To Keep the Desert BloomingRed Butte Garden opens new water conservation garden

The future of the West will be written with water. Communities that use it wisely will be able to grow and prosper; those who waste it will suffer. Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden will help Utahns learn to use water wisely in their gardens and landscapes so that the Wasatch Front can continue to thrive—while we keep the desert blooming.

Greg Lee
Director, Red Butte Garden

‘Heber Red’ and ‘Mountain Valley Sunrise’ stones used throughout the landscape come from Heber, Utah. The garden’s incline ascends 70 feet from base to top, with a total trail length of about one-quarter mile.

Red Butte Garden opened its new Water Conservation Garden on May 20. As the second driest state in the nation, receiving just 13 inches of precipitation per year, Utah consumes more water per capita than any other state in the country, making it imperative that our communities transition to water-wise landscaping and gardening. The goal of the new garden is to assist the community in making that transition in their own yards.

The three-acre garden, designed by Tres Fromme, at 3.Fromme Design, is located on the hillside north of the Children’s Garden. Its rise of 70 vertical feet from the base of the garden to its highest point is accessed by a gradually winding pedestrian pathway, defined by red sandstone. A series of different “rooms” or areas along the way show how exotic and native plants with differing soil and water needs can grow into beautifully layered and vibrant landscapes without overusing water—options people can use in their own yards. Water-wise plant selections, irrigation techniques, and landscape designs are employed. With 29,000 plants and more than 530 species, one of the garden’s goals is to bring an end to the myth that a water-wise garden can only consist of rocks and cacti.

Major funding for the $5 million project was provided by lead gifts from the Alternative Visions Fund* and the Dumke Family with additional contributions from 150 additional donors. “The new garden was funded almost entirely (99 percent) through private donations,” says Lee. “We thank this generous group of people whose vision encompasses community well-being, sustainability, and a passion for plants and gardens.”

The project team was led by Kevin Jensen, landscape architect and Marita Tyrolt, horticulture director with major support from horticulturists Fritz Kollman and Guy Banner, Jim Bach, landscape architect, and Brett Petersen, facilities manager.

“The University of Utah embraces sustainable growth as a critical part of its mission in the 21st century,” said U president, David Pershing, at the garden’s opening event. “The addition of a water conservation garden demonstrates the commitment of the University and Red Butte Garden to the practices of sustainable landscaping for our growing campus and our rapidly expanding community.”

*The Alternative Visions fund does not invite applications nor have a website. They choose the project they fund.