Behind-the-Scenes at the Desert Botanical Garden

Written by Auriane Koster, Ph. D., Sustainability Manager

Sustainability Manager, Laurel Kruke, and I were fortunate enough this week to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science at the Desert Botanical Garden. The tour provided us an in-depth look at the Garden's horticultural practices, including where the horticulture staff, researchers, and volunteers grow, study, and take care of plants. The Center is home to many wonderful features, including:

  1. Greenhouses – all three are automated and environmentally controlled;
  2. Marley Horticulture Learning Lab – an indoor/outdoor learning space, which will support new experiential learning opportunities (kid-friendly field trips?!);
  3. Cohn Ironwood Courtyard – a lovely outdoor space for staff and volunteers;
  4. Ottosen Great Wall – a beautiful wall separating the public from the Center made of boulders from throughout the state; and
  5. Sustainability initiatives – includes passive solar, reused materials, and efficient watering.

Rather than go on-and-on about all the cool stuff we saw on the tour, I figured I would show you! Below you can find pictures from the tour along with relevant captions.
 

 The entrance to the backstage research and greenhouse area of the Center.

The entrance to the backstage research and greenhouse area of the Center.

 Here is our guide pointing out key features of the Ottosen Great Wall. The part of the boulder that we see only represents 2/3 of the boulder!

Here is our guide pointing out key features of the Ottosen Great Wall. The part of the boulder that we see only represents 2/3 of the boulder!

 This is Rosa, one of the plant propagators at the garden. She oversees propagation of the plants, which means she oversees growing new plants in various ways, such as from seeds or plant pieces that she buries and nurtures. As she mentioned, “Propagation is like raising children. You need to be very patient!”

This is Rosa, one of the plant propagators at the garden. She oversees propagation of the plants, which means she oversees growing new plants in various ways, such as from seeds or plant pieces that she buries and nurtures. As she mentioned, “Propagation is like raising children. You need to be very patient!”

 Here we are in one of greenhouses. It is controlled by a computer that determines when to turn on the evaporative cooling system (which efficiently cools the space by 20-30 degrees on hot days), open or close the roof, and retract additional shading. They wash down the floor of the greenhouses every day with water and once a week with alcohol to keep all the bugs out. Eventually, they will place a structure above the greenhouses which will hold solar panels.

Here we are in one of greenhouses. It is controlled by a computer that determines when to turn on the evaporative cooling system (which efficiently cools the space by 20-30 degrees on hot days), open or close the roof, and retract additional shading. They wash down the floor of the greenhouses every day with water and once a week with alcohol to keep all the bugs out. Eventually, they will place a structure above the greenhouses which will hold solar panels.

 This is Lonesome George. After a major storm in the Florida Keys, only the males of this plant survived. So, to keep it from going extinct, the Garden agreed to take one of the plants to AZ to manually reproduce it. 

This is Lonesome George. After a major storm in the Florida Keys, only the males of this plant survived. So, to keep it from going extinct, the Garden agreed to take one of the plants to AZ to manually reproduce it. 

 Within the next week-or-so the Center will be able to capture 2,800 gallons of rain water in these barrels, which will be used to water plants within the greenhouses. The plants in the greenhouse are also watered with gray water directly from the SRP canal located on the eastern side of the Garden. They estimate this has saved the Garden about $75,000!

Within the next week-or-so the Center will be able to capture 2,800 gallons of rain water in these barrels, which will be used to water plants within the greenhouses. The plants in the greenhouse are also watered with gray water directly from the SRP canal located on the eastern side of the Garden. They estimate this has saved the Garden about $75,000!

 The Cohn Ironwood Courtyard allows staff and volunteers to enjoy some peace-and-quiet in the beautiful AZ outdoors.

The Cohn Ironwood Courtyard allows staff and volunteers to enjoy some peace-and-quiet in the beautiful AZ outdoors.

 This outdoor learning center is ADA accessible and will include rotating plants used for educational purposes. Students and adults alike will be able to learn how to properly plant and lay irrigation lines, and the space will be continuously replanted.

This outdoor learning center is ADA accessible and will include rotating plants used for educational purposes. Students and adults alike will be able to learn how to properly plant and lay irrigation lines, and the space will be continuously replanted.

 The Marley Horticulture Learning Lab was designed with passive lighting, reclaimed materials, and will never need blinds! Visitors will be able to analyze the bugs (currently on the yellow strip our guide is holding) bothering the Garden’s plants using the telescopes, and the image can be blown up on the projector, as is seen on the left side of this picture.

The Marley Horticulture Learning Lab was designed with passive lighting, reclaimed materials, and will never need blinds! Visitors will be able to analyze the bugs (currently on the yellow strip our guide is holding) bothering the Garden’s plants using the telescopes, and the image can be blown up on the projector, as is seen on the left side of this picture.