Idaho Botanical Garden
Boise, Idaho
June 2012

The garden began in 1984 on 33 acres leased from the state of Idaho. Highlights include: the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden; a Children’s Garden; an English Garden, designed by renowned landscape architect John Brookes; and a historical Iris collection. It is run as a private, non-profit corporation.

The garden is next to the old state penitentiary; giving the place a unique feel. This field, right at the doorstep of the garden, is a ball field where the inmates played again the town team. The field in a historic site so cannot be developed. For added visual interest, the garden has created a labyrinth of paving stones in the turf.

Ball Field Labyrinth

The Lewis & Clark Garden is the centerpiece. From a beautiful entry gazebo covered with a roof garden of native plants, trails meander up a hillside through recreations of the habitats Lewis & Clark traveled through.


There is beautiful signage highlighting many of the plants discovered on the expedition and plants throughout the garden are very will labeled. And there are beautiful plants as well, like this Clarkia.

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The other highlight for me is the John Brookes designed English Garden. I’ve long been a fan of his books and seeing one of his gardens was not a disappointment. From the beautiful stone entryway to beautiful grottos and pergolas, the English Garden is truly beautiful.


The garden also partners with local horticultural firms, allowing them to create temporary plantings in the garden as a showcase. The company also maintains the display so Idaho Botanic Garden gets a beautiful changing display without using their own resources.

Horticultural Display Horticultural isplay

The Rose Garden focuses on heritage roses and is a small but nicely kept garden. I love the backdrop of the penitentiary wall.

Rose Garden

One of the beautiful features of the Idaho Botanical Garden is all the stonework. This staircase from the Rose Garden is a great example.

Rose Stairs

There are constant reminders of the history of the site. The walls of the old penitentiary are a stark backdrop to much of the garden. Some people might be put off by this but I found it a fascinating addition. I don’t know of another garden where your peaceful stroll is interrupted by a looming guard tower.

Guard House

I really loved this garden. It has all the traditional elements of a botanic garden with an herb garden, rose garden, vegetable garden, native plant garden and meditation garden. The Lewis & Clark Garden is unique, and spectacular in the way it takes advantage of the site and topography. Idaho Botanical Garden has done a great job of melding traditional botanic garden displays with distinctly Mountain West elements.

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