The welcoming gardens at Temple Square provide a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Salt Lake City. Filled with famously beautiful flowers, these gardens offer a sense of serenity that lifts the spirits of millions of visitors every year—thanks in large part to countless volunteers.
ach year more than five million people enjoy the spectacular colors and well-manicured lawns of Temple Square. As Utah’s No. 1 attraction, Temple Square brings in more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, and was named the 16th most visited attraction in America by Forbes magazine in 2009. And for good reason. “There is a wonderful spirit on Temple Square,” says Eldon Cannon, group manager for Temple Square’s Ground Services. “It’s a refuge from the world, a place of beauty and peace, and all people are welcome.” The beauty and peace the gardens provide come from the wide variety and masterful combination of plants in its 250 flowerbeds. In fact, within Temple Square’s 35 acres, gardeners use 165,000 bedding plants and more than 700 varieties of plants from all over the world, including 475 types of annual flowers. “The gardens are divided into seven areas, each under the supervision of one full-time gardener,” Cannon explains. “When we ask our gardeners to work with the flowers, we give them the freedom to design what they want in their own areas. They come up with some marvelous ideas.”
the wintertime, we have hundreds of volunteers who come—up to 800 volunteers in one day,” Cannon explains. “We also have smaller groups, 25 to 150, that come on week nights. We’re very dependent on volunteers. Without them, we couldn’t get it done.” Thanks to the combined efforts of master gardeners and enthusiastic volunteers, the gardens at Temple Square are known throughout the world for their splendor. “People come because they hear about the reputation of the gardens,” says Cannon. “But beyond the physical beauty, there is a special feeling, and many people feel peace when they come.” Temple Square is open every day of the year with gates open to the grounds from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Visitors can explore the grounds on their own or take a free tour in any one of 30 languages from native-speaking missionaries. CONTACT: 801-240-5916, visittemplesquare.com
As they design their flowerbeds, the gardeners use specific techniques that ensure the most beautiful results possible. For example, using a technique called "tossing," gardeners throw the different varieties of flower packs onto the beds in a natural flow rather than plant them in single, neat rows. Another process called “skeleton, tendon and flesh,” is where plants are arranged in certain combinations of sizes, colors and textures. The skeleton consists of a series of core groups of flowers or small trees. The tendons, usually drought-resistant shrubs, link to the skeleton and flowers make up the flesh to fill the remaining space. The gardens are also frequently arranged by a technique called the “piston effect.” Named after the action of the pistons in a car that alternate up and down, the flowers are placed so that as one group blooms, another group in the same area fades away. But how does such a small staff execute such complex plans for all the gardens on Temple Square? They don’t. Instead, they depend on thousands of volunteers to help them complete their visions. “The gardens are redesigned every six months. During the weekends in May, when we tear out everything from downtownslc.org