New Book Release

On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains

Celebrate The Gardens

"On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains" Book Cover - Betty Ford gardens
On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains: The Botanical Legacy of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail's Alpine Treasure

By Sarah Chase Shaw 

On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains establishes the Gardens as a destination for visitors to Vail, Colorado, a must-see venue, known as much for its beautiful gardens and iconic location as its educational and interpretive exhibits and world-renowned plant collection. The book will also validate the Gardens as a leader in alpine plant ecology and conservation. 

On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains Inside Spread - Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

With 285 full-color photographs, an artistically-rendered map, and over 22,000 words of text and captions, the global significance of the alpine environment is explained and revealed in detail. Plant and animal species are identified by both scientific and common names. 

Organized into five chapters, the book opens with Sowing Seeds, recounting the history of a community effort to create a public garden in Vail to educate locals and visitors about gardening at 8,200 feet. In Promote a Deeper Understanding of the Alpine World, images of alpine and arctic tundra landscapes from around the world illustrate the unique ways in which weather and climate define life above the trees. The magnificence of the Gardens’ plant collections is revealed in Four Seasons in Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The Gardens’ distinguished collections of alpine plants from around the world come into focus in Guardians of the Alpine. And, finally, the Gardens’ educational outreach and its role as a leader in plant conservation is clarified in Vigilance and Vision. 

Sarah Chase Shaw is a freelance writer based in Basalt, Colorado. A landscape architect by training, she specializes in writing about design and lifestyle in the American West. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications, including Garden Design, Western Art & Architecture, Planning Magazine, Urban Land, Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, and Aspen Sojourner. She is the author of Garden Legacy: The Residential Gardens of Design Workshop, and New Gardens of the American West. Her most recent book Living Beneath the Colorado Peaks: The Story of Knapp Ranch received a Bronze Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. 

Short essays from noted botanical experts Panayoti Kelaidis, David Inouye, Richard Daley, Peter Raven, and Sara Oldfield accompany the photos and text. The Introduction is written by Nicola Ripley, Executive Director of the Gardens. 

On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains is a tribute to the world of alpine plants and the important work Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is doing to promote research and conservation of global alpine environments in one of America’s premier resort destinations. Named in honor of former First Lady Betty Ford, it is fitting that this world-class botanical garden is located within the Town of Vail’s Ford Park, directly across from Vail Mountain, and a short distance from the center of Vail Village. 

All Gardens’ photography was taken by Vail-based photographers Todd Winslow Pierce and Dominique Taylor. Drone photography was taken by Brandon Huttenlocher. Global alpine imagery was sourced through Minden Pictures. 

Book Details

  • Hardbound with jacket, 276 pages, 12” x 12” square 
  • Two Maps, Resource Guide, Index 
  • Retail Price: $45.00 
  • Publication date: June 2021 
  • Published by: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens; Distributed by Gibbs Smith Publishers. 
  • Available after publication from the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens gift shops, independent booksellers across North America, and on e-commerce sites worldwide. 


Horticulturalists, botanical garden enthusiasts, high altitude plant researchers, alpine zone scientists, visitors to the Gardens in Vail, and aficionados of outstanding plant photography. 

Order online or stop by one of our gift shops. Small supply of first edition copies available.

What People Are Saying

Accolades for On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains

“While at times ominous, On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains is mostly a celebration, filled with images showcasing the vast beauty of what is billed as the world’s highest botanical garden.”

- Seth Boster The Gazette

“The Betty Ford Alpine gardens are a staggeringly beautiful treasure . . . On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains aims to do a lot . . . [by] educating the reader on what the alpine regions are, the risks they face, and how botanic gardens can be key in efforts to understand and preserve delicate alpine ecosystems.”

- Josh Tychonievich, Rock Garden Quarterly

“Sarah’s descriptive writing is accompanied by captivating photography of landscapes that few visit and even fewer inhabit . . . it’s sure to be a hit with garden lovers.”

- Western Art & Architecture Magazine

“This book is a beautiful memory of a unique high alpine garden in Vail, Colorado. It is also an important conduit into the vitally important work of botanic gardens whose work increasingly expands far beyond the garden walls to support, care for, and restore wild places locally, regionally, and globally.”

- Sara Oldfield, Former Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International

“There are just never enough garden books, although our most recent acquisition, On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains, is definitely among the most beautiful. Our robust gardening community will be enthralled with the photos and text that talk about gardens we can relate to up here in the Mountain West.”

- Cathy Click, Community, Engagement Director
Basalt Regional Library

“It is a gorgeous book, and I am happy to add a copy to our collection. I know our library members will enjoy and use it for years to come!”

- Barb Walter, Reference Librarian, Longmont Public Library

On the Roof of the Rocky Mountains is BEAUTIFUL. Our local library received a treasure this week and I am lucky enough to be one of the first to borrow the book.”

- Lisa Scalise, Patron, Crestone Baca Library

As Seen (and Heard) In (and On)

Aspen Sojourner
Colorado Gardner
Cultivating Place
The Denver Channel
The Denver Post
Garden America
The Gazette
Good Morning Vail
Western Art & Architecture
Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine
Aspen Public Radio
Out There Colorado

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