Red Butte Garden, located on 100 acres in the foothills on the eastern edge of the University of Utah, is an official arboretum of the state of Utah. The Garden has welcomed guests since 1985 and is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West with over 21 acres of developed gardens and five miles of hiking trails winding through an extensive Natural Area. The Garden; which is community-funded; is renowned for its numerous plant collections, display gardens, 450,000 springtime blooming bulbs; including a vast collection of daffodils; world-class outdoor summer concert series, and award-winning horticulture-based educational programs.
In 1930, Dr. Walter P. Cottam, co-founder of The Nature Conservancy and chairman of the Botany Department at the University of Utah, began using campus land for plant research. For more than 30 years, he evaluated plants to determine their adaptability to our region.
In 1961, the Utah State Legislature formally recognized Cottam's impressive collection by designating the University's campus landscape as the State Arboretum. The original legislation mandated that the Arboretum "provide resources and facilities for cultivating a greater knowledge and public appreciation for the trees and plants around us, as well as those growing in remote sections of the country and world."
With the growth of the Arboretum, the University of Utah hired Richard Hildreth as a full-time director to initiate meaningful interpretation of the collections and to develop educational programs emphasizing practical horticulture and plant identification.
As the University grew, so did the Arboretum's need for permanent public educational facilities and display gardens. In 1983, Ezekiel R. Dumke. Jr. and Richard Hildreth led the efforts to have the University dedicate 100 acres at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon for a regional botanical garden. The organization's name was changed from the State Arboretum to Red Butte Garden & Arboretum. The site provided an outstanding opportunity to showcase horticultural collections and to interpret the richly diverse natural area. This opportunity inspired the expansion of the Garden's mission to include not only horticulture but also conservation and environmental education.
The Garden formally opened to the public in 1985. In 1994, the Walter P. Cottam Visitor Center (funded by the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation) opened. Over the years other additions have been the Courtyard Garden, Fragrance Garden, Medicinal Garden, Herb Garden, Hemingway Four Seasons Garden, Dumke Floral Walk, Children’s Garden, the Richard K. Hemingway Orangerie, an amphitheater, expanded gift shop, and the McCarthy Family Rose Garden. All were funded by community donations.
Today, Red Butte Garden has 18 acres of display gardens and over 5 miles of hiking trails. The Garden, which is community-funded, has grown into one of the nation’s pre-eminent botanic gardens with 200,000 annual visitors, over 9000 members, and over 300 active volunteers. The Garden is renowned for its award-winning gardens and beautiful floral displays, including its springtime display of 450,000 blooming bulbs, outstanding outdoor summer concert series, and award-winning educational programs. It has become a multi-purpose facility for people seeking horticultural knowledge, exercise, recreation, family-based activities, or a stunning setting for weddings and other special events.