Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs.

During my too-short visit to Palm Springs, Calif. last month I naturally hoped to visit a botanic garden and yes, there is one! A small, funky, private and fun one, like no botanic garden I can remember ever experiencing.

Located in the Colorado Desert, the Moorten Botanical Garden naturally specializes in cacti and succulents, with 3,000 desert plants from around the world, from trees to miniature cacti, and the “world’s first cactarium.” There are even some desert tortoises, which I didn’t see on my visit because apparently they hibernate in winter. But tortoise or no, it was easily worth the time to find this little garden and the $5 entry fee. 

Described as “one-acre gardens with a homey intimacy,” it’s a family garden – by a family of collectors – that charmed the pants off me.   

Credit: Moorten BG’s Facebook account

The home was built in 1938 for “Cactus Slim” Moorten, a landscaper who specialized in drought-tolerant plants.  Above, his son Clark Moorten acquired the grounds in the mid-1950s with just a few plants, at first. He continues to maintain the gardens with help from his son.

The Mediterranean style residence (called “Cactus Castle”) and grounds are available for photography, on-location film shooting and weddings. 

Credit: Moorten BG’s Instagram account

How it Looked on my January Visit

Damn good camouflage! Yikes! No need for any “Do Not Touch” signs!


In addition to the 3,000+ plants, the garden features crystals, colorful rocks, ancient fossils, and pioneer and gold mining relics.

Wish I Could have Shopped for my New Succulent Dish Garden!

The Moortens also sell many of the plants they grow and if only 1) I weren’t flying home and 2) lived in a warmer place, I’d have already done the shopping for my bird-bath-turned-succulent-dish-garden.What was at first a bird bath (dominated by raccoons and a pain to keep clean) now has a hole drilled in the bottom and is home to a Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Sky’ with a skirt of Sedum sarmentosum.

My reaction? Underwhelming.

Especially in winter.

So I’ve reread the Hardy Succulents book by Gwen Moore Kelaidis (with photos by Saxon Holt) and am happily imagining something like these dish gardens, with all cold-hardy plants.