Conceived in the early 1980s by Alaskan gardeners, the Alaska Botanical Garden is situated on 110 acres of Boreal forest land outside downtown Anchorage. The site, which has a rich cultural history, was once used by the semi-nomadic Athabascan people of South Central Alaska. In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. Army staged maneuvers and training on the land, creating an extensive array of foxholes interconnected with trails, some of which are still in use today. After ten years of site selection, planning, and development, the gardens opened to the public in 1993 as a volunteer-operated and supported garden.
An early master plan set the stage for the installation of several gardens, including a formal herb garden. In 2009 a revised master plan was adopted based on the efforts of landscape architect Carol R. Johnson. The plan retained much of the site in its natural condition, creating rooms of cultivated gardens in the forest, interconnected by nature trails. Johnson also designed a new perennial garden utilizing design concepts of the original Athabascan inhabitants. Today, the gardens include an entry and shade garden, formal Herb Garden, East Garden, perennial gardens, wildflower trail, and a self-guided nature trail.