an internationally acclaimed botanic gardens known for its alpine horticulture, education and conservation. Located in the small resort town of Vail, Colorado which attracts a global audience for its skiing and outdoor recreation, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is the highest elevation botanical garden in North America situated at 8,200’ (2,700 m) in the central Rocky Mountains. The Gardens attracts more than 120,000 visitors annually to see its unique collection of alpine and mountain plants collected from around the world.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is committed to creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive culture where the contributions of all community member are valued, respected and appreciated. The Gardens will constantly re-examine our professional values, modify our existing practices and remove all barriers to being diverse and inclusive.
Gardens are places that are inspired by nature, intrinsically they are open to all and build no barriers. We celebrate this inclusivity and welcome all people without exception. In addition we recognize the needs of our local community and partner with other organizations to introduce our underserved populations to the joy of nature.
We follow these guiding principles in all that we do:
• Excellence – We are committed to a standard of excellence in all we do. This requires being focused on our priorities where we can use our resources both
effectively and efficiently.
• Impact – We create, develop, and improve our gardens and our programs with the over-riding purpose of profoundly affecting people’s understanding and behaviors.
• Inspiration – Our gardens will be inspirational because we show the uniqueness and beauty of alpine plants and habitats.
• Integrity – We believe that internally and externally our actions must be of the highest ethical standards.
• Expertise – We achieve our goals and our local and national standings through our scientific expertise in horticulture, education, and conservation.
• Relevance – We must be vigilant that our programs are always relevant and inclusive to our many stakeholder communities.
Mrs. Ford said in 1991, “As someone who has always loved gardening, it fills me with a great sense of serenity. Just walking along these winding paths, with the abundance of beauty so close to the touch, brings an introspection & sense of calm too often missing in our lives.”
“When I was a little girl, I spent many cherished hours with my mother in her garden,” Mrs. Ford said. “She wisely marked off an area for my very own plants. As we worked together, she nurtured me as she nurtured my love of gardening. This nurturing mother-daughter relationship, with its love growing strong in a garden, has been passed along to my daughter, Susan, & her two girls.”
Founded in 1985 by the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation & named in 1988 in honor of former first lady Betty Ford. Located in Ford Park next to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater–named in honor of her husband, the 38th president of the United States–the Gardens made a fitting tribute to this remarkable former first lady.
The original idea came through the collaboration of two longtime Vail residents, landscape designer Marty Jones & Helen Fritch, a gardening hobbyist who listened to Jones’ ideas for a botanical garden during an automotive journey through the Colorado High Country in 1983. “To a gardener like me,” says Fritch, now the Gardens’ president emeritus, “it sounded like a good idea & I got involved.” As the organization expanded in size & commitment, an executive director & garden staff were hired. Currently, volunteers & docents support a five-member staff with more than 3,500 hours annually maintaining the Gardens, giving educational tours, running the gift shops & working at promotional & educational events.
Today, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is comprised of four distinct sections; Mountain Perennial Garden (1989), Mountain Meditation Garden (1991) Alpine Rock Garden (1999), & the Children’s Garden (2002.) Our plant collection showcases more than 3,000 species of high-altitude plants, many of which are from the Rocky Mountains, as well as some from other regions of the world.
Like most public gardens there is a strong emphasis on education. Children’s programs are offered most days of the week as well as an annual butterfly launch for over 500 Eagle & Lake County third graders. We are one of the first public gardens to offer horticulture therapy classes to those seeking the restorative powers of connecting with nature. Docent led tours give visitors an in-depth insight into the world of alpine plants.
The Gardens has a strong commitment to plant conservation & in partnership with other organizations such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Botanic Gardens Conservation International & the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, works to study and conserve Colorado’s rare flora.
“When we first talked of plans for the Vail Alpine Gardens, I never dreamed it would grow and flourish to such magnitude. But as each season brings new blooms & greater beauty to the Gardens, they become a source of infinite pride & pleasure for all of us,” Mrs. Ford said. “I visit as often as I can, but it is never often enough. Each week provides a different, more beautiful picture.”
Learn more about Betty Ford and her life at the following websites:
Betty Ford – Honorary Director in Memoriam
Helen Fritch – President & Founder in Memoriam
Sheika Gramshammer – Life Trustee
Susan Frampton – President
June Rossetti – Vice President
Mary Beth Ottley – Treasurer
Samantha Thompson - Secretary
Jennifer Mason - Town of Vail