Looking for things to do in Idaho? If you have an interest in drought tolerant plants, desert gardens and plants for a pollinator garden, be sure to include a visit to Orton Botanical Garden in Twin Falls, Idaho to your itinerary.
Also known as Plantasia Cactus Gardens, this five acre garden is beautifully planted with native plants of Idaho, approximately 55 types of cacti and 23 different yucca varieties.
Of special interest is their pollinator demonstration garden. Twin Falls is a Bee City and Monarch City and it was delightful to see insects hovering around and feeding on plants intended to attract large quantities of pollinators.
It is easy to enjoy this botanical garden in just one day. The walking trails are well maintained and there are several seating areas where you can sit and enjoy the garden.
The garden is open on Friday and Saturday during the summer, but they also allow for special arrangement visits at other times.
They provide free guided tours during the summer months and we enjoyed a tour with the owner, LaMar N. Orton, who is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the garden and has an extensive knowledge of drought tolerant plants.
The garden was started in 2001 and has grown over the years to become an impressive and educational display of cactus and succulent plants, native plants of Idaho, and so much more.
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Touring Orton Botanical Garden
The garden is edged by a windbreak of trees which provide a feeling of containment that makes you forget it is surrounded by city roads.
As you walk along the paths, several defined garden beds provide the opportunity to view all that the botanical garden has to offer.
The desert garden at Orton Botanical Garden
We recently visited the desert garden at the Huntington Botanic Gardens in Pasadena, California. It is obvious that the owners of the Orton Botanical garden took inspiration from it.
The garden beds in the cactus gardens at Orton are surrounded by large rocks and have mass plantings of many varieties of cacti and succulents similar to Huntington.
Although not as established, I can easily imagine how the beds at Orton Botanical Garden will look in a few years when the plants have filled in.
Impressive yucca plants and all shapes and sizes of Joshua trees were evident.
One magnificent specimen, a 30 year Joshua tree, had so many branches and such a fullness that it would rival any that my husband and I had observed on our visit to Joshua tree national park.
It was covered in seed pods, which was a delight to see.
23 varieties of yucca plants grace the garden beds including one hybrid yucca that was shipped in error but is now a focal point in the garden.
Yuccas are especially drought tolerant and quite impressive when they are blooming.
One yucca, a banana yucca, had fruit at the base, which attracts yucca moths – a source of pollination.
The owner is hopeful that the moths, which are not native to Twin Falls, will eventually migrate his way.
Drought tolerant native plants of Idaho
Orton Botanical Garden is location the northerly edges of the Great Basin Desert, which gets an average annual precipitation of ten inches.
Of special interest to the owners is a desire to demonstrate that you can have a beautiful garden with minimal irrigation or even no irrigation.
A yellow crisp leaf buckwheat was magnificent blooming near a gaillardia and yuccas!
For this reason, drought tolerant plants were in evidence. Over 400 varieties of plants grow in the garden, including many that are native to Idaho.
There were evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, ground covers and many types of grasses.
You can view a list of the drought tolerant plants for Southern Idaho here.
Pollinator garden plants
Orton Botanical Garden has been noted as a demonstration garden for pollinators. The desert willow delighted us, and the butterflies with its blooms.
The variety of plants known to attract pollinators at Orton Botanical Garden is impressive. These are just a few that we viewed
- Mexican cliff rose
- Fern bush – blooms in July and August!
- Oregon Grape
- Apache plume
- Blanket Flower – still in flower when we visited
One of the nice things about this botanical garden is that you can view it in one day.
In today’s world, big is often equated with greatness, but in reality, sometimes great things really do come in small packages. Such is the case with Orton Botanical Garden, a 5 acre treasure.
Orton Botanical Garden is a member of the American Horticultural Society reciprocal admissions program. (Link)
Visiting Orton Botanical Garden
Orton Botanical Garden is open on Fridays and Saturdays, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Appointments can be made with the owners for other weekdays by calling 208-734-7959.
The garden is located at 867 Filer Ave W, Twin Falls, ID 83301, US. You can find out more about the garden in their mission statement here.
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Other botanical gardens of interest
If you enjoy visiting botanical gardens, be sure to also check out these posts: