A vacation destination for families and plant lovers.
For anyone who enjoys public gardens, the Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the ultimate experiences available close to home. It is considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world.
Botanic gardens focus on teaching about the pleasure of plants, nature, landscape and horticulture as an art form.
Henry Shaw built the original Shaw’s Garden in 1859 after years of studying European architecture and landscape design.
Shaw immigrated to St. Louis in 1819 to further his business interests. Retired and wealthy by the age of 40, he turned his energies toward building public gardens on his 760-acre estate he called Tower Grove.
Today’s visitors to Shaw’s Garden, now called MOBOT, can see the original botanical library and museum and walk through the Linnaean House. Before Shaw died he arranged for the gardens to go into a public trust and his mausoleum to be built on the grounds.
The garden rooms visitors walk through each have a theme. As the seasons change MOBOT offers classes, events and festivals.
In the fall, the Japanese Festival and the Scented Garden are highlights. In winter, camellias bloom in the Linnaean House and in February there is an orchid show.
The Japanese Garden, Seiwa-En is a fourteen-acre strolling garden and the Margaret Grigg Nanjing Friendship Garden is a scholar's garden. It is filled with traditional plants such as pines, bamboo, willows, plum trees, forsythia, hibiscus, bonsai and cymbidium orchids.
The Kemper Center for Home Gardening, on 8.5 acres contains 23-residential scale gardens and an information center where classes are offered.
In 1960 the geodesic Climatron was built to display 1500 tropical plants. The structure, inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller is filled with palms, passionflowers, carnivores, water gardens, orchids and sea life from the Amazon. The temperature is kept at a humid 70 to 85-degrees to mimic their native habitat.
Other gardens include: Carver Garden, Victorian Garden, Children's Garden, Family Vegetable Garden, Fruit Garden, Ottoman Garden, Kemper Missouri Native Shade Garden, Gladney Rose Garden, Strassenfest German Garden, Blanke Boxwood Garden, Shoenberg Temperate House and Aquatic Gardens.
Dr. Peter Raven, director since 1971, built MOBOT into an institution that includes the original Shaw Garden (MOBOT.org), the Sophia Sachs Butterfly House (butterflyhouse.org), the Shaw Nature Reserve (shawnature.org), Missouri Botanical Garden Press (mbgpress.info), Earth Ways Center (earthwayscenter.org), Tropicos (tropicos.org), Center for Plant Conservation (centerforplantconservation.org) and Botanicus (botanicus.org) a free, Web-based encyclopedia of historic botanical literature.
Raven’s passion for conservation has led to MOBOT staff in Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Tanzania, Congo, Madagascar, and Vietnam. There are sustainability and horticultural preservation programs in 40 different countries.
Raven believes that it will take a generation of children learning about nature, being out-of-doors, and becoming inspired, to keep the planet healthy through conservation science – the jobs and careers of the future.
Born in Shanghai, Raven collected beetles and grew caterpillars into butterflies by the age of 6. In Catholic school, in San Francisco, he ran track, learned Latin and collected rare plants. A Ph.D. in plant biology prepared him for writing 20 books and 500-scientific papers.
In his 35 years at MOBOT the garden staff grew from 85 to 350 and the volunteers grew to over 1200. (There are almost 200 volunteers at the butterfly house alone.) MOBOT has 35,000 members with a budget of $22-million. The $20-million research center now has 122,000-volumes and a graduate student program.
MOBOT’s horticultural plastic recycling project accepts garden plastic such as pots and flats, granulates them onsite and has them formed into plastic landscape timbers.
MOBOT scientists identify 200 new plant species every year from plants that arrive daily, wrapped in newspapers written in the languages of their home countries.
The Kemper Center website has to be one of the most visited horticultural sites on the Internet.
Plants of Merit (mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Merit.asp) and Plant Finder (mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Alpha.asp) are renowned resources for gardeners around the world. Several blogs for home gardeners are available at
www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/hilight.asp and the botany site is mbg.net.
No matter which of the gardens you prefer to visit, MOBOT is a worthwhile St. Louis area vacation destination.