Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs, CA is something quite rare: a privately owned botanical garden. Most are either public or run by non-profit foundations. Even more amazing: Moorten Botanical Garden has been around, and in the same family, since 1938 – that’s 77 years. If nothing else, that level of persistence and perseverance deserves kudos!
The garden is the legacy of Chester Moorten, who came to Palm Springs in the 1930s because of his health, and his wife Patricia, a biologist interested in desert plants. Nicknamed “Slim” because of his skinny build, Chester had been one of the Keystone Kops and had Hollywood contacts. The Moortens were friends with Walt Disney, who had property in Palm Springs, and did landscape design for the likes of Frank Sinatra.
Today, the 1-acre garden contains over 3,000 varieties of desert plants from all over the world, arranged in geographic sections such as Sonoran Desert Region, Mojave Desert Region, Central Mexico Region, Texas Desert Region, etc. Many plants are labeled with handwritten signs made of flagstone or wood.
The pale blue color of this new arm is amazing
Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
Slipper plant (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) was the “signature plant” of this trip, a) because it seemed to be everywhere I went, and b) because I finally found one for purchase
I’d never heard of Agave titanota being referred to as “Blue Rose,” but the name makes sense
I’m including this photo because the building you see in the background between the two opuntias is the Vagabond Inn where I spent the night. Reasonable, clean, and conveniently located—within easy walking distance of Moorten Botanical Garden
I loved the hand-written signs
There should be a sign here saying…
“Sit at your own risk”
Splendid specimen of Agave xylonacantha
This could have been a set on the old TV show Bonanza
Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’
The same Agave vilmoriniana you saw earlier, looking like a large alien spider
…supposedly the best agave for sisal fiber used for rope and twine
Agaves and golden barrel cactus
The “World’s First Cactarium” wasn’t quite as grand as the name suggested
But there were some nice specimens
If not nice, then at least interesting, like this Deuterocohnia brevifolia with dieback on top…
…or this Welwitschia mirabilis, which is both extremely odd and quite rare in cultivation
There even is a small meditation garden with a mining town/frontier feel
The “Cactus Castle” built in 1929
I would have loved to see the inside of the house but it’s off limits to visitors
This stone bench may be simple, but I liked it for that very reason
Looking back at the house
Aloidendron dichotomus (formerly Aloe dichotoma)
Take a look at this tree, then guess what it is
Amazingly, it’s a Euphorbia tirucalli, i.e. the all-green version of the popular ‘Sticks on Fire’ so many of you have in your own garden. Yes, over time and in the right climate it can grow into a tree!
Yucca gloriosa, or more likely Yucca elephantipes
Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’, a common sight on this trip
Old wagon wheels and a nice-sized elephant bush (Portulacaria afra)
Mining relics and Agave sisalana
Larger plants for sale (1-5 gallon)
A small retail area next to the entrance sells containers, gifts and a selection of plants.
Small agave starts—I think they’re Agave sisalana, not tequilana, but I can’t swear to it
Small nursery area on the left
Moorten Botanical Garden is small—tiny, really, as far as botanical gardens go—and clearly a labor of love. Some things aren’t kept up as well as they could, but I don’t imagine they have a large staff at their disposal. As I said earlier, I have the utmost respect for the Moorten family for having hung onto Chester and Patricia’s legacy for almost eight decades. That’s quite an achievement.
I greatly enjoyed my visit and I was encouraged by the steady stream of visitors that Sunday morning.
Moorten Botanical Garden is located at the southern end of Palm Canyon Drive. Admission is a very reasonable $4 for adults. For more information, visit their web site.