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Albuquerque Botanic Garden rated 5th in nation

The Desert Conservatory at the Albuquerque Botanic Garden shows off a variety of plants native to coastal areas with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The Desert Conservatory at the Albuquerque Botanic Garden shows off a variety of plants native to coastal areas with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

With its collection of small and delicate creatures, plants ranging from the high desert to the Mediterranean, and cultural diversity, including Japanese architecture and Spanish curanderismo, Albuquerque BioPark’s Botanic Garden has received national recognition.

A Travel Channel ranking, published earlier this month, listed Albuquerque fifth out of the 12 best botanical gardens in the U.S. and ahead of similar parks in prominent cities, including Dallas, Chicago and New York City.

It was ranked for its expansive 36 acres of gardens, more than 1.5 miles of paths, Japanese garden, children’s garden, and its connection to the BioPark’s zoo and aquarium.

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“I do think we have a terrific botanic garden and we have a very diverse garden,” said Catherine Hubbard, botanic garden manager. “We offer a range of opportunities and educational events; perhaps that’s what caught their attention. We are very excited.”

The listing came as a surprise to Hubbard, who said that, if people from the Travel Channel visited, they didn’t identify themselves.

Hubbard said she thinks the garden’s diversity, as well as its high quality, is what moved it up in the ranking, past gardens of bigger cities.

The BioPark’s gardens range from formal to less structured, and there are interactive exhibits for both children and adults, she said.

Not mentioned in the Travel Channel’s ranking was the popular butterfly pavilion or the unique and traditional Curandera Garden (El Jardin de la Curandera), the new high desert rose xeric-climate garden, or the Cottonwood gallery.

The butterfly pavilion boasts several hundred North American butterflies and the curandera garden features herbs traditionally planted by Spanish folk doctors, or curanderos, who have a long history in New Mexico.

The high quality and exceptional upkeep of the gardens is all due to BioPark staff, Hubbard said.

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“Having well-kept grounds … has given us some attention,” she said. “We have staff who take a great deal of ownership and pride in their work, so they go above and beyond. Everybody cares.”

Albuquerque’s botanical gardens have many summer activities for people to enjoy. Summer Night Concerts are at 7 p.m. every Thursday until Aug. 27. Tickets are $10 for adults, and at discounted prices for children and seniors.

On Saturday, the gardens will host a dragonfly festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. BioPark staff will help visitors identify dragonflies and teach them about the species.

“You can’t have the plants without the people, and the people are something I’m very proud of, as well as the plants, but it all starts with our staff,” Hubbard said.

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