Mention beautiful flower gardens in Salt Lake City and Temple Square comes to the forefront. No other location attracts as many visitors as the historical buildings and gardens. These landscapes beautify and surround the downtown properties of the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The gardens have one of the largest displays of annual and perennial flowers in the state.

Unlike many other gardens these plantings are not done for research or studies but are part of a much larger design plan to complement these historic buildings. In addition to Temple Square and the Church Office Building Plaza, there are gardens at the Family History Library and the Church History Museum. This area also has a historic log cabin. Included in these plantings are some historical and native plant species that will do well in Utah landscapes. There are also two historic cemeteries, the Brigham Young grave site and the Heber C. Kimball cemetery.The easiest way to view the gardens is to take a garden tour given by volunteers. Tour times are listed in the accompanying box (page C8). They are free and take about one hour. The guides will acquaint you with the plants and give the history of the gardens and basic cultural information. Most are expert gardeners in their own right and gain additional valuable experience by working in the gardens as volunteers. The garden volunteers are under the expert direction of Christina Gates. In addition to conducting tours and assisting the professional staff, the guides also present garden talks to many different groups.

The superb gardens are supervised and directed by Peter Lassig. His gentle hand guides an expert staff that designs, plants and cares for these plantings. Although the gardens are not maintained as a botanical collection, they do contain many interesting plants. There are several hundred different species and cultivars in the gardens, and the annuals and many of the perennials change locations frequently. Check with the garden guides for exact information on these plants. I will include some specific gardens and woody plants to help guide your tour.

Start your own self-guided tour at the historic log cabin located off West Temple. Plantings include native trees, shrubs and flowers and other species that were brought by the early pioneers as they entered the valley. Most of these will do well as landscape plants in local gardens although the Lombardy poplar and some others are not the best choices.

Crossing over to Temple Square introduces many different plants. Many of the large old trees surrounding the Tabernacle and elsewhere are American elms. Magnolias and bamboo plants decorate the alcoves at the west end of the Tabernacle. They survive because the area stays warm from the heat given off by the building.

The gardens between the Tabernacle and the Assembly Hall contain many interesting perennials and roses. They change dramatically with the seasons. The Handcart monument has some nice manzanita plants as well as other desert plantings. Just north of the Seagull Monument are some new beech trees that are personal favorites of mine.

The main corridors between North and South Temple are full of seasonal color. The ferns, hostas, tradescantias and other plants thrive in shade in this corridor.

The planters north of the flagpole contain several interesting weeping Siberian pea shrubs. They are very hardy and make interesting small specimen trees.

The gardens south of the Salt Lake Temple are an interesting delight most of the year. They have some magnificent tree peonies in the spring and other perennials. On either corner of the Temple are two honeysuckle "trees." These are normally shrubs but are more than 100 years old and have a tree-like form.

The pink flowers growing along the bank on the north side of these gardens are crape myrtles. This plant normally grows as a shrub in warm climates but is grown as an herbacous perennial in this situation. Although the woody tops do not survive the winter, they make interesting plants with long-lasting blooms.

Just north of the east gate of Temple Square is a magnificent cedar of Lebanon. This tree grows well in warmer climates and will grow here in more favorable sites. The magnolias on the west side of the east wall are the nicest collection found anywhere in the state. Outside the gate notice the plantings of silver lindens that line the side of this block.

The oldest tree is located at the corner of South Temple and Main Street. This tree of paradise was planted in 1869 and was part of plantings that surrounded the square and extended down both sides of the street. It is one of the oldest planted trees in Utah. It is not usually thought of as a highly desirable tree, but they were highly prized by the pioneers because they grew so quickly.

There are many interesting gardens on the block east of Temple Square. These are featured gardens in the tours offered by the garden guides. Among the highlights are the Beehive House gardens with some outstanding perennial plantings around the front entryway. The parterre gardens face South Temple and were redone when the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was created. They contain beautiful columnar oaks and some unusual white redbuds in addition to some excellent flower plantings.

Visit the new gardens across the street to the east. One has interesting statuary and a delightful water wheel. It has historical interest and even a few vegetables. Across the street is the City Creek Park with a nice walk leading up to Memory Grove and beyond into the canyon.

Take advantage of the excellent gardens and superb plant materials by taking a tour or by visiting the gardens on your own. You will find both common and uncommon plants and some interesting combinations and ideas for your own gardens.



Tour schedule

Free one-hour tours on weekdays (except holidays) from now through Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.

Evening tours are at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.x For Sunday tours, meet at the east gate at Temple at 10:15 a.m. Private tours are available on request by callilng 240-5916.

All regularly scheduled weekday and evening tours begin in the southwest lobby of the Church Office Building.