I've visited enough botanical and historical gardens that I feel I'm qualified to have an informed opinion. And I like to joke, that it's my old-lady alter ego (Gertrude) who encourages me to visit gardens. But I recently experienced a botanical garden so different, that it appeals to a lot more people than Gertrude and her friends.
The Denver Botanic Gardens approaches the idea of nature in a completely different way. Sure there are the naturalized vistas so popular in many gardens. But what sets Denver apart is its willingness to embrace an architectural view of gardening. This gives the garden an angular edge that I've not seen in other places. The result is pure cool. It's so cool that it draws big crowds. I've never been to a botanic garden this crowded. And it's not just the old ladies. The gays were out in full force. And there were plenty of young, hip families enjoying the views.
An example of the coolness is the Conservatory. I've been to plenty of conservatories that have better interior exhibitions. But the glass and concrete exterior of Denver's conservatory is magical modern.
And now is a a great time to visit the Denver Botanic Garden, particularly if you're a fan of the sculptor Henry Moore. I'm not sure there's another place on the planet where you can see more of Moore's monolithic sculptures. Seeing so much of his work in one place gave me a new appreciation of his talent. Even at his most abstract, Moore's sculptures are human, with their soft shapes turning sensual, even sexual. This is a spectacular show, installed so beautifully that it seems like the gardens were created just to house these massive shapes. Talking about the scultpures won't do them justice. So here are few photos.
If you're in Denver between now and January 31, 2011 I'd definitely put a visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens on your list of things to do. And I'd love to see these sculptures on a snowy, Colorado day.
(In order of appearance, the photos above feature the following sculptures: Hill Arches; Goslar Warrior; Large Reclining Figure; Knife Edge Two Piece; Oval with Points.)