More than 5,000 species of plants are in glorious bloom at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, a five-acre desert oasis in the heart of Tucson, Arizona. While bigger cities may boast bigger gardens, this one is an alluring mix of tucked-away beauty and hands-on design: It was once the home of landscaper Rutger Porter and his wife, Bernice, a naturalist. During the Depression they brought pine trees, ivy and rosebushes from the East Coast, where the Porters were born, and the transplants thrived in the hot, dry desert. The garden grew and grew — and opened to the public in 1975.
Today, visitors enjoy 15 different gardens, including some with Native American crops and Southwest succulents. A soothing new addition this year: a Japanese Zen garden with traditional raked gravel and stone.