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Wine Walkers Toast ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’
Friday, September 1, 2023


Jolyon Sawrey has served on the board of the Sawtooth Botanical Garden for seven years.

During that time, he’s watched the public garden south of Ketchum grow more beautiful with each passing year as new gardens representing the area’s five biomes are added and the blooms fill in.

His new favorite corner is the latest to be added—the garden’s Lava Garden, which became reality this year thanks to a donation by board member Susan Flynt.

“The garden is so different. The fact that we live next door to the lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument—not many people in the country can claim to have lava in their backyard,” he said.

Sawrey and his wife Kari turned out Wednesday night to celebrate the garden during its annual Wine & Walk + Art. Those taking part wandered the paths, nibbling on stuffed mushrooms, chicken curry and other hors d’oeuvres as they tried such wines as Borne of Fire, a chardonnay from Washington’s  Columbia Valley where early agricultural settlers set annual blazes on the fields.

And in between bites and sips they checked out the garden’s 14 sculptures sprinkled among lavender and other blooms.

Narda Pitkethly gave the prayer wheel a couple spins as she made her way through the Garden of Infinite Compassion, created in 2005 for a visit by the 14th Dalai Lama.

“Whenever anyone comes to town, I always bring them here,” she said. “The Dalai Lama was here—isn’t that amazing!? And he was funny and so charming.”

Susan Parslow said she also took great pride in the prayer wheel: “I find the stream cascading down the slope there so serene. And, of course, I think it’s great to demonstrate what grow in this valley—it’s so different.”

Restaurateur Larry Stone and Nan Allison-Stone recalled how the garden bore little more than weeds during the 1970s when they came to town and when you might see one car on the streets during slack. They attended Boulder Mountain Clayworks’ Tuscany in the Garden last month and decided the garden was so lovely they couldn’t wait to return.

“It’s a little piece of heaven,” said Stone.

Jackie Balestra, who recently moved to the Sun Valley from New York City, brough her friend--a flight attendant from Los Angeles--to the walk.

“I like that the garden is so compact. I got lost in the 37-acre garden I used to visit so many times,” she said. “I’m totally coming back for the Dark Sky Dinners this winter—they have an ice bar outside and experts to tell you about the stars in the dark sky.”

Sawrey said the garden’s board wants to partner with the Shoshone-Bannock tribe to plant a medicinal healing garden in the vicinity of the tipi that has long stood in the garden After that, they want to tackle the vegetable garden, which has generally been used to educate youngsters about growing and harvesting plants.

“We just completed the Serenity Garden, making it so that we have both a tranquil pool and a running creek, a place where people can sit and meditate,” he said. “I’ll throw the word ‘love’ around. when I talk about this garden. What I really love is the people—the people who come here to visit are so happy, so thrilled to wander through and experience the beauty. “


The Sawtooth Botanical Garden is trying to raise the money to install a new granite and metal piece by local artist Gabriel Embler. The sculpture, which evokes Embler’s interest in stacking rocks, is named “Fibonacci’s Gate.”

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