Best Public Garden

Tohono Chul

READERS' PICK: The name means "desert corner" in the language of the Tohono O'odham, Tucson's first people, and it's just right: Tohono Chul Park, a privately owned garden attached to one of the town's best and most scenic restaurants, is a rare oasis in the city's asphalt-covered northwest side. Stocked with both common and rare plants of the Sonoran Desert and neighboring environs--including some stately saguaros, cholla and boojums--and dotted with fountains and ramadas, the park is a wonderful place to get away from the urban roar and imagine you're back in Eden.

OF MYTHIC PROPORTIONS: Nature Conservancy, 1510 E. Fort Lowell Road. Some local enviros worried when, last year, the Nature Conservancy gave up its weather-beaten quarters in the West University neighborhood to move into a brand-new building on the busy flanks of Fort Lowell Road near its intersection with even busier Campbell Avenue. Their worries were eased when the new office's small but eye-catching flower garden came into bloom last spring, giving local developers a pointed lesson in why native vegetation is to be preferred over imported species. Well maintained in all seasons, the garden is small enough to elude all but the most quick-eyed driver, so pull into the parking lot, rest your tired radiator and have a look.