For decades the Moorten family has offered tours to the public of its magical botanical garden in the desert.
Along South Palm Canyon Drive, a hand-painted sign reads “Moorten Botanical Garden, Visitors Welcome.” Inside, a couple of caged doves coo hello while a montage of desert trees, succulents, and shrubs beckon visitors to wander deeper. A terrarium for cacti, called a Cactarium, houses a whimsical hodgepodge of prickly plants.
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Moorten Botanical Garden opened in 1939 as Museo de Deserto, when cacti enthusiast Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten came to Palm Springs. Here, he met his future wife, Patricia, who shared his passion for all things in nature. In the 1950s, the couple moved their garden to its current lot, residing in the charming yellow house that sits in back.
Their son, Clark, was raised in that garden. “When I was a child, my parents would say, ‘If you can walk, you can work,’ ” recalls Clark, who now operates the garden with his wife, Carolyn. At times he dabbled in other interests, but his roots always tugged at him to carry on his parents’ “labor of love.”
The assemblage of plants is always changing, while a few “residents” like ancient palms and a 55-year-old elephant tree from Baja are permanent fixtures. Almost always around to answer visitors’ questions (“living in the house makes the commute easy,” he says), Clark, now in his 70s, says that working intimately with nature keeps him young. “I have a lot of energy for my age … I imagine I’ll be doing this for a long time.”
Moorten Botanical Garden
1701 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs 92264