The Idaho Botanical Garden is a lush 15-acre Boise attraction that draws visitors year-round, especially in the months from May through July, when most of the garden’s plants are in full bloom. But what else do you need to know about one of Idaho’s oldest and largest horticultural grounds? This article will explore the history, location, and unique features of the Idaho Botanical Garden, and why it remains one of Boise’s most popular places of interest.
The Idaho Botanical Garden was founded in 1984 by Dr. Christopher Davidson, a local botanist. With the help of 17 Boise-area professionals and civic leaders, Davidson established the Garden on lands leased from the State of Idaho and the Idaho State Historical Society.
The Garden’s location was originally based on eastern Boise’s old prison grounds, but now functions independently of the Old Idaho Penitentiary Site. It was founded as a private, non-profit corporation — and its inaugural plant was a 20-foot Northern Red Oak tree, one that still stands today.
Within the first two years of the Garden’s existence, over seven thousand plants were planted on the grounds. Some 95 percent of the plants were donated from industry partners based in Oregon and Idaho, establishing a practice that maintains the Garden’s botanical holdings.
In 1989, the Garden’s Iris Garden, Butterfly-Hummingbird Garden, and Heirloom Rose Garden were made accessible to visitors with the completion of the encompassing Plaza Garden. Visitor attendance and memberships grew with the Garden’s tours, concerts, and educational programs.
In 1998, the Muriel and Diana Kirk English Garden was established. This was the Garden’s first formally designed botanical area — one the founders had envisioned for the Garden since its inception.
In 2006, the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden was established. This garden commemorates the 1804 – 1806 exploratory journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark — and displays over 120 examples of the plant species they collected on their expedition.
In the latter half of the 2000s, the Garden’s Water Conservation Landscape and Children’s Adventure Garden were established. By 2011, annual attendance reached a record 120,000 individuals.
In 2012, the Garden grew herbaceous flowering plants (forbs) for the nearby Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. In 2013, the Treehouses exhibit at the Children’s Garden was completed.
The garden accommodates some 140,000 visitors annually. As of 2014, the garden had a membership of some 4,000 households. In the spring of 2020, some of the Garden’s events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the garden gradually resumed activities by the summer.
The Idaho Botanical Garden is located at 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, in Boise, Idaho. It is in eastern Boise, near the Warm Springs Estates area — just south of the Old Idaho Penitentiary Site and museum.
The Garden itself is in southwestern Idaho’s Treasure Valley. As such, the Garden’s holdings reflect the native local plants of the region.
The Idaho Botanical Garden consists of at least ten botanical gardens and one conservation landscape. It also houses a collection of Western Penstemon flowering plants, rare Idaho-native plants, as well as serves as the base for local conservation and restoration projects.
The Garden’s botanical areas include the:
- English Garden – an English-style garden home to over 13,000 perennials,
- Vegetable Garden – centered around vegetable propagation and local Idahoan agriculture,
- Rose Garden – a collection of antique (pre-1867) and modern roses,
- Herb Garden – featuring common and rare herbs,
- Western Waterwise Garden – a display of several native western arid plants,
- Firewise Garden – A collection of fire-resistant plants,
- Children’s Adventure Garden – a children’s garden featuring wildlife and edible plants,
- Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden – featuring plants akin to those retrieved on the Lewis & Clark expedition,
- Plant Select Demonstration Garden – a garden dedicated to propagating native Intermountain plant species, and the
- Meditation Garden – a “forest” of native trees with a gazebo area and Koi fish pond.
Finally, the Water Conservation Landscape is an area near the Garden’s entrance that features water-conserving plants, drought-resistant landscaping, mulch, and drip irrigation.
With plenty of gardens, collections, exhibits, projects, and activities to choose from, the Idaho Botanical Garden remains an exciting location for tourists visiting Boise, Idaho 83702.