Awesome Oldest US Botanical Garden

We never pass up the opportunity to walk through an arboretum or botanical garden, especially when it is the oldest in the United States! The Missouri Botanical Garden is the most AWESOME one we have ever seen! You could spend hours walking this amazing park like setting. And then you could come back again and again to be inspired, relaxed and entertained!

The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. The Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display. It is widely considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world and we can see why! It is magnificent!

The spectacular blown glass sculptures throughout the garden are by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. The 928-piece Missouri Botanical Garden Blue Chandelier is suspended in the atrium.

There is so much to see you should really allow a minimum of several hours to enjoy the gardens! But if you don’t have that much time, go anyway! The air is so fresh and clean, the plants so beautiful and lush, you will be re-energized for sure. There are over 30 different gardens as you wind your way through the botanical garden. Each with a different theme and plants to match the themes. Gardens with names like Japanese, Iris, Chinese, English, Bulb, Rose, and Children’s Garden.

When you enter the Climatron, a glass geodesic domed greenhouse, the  temperature and humidity change is dramatic. Your glasses and camera lens fog up immediately. You know you have been transported from the cool St Louis fall weather into the tropical, jungle like weather that allows these exotic plants to thrive.

Paths abundantly planted with huge varieties of plants and flowers in a tropical rain forest theme wind their way under the 70 foot tall dome which covers more than an half acre.

bananas

Did you know that banana plants are not really trees? It’s because they lack a woody trunk. The dark purple part hanging from the plant is the bud where the flowers bloom and then will produce a bunch of bananas.

Did you know that each stem flowers and produces fruit only once? It’s true! After a bunch of bananas is harvested, the stem dies. A new stem begins to grow underground which produces a new plant and the cycle begins anew.

screw-pine

The Screw Pine is actually not a pine tree at all but gets it’s name from the spiral growth habit. The aerial “roots” or branches act to stabilize the tree as it grows and becomes more top heavy.  The leaves of the Screw Pine are woven into mats, baskets and hats. The flowers of the female trees are used as a source for perfumes.

Waterfalls Galore! The waterfalls, as with everything about the Climaton, are beautifully landscaped to create a natural feeling. The sounds of the waterfalls are gently heard as you round the bends on the paths throughout the tropical garden. Each waterfall has a unique look and feel to it.

buttress-roots

Soil in the rain forest is soft, loose and shallow.  Due to this soil condition, many trees have adapted by growing large root systems called buttress roots. These extended root systems help support the tree and soak up water and nutrients from the soil. Hollows form between the buttress roots creating homes for small animals.

More blown glass by artist Dale Chihuly. Graceful, amber-colored Sunset Herons are displayed inside the Climatron in ponds full of lily pads.

Henry Shaw is best known as the creator of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Shaw was born on July 24, 1800 in Sheffield, England, which had been a center of iron and steel manufacturing for centuries.

In 1819, Shaw set off for America to build and expand his father’s business. He landed in a small French village on the Mississippi called St. Louis. Shaw set up a hardware store in St. Louis, selling high quality cutlery and other metal products. It was a good time to be in the hardware business in St. Louis.

By the age of 40 Shaw was one of the largest landholders in the city and was able to retire. At this young age he had the freedom to travel and to pursue his greatest interest, botany. Shaw traveled extensively and upon his return to St. Louis in 1851, he engaged architect George I. Barnett to design and build Tower Grove House, which became his estate.

On the land around his home he designed and built what would become the Missouri Botanical Garden. As the garden grew and became more extensive, Shaw decided to open it to the general public in 1859. To this day, many who visit the Missouri Botanical Gardens still refer to it affectionately as “Shaw’s Garden.”

All decked out for Halloween in the Garden! A giant spider, skeletons and a witch mingle perfectly with the iconic flowers and vegetables of Fall.

The Japanese Garden is always one of our favorites. The peaceful lakes with the high arched bridges, fish swimming in ponds and the Zen gardens. These “dry landscape” gardens, often called a zen garden, create a miniature stylized landscape by the careful arrangement of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes. Gravel or sand, which is raked in different designs, is used to represent ripples in water.

Who knew fish like cucumbers? We met up with a couple standing on the bridge feeding the fish bits of cucumber left over from their picnic lunch. The fish were crazy about this veggie treat and lined up like little birds with their mouths wide open! So wide in fact, you could see into their mouths and all the bones of their throats!

glass-arches

Blown glass sprout out of the top of arched gates leading into the garden. From a distance they look like bright yellow balloons waiting to be twisted into animal shapes.

Appetite for lunch? After walking miles of beautiful gardens, Sassafras Grill offered some wonderful choices for a light, yet satisfying lunch. A Wedge Salad with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, chicken and pickled onions and a Cobb Salad loaded with traditional goodies! What a lovely day in the most amazing botanical garden we have ever seen!

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