At 8,200 feet in Vail, Colorado, Betty Ford Alpine is the highest botanical garden in the world. The Gardens began as a simple display garden and are now recognized as one of the foremost authorities on high-altitude plants and showcases the largest collection of rare, exotic and imperiled alpine plants.
1985: The Gardens are founded as the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation
1988: The Gardens are renamed Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in honor of former First Lady Betty Ford (1918 - 2011). The Gardens' location is in the heart of Vail's Gerald R. Ford Park.
The original idea for the Gardens came through the collaboration of two longtime Vail residents, landscape designer Marty Jones and Helen Fritch, a gardening hobbyist who listened to Jones' ideas for a botanical garden during an automotive journey through the Colorado High Country in 1983. As the organization expanded in size and commitment, an executive director and garden staff were hired. Currently, volunteers and docents support our staff by donating more than 2,000 hours of their time each year. Our volunteers help maintain the Gardens, give educational tours, help with the gift shops and work at promotional and educational events.
Today, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is comprised of four distinct sections:
1989: Mountain Perennial Garden
1991: Mountain Meditation
1999: Alpine Rock Garden
2002: Schoolhouse and Children's Garden
Additionally, the Gardens were one of the early adopters within the general community of botanic gardens to offer horticulture therapy classes to those seeking the restorative powers of connecting with nature. The Gardens' plant collection showcases more than 3,000 species of high-altitude plants from the Rocky Mountains as well as other mountainous regions of the world.
The Gardens partners with other organizations to promote habitat conservation and restoration and to contribute to the science of species conservation. It has collaborated with such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Partnering with like-minded organizations, the Gardens continually increases its education offerings for people of all ages to help them appreciate the wonders and intricacies of our mountain landscape and engage them in sustaining it for years to come.
Mrs. Ford once noted: "When we first talked of plans for the Vail Alpine Gardens, I never dreamed it would grow and flourish to such magnitude. But as each season brings new blooms and greater beauty to the Gardens, they become a source of infinite pride and pleasure for all of us." Before her passing she also shared the following thought: "I visit as often as I can, but it is never often enough."
Come and experience Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and discover this this remarkable high-elevation treasure which serves as a place of beauty and serenity, education, scientific study, and a unique living legacy to Betty Ford - the First Lady of our country and of our own community here in the Vail Valley.