Boise Places Worth Seeing

Idaho Botanical Garden - A Healthy Escape

If the Rose Garden in Julia Davis Park is the best place to smell the roses, the Idaho Botanical Garden is the best place to smell everything else. But if you really like roses, I'm here to tell you they've got a pretty good rose garden at the botanical garden too.

Happy meditation

The Idaho Botanical Garden (IBG) is a 33-acre desert oasis that features a variety of themed garden areas, such as a formal English garden, a historical iris collection, and woodland, herb, and meditation gardens. There is no truth to the rumor, however, that they also have the Garden of Eden. Believe me; I looked pretty closely and I never saw any snakes, apple trees, or scantily-clad women. But the IBG does have a nice shady picnic area within earshot of soothing water features, and it's a great lunch spot during our hot summer days. If you have kids, there's also a children's garden designed to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Active youngsters might also find the Labyrinth interesting, with its concentric stone circles sunk in the ground. While your kids walk in circles and follow the pathway to the center, you can sneak away and peruse the peony collection.

Garden cherubs

One of the most intriguing facts about the IDG is that it is on the site of the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, which was the home of various dastardly dudes and dudettes from 1870 to 1973. The old wooden guard towers are still visible on the grounds, and the trees in the Garden Woods area were planted by inmates in the 1960s. The northwest part of the garden is also bordered by an old prison sandstone wall. I'd venture to say that the IDG is the only botanical garden in the country whose grounds have seen their share of shanks, shackles, and prison wine.

English Garden

In recent years the botanical garden has made some excellent additions that emphasize regional flora and history. Visit the Idaho Native Plant Garden to see what Idaho looked like before Russian-olive trees and potatoes got a foothold in our landscape. Together, the Native Plant Garden and the Regional Display Garden will give you some great plant ideas if you're looking to get rid of your Kentucky bluegrass and replace it with plants that are suitable to our climate, which provides only about twelve inches of rain a year, with little of it falling in the summer.

Gathering Place

The most impressive recent addition is the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden. It took years to come up with the funding to make this garden possible, and you'll understand why when you go see it in person. It features a winding path that climbs to the top of a hill, and when you make it to the top you'll probably feel like you covered about half the ground Lewis and Clark did in 1803-1806. As the trail goes up, it passes through pockets of plants representing the different ecosystems the explorers would have passed through as they traveled from the plains to the dry highlands and over the mountains. It's impressive now, but in a few years when these new plant communities have matured it will be the best of its kind. At the bottom of the trail is the Gathering Place, which contains information about Lewis and Clark's voyage of discovery. Make sure you look at the roof; they've even got stuff growing up there. At the top of the trail is a larger-than-life bronze statue of Sacajawea. It doesn't look all that large when you round the corner and first see it, but when you get up next to it you'll find that she is truly huge. She has to be wearing about size-30 moccasins.

The deceptively huge Sacajawea

The IDG has special events going on all the time, including a very popular concert series and Winter Garden aGlow. Make sure you check their event calendar for dates. The facility can also be rented for special occasions such as weddings, group retreats, or your personal meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Place worth seeing: Idaho Botanical Garden
Where: 2355 N. Old Penitentiary Rd.
Boise, ID 83712
(208) 343-8649

View Larger Map
Hours: Summer Hours (March 14 - Nov 11)
Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: Adults: $5.00
Seniors: $3.00
Children 6-12: $3.00
Members: Free
Website: Idaho Botanical Garden
Fun fact: I hear it's haunted by prisoner ghosts wearing garden clogs.