A growing legacy: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail has busy summer schedule | VailDaily.com

A growing legacy: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail has busy summer schedule

Located at 8,250 feet above sea level, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail's Ford Park are touted as one of the highest, and unique, botanical gardens in the country.

Based in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the gardens offer free access to about 100,000 people each year — mostly free of charge, with small donations accepted.

"As someone who has always loved gardening, it fills me with a great sense of serenity," said former First Lady Betty Ford in 1991. "Just walking along these winding paths, with the abundance of beauty so close to the touch, brings an introspection and sense of calm too often missing in our lives."

For Ford, who enjoyed spending time in Vail with her husband, former President Gerald R. Ford, the gardens held a special place in her heart.

"When I was a little girl, I spent many cherished hours with my mother in her garden," she said. "She wisely marked off an area for my very own plants. As we worked together, she nurtured me as she nurtured my love of gardening. This nurturing mother-daughter relationship, with its love growing strong in a garden, has been passed along to my daughter, Susan, and her two girls."

The original idea for the alpine gardens came from two longtime Vail residents in 1983, landscape designer Marty Jones and Helen Fritch, a gardening hobbyist.

Recommended Stories For You

The Vail Alpine Garden Foundation was founded in 1985, and by 1988, the gardens were renamed in honor of Betty Ford. In 2015, the Education Center became the latest addition to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, joining the Mountain Perennial Garden (1989), Mountain Meditation Garden (1991), Alpine Rock Garden (1999) and the Children's Garden (2002).

"When we first talked of plans for the Vail Alpine Gardens, I never dreamed it would grow and flourish to such magnitude," Ford said. "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."

Ford past away in 2011, but the gardens here in Vail continue to grow in her name.

SUMMER SCHEDULE

2018 Exhibits

Patrick Dougherty Photography Exhibit

During the past 30 years, Patrick Dougherty has built more than 250 structures out of saplings, gaining international acclaim.

See photos of his artwork at the Education Center, and in June, Dougherty will begin a one-of-a-kind sculpture in Vail's Ford Park.

Dates: Through July 9

Cost: $5 suggested donation

More information: To see Patrick Dougherty's work, visit www. stickwork.net.

H20 = Life: Wet, Wild, Wonderful Waterways

Did you know that 90 percent of all mountain wildlife species depend on environments such as Gore Creek at some time in their lives? This exhibit, which is also this year's theme at the gardens, will explain the plants and animals that live along and in the water and what we all can do to improve the health of all rivers.

In addition to the exhibit, two speakers will be featured during the gardens' intimate evening series. Kathy Heicher, of the Eagle County Historical Society, will discuss mining in Colorado; and Sherri Tippie, of Denver, will discus beaver habits and habitats. Tippie will lead an interesting discussion, as she has been rescuing beavers for many years.

Dates: July 13-Nov. 2

Cost: $5 suggested donation

Regular Events

Garden Tours

These tours last about an hour and no advanced registration is necessary — just show up at the Education Center in Ford Park.

When: Mondays, Tuesday and Saturdays; 10:30 a.m.

Cost: $10 suggested donation.

Garden Workshops

Learn and hone your garden skills with experts at the Education Center. Workshops vary in time, and registration is required.

When: May 14, 25-26; July 9, 23; and Aug. 20; 10 a.m.

Cost: $10 donation for non-members (registration required).

Volunteer Gardening

Get your hands dirty (gloves are provided) and help out at the gardens for a few hours. No registration is needed, and meet at the tool shed.

When: Mondays and Thursdays, May 10-Sept. 17; 9 a.m. to noon.

Cost: Free

Chefs in the Gardens

These live cooking demos on Thursdays feature culinary masters from Vail restaurants. Cost includes a sample, and no registration needed.

When: Thursdays, July 5-Aug. 9; noon to 1 p.m.

Cost: $10 donation (cash only)

Garden Nature Photography

Discover new ways of seeing color, patterns, textures and space in the gardens and surrounding landscape. No photography experience is needed, and smart phones are welcome.

When: Wednesdays, June 20-Aug. 29; 11 a.m. to noon.

Cost: $15 donation (cash only)

Yoga in the Gardens

Get outside for Yoga in the Gardens surrounded by nature. No advanced registration is needed, but mats are limited.

When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, June 11-Sept. 3; 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Cost: $15 donation (cash only)

Aerial Yoga with Tanya Miller

Enjoy outdoor yoga with the support of a soft hammock on the Education Center rooftop.

When: TBD

Cost: $15 donation (registration required online)

Family Drop-In Activities

The Education Center has fun and educational activities for families, including a treasure hunt, interactive exhibit and crafts.

When: Daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Free

Children's Garden

Climb a mountain, walk by a beaver pond model, water some plants or get into the dirt with rakes and shovels at the Children's Garden.

When: Daily, dusk until dawn.

Cost: Free

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

More information

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are located west of Vail, a short walk from the Golden Peak ski area.

Follow the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens on social media, including Instagram and Facebook.

Call the gardens at 970-476-0103.

Visit http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.