Betty Ford " A remarkable life |

Betty Ford " A remarkable life

Special to the DailyOpening ceremonies at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Throughout the winter of 1996, the Discovery Channel featured the Gardens on their show Home Matters. Vail’s local television station, TV8, filmed Betty Ford in the Gardens and ran the show weekly for two summers, while Vail and Beaver Creek buses featured banners created by local elementary school students which read “Visit Our Bloomin’ Gardens.”

Starting in 1989, when the Gardens were selected for an American Horticultural Society Award as one of the top 75 places to visit, and continuing on to today, numerous prestigious awards have been bestowed on the Gardens. Groups and conferences visit from around the world based on the Gardens’ recognition by the major botanic organizations.

Word got around locally, too. Thanks to Betty Ford’s involvement, in addition to a small hard-working staff, the Gardens and its exhibits are fully maintained by scores of dedicated volunteers. Throughout the years, the Fords always attended Garden functions and stayed to socialize. They even held a reception at their Beaver Creek home to thank everyone who had helped with the Gardens.

“People came just to be among the Friends of Betty Ford,” recalls Helen Fritch. “Often pictures were taken with attendees. These pictures were often silver framed and treasured mementos.”

The three-acre botanic garden known as the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens consists of six adjoining gardens: the Mountain Perennial; the Alpine Rock; the Alpine Tundra; the Mountain Meditation; the Historic Schoolhouse; and the Children’s. Together, they represent a collection of the world’s mountain eco-systems. The site also includes the charming 20th Century Schoolhouse, which serves as a small museum and gift shop whose proceeds benefit the Gardens.

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The Gardens are open to the public free of charge.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is the highest botanic garden in the world. In addition to celebrating the incredible diversity of high altitude flora through its specialized plant collection, it contributes to the research and conservation of alpine plant species and to the protection of global bio-diversity.

Each type of plant in the Gardens is labeled with its botanic name, common name, family and origin. This formidable task falls on the competent shoulders of Nicola Ripley, Director of Horticulture and Research. Nicola joined the gardens in 1996 and holds a Masters degree in Ecology (specializing in alpine environments) from the University College of North Wales. She is internationally recognized as an expert in alpine plants and frequently lectures around the country.

Many of the Gardens’ approximately 50,000 annual visitors participate in regular tours conducted by staff and volunteer docents, and attend their educational, interactive workshops. Romantic as well as educational, the Gardens’ grounds are a popular venue for weddings and other special events all summer long.

For the Gardens’ brochure, Betty Ford wrote: “I would like to personally thank all of you for visiting the Alpine Gardens. It is my hope that you will share your experience so that others may appreciate the incredible beauty and diversity of alpine flora. Please come back to visit often, as the flower displays change weekly from snowmelt to snowfall. Next week it will be another garden!”

The spectacular native landscaping rocks and cascading waterfalls, reflective pools, tree-covered paths and arbored benches, with myriad-colored plants and flowers throughout lends itself to tranquility as well as awe. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is truly a place of beauty cherished by all.

Vail Colorado

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