“Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” 🌺Hans Christian Andersen
When I think of sightseeing overseas, I tend to “stay away” from anything that reminds me of Nature because having lived in Dominica for a long time, I have had my share of Nature (and a pretty generous one). But when I got to St Louis and was repeatedly told by all locals that the Missouri Botanical Garden was a must, I decided to put it on my “to do list” and to check it out before the end of my stay there.
And so said, so done. After having gone there, I can definitely testify that this is one of the best gardens I have ever seen, and for many reasons.
1. The History Behind the Creator is Simply Fascinating.
The Missouri Botanical Garden was not built out of mere necessity to have a botanical center in the city, but was rather created from the passion of one single man who was fascinated by and dedicated to botany. When he was still a teenager, Henry Shaw, a British native, was sent by his father to find, recover and sell a shipment of steel goods that was lost in New Orleans. Shaw ended up finding the missing shipment, but by that time, there was no buyer to whom it could be sold. So, in the spring of 1819, Shaw purchased a trip ticket on a steamship called the “Maid of the Orleans”, and after a 40-day trip, landed in a small French village in the Mississippi called St Louis, where he set up his own hardware store to sell that shipment. He started selling high quality metal products, including cutlery. Back then, St Louis was only 50 years old, and it was a great time for such a business to bloom in the city. Over the next 2 decades, St Louis exponentially grew, and with hard work and dedication, so did Shaw’s business. By the time he was nearing 40, Shaw had a successful career in the hardware industry and decided to retire and focus on his lifelong passion: botany. Shaw built his house, the Tower Grove House, and then built an immense garden on the land around his estate. As the garden grew bigger, he decided to open it to the public, and it became the Missouri Botanical Garden (also known as Shaw’s garden). You can learn more about the history of Henry Shaw here.
2. The Garden Holds the world first geodesic dome greenhouse, the Climatron: a geodesic dome is a massive structure shaped like a thin-shelled hemisphere and designed following the pattern of a geodesic polyhedron.
A geodesic polyhedron is made of multiple triangles that are joined together to form a sphere. These triangles ensure structural rigidity and help the entire formation to withstand high amounts of stress (that could come from heavy loads, weather conditions, etc.). The Climatron Greenhouse of the Missouri Botanical Garden is the world first geodesic dome greenhouse and hosts approximately 1,500 plants. Its dome also inspired the domes in the SciFi movie “Silent Running”. To learn more about greenhouses like I did, click here.
3. It contains at least 10 individual iconic gardens: every corner of the Missouri Botanical Garden tells a different story, and there are no two areas that look alike. In every garden, you learn something different and encounter different plant species; and because you can’t complete your entire visit in one day, you absolutely want to go back to the Missouri Botanical Garden after every visit. Discover Shaw’s orangery (the Linnean House), admire the Climatron and Reflecting Pools, walk around the Biblical Garden, or smell the roses at the Gladney Rose Garden.
4. It is the site of multiple cultural festivals all year long: one of the great things that I love about the Missouri Botanical Garden is the fact that it hosts a lot of cultural shows and exhibitions all year long. In fact, there are at least 10 signature events and exhibitions that the garden is known for. Depending on the month where you’re planning your visit, you can spice up your experience by attending one of the unique seasonal shows. Right now, the Missouri Botanical Garden is preparing for its Japanese Festival, which will also highlight the 40th anniversary of its Japanese Garden. Oh, and did we mention that it is the largest Japanese Garden in North America?
5.There is More to Do than Watching Beautiful Plants and Flowers: the Missouri Botanical Garden offers workshops for adults and kids, gardening sessions, community gardening classes and even job and volunteering opportunities for all those who are interested in science and nature conservation. It is also a current site for ongoing research in the field of botany. There is also a St Louis Master Gardener Program, which, for 34 years, has been grooming and forming master gardeners in areas including Horticulture, Plant Medicine, and in many areas outdoors on the grounds. This initiative is done in collaboration with the University of Missouri Extension.
🌷5 Tips on Maximizing Your Garden Visit (For any garden in the world!):🌷
Visiting a garden when traveling is not as tacky as someone might think, and in fact, it is perhaps the best opportunity to take the most amazing pictures when on vacation! (Beautiful flowers, who can beat that?) Here are my top 5 tips on maximizing your garden visits, regardless of where you go in the world!
- Do your Research🔮: for a garden such as the Missouri Botanical Garden, there is a lot to do and a lot to see. If you have limited time, do your research and identify the gardens that you’re more interested in and spend more time there. If you have a lot of time, you can decide to do a full day visit or even return on another day.
- Target the “Free” Daily Tours✔️: why pay for something you can get for free? a great way to really learn about the garden in speed time is by attending free tours! Virtually every garden that I have visited offers these, and usually twice a day (morning and afternoon sessions). So it would be useful for you to know what time those tours are, and work on getting there on time. Here is one of my top tricks on how to best manage your time when traveling.
- Look out for Special Exhibitions🍀: when I visited the Missouri Botanical Garden, a special exhibition called “Garden of Glass” was on, with displays of unique flowers sculptures made of fused glass by artist Craig Mitchell. A lot of the awesome shots I took there are featured on this blog post. If you plan on attending a special exhibition like this, it is crucial that you choose to attend during the night because the sculptures are better highlighted when they light up and you get to see their full beauty. I was short of time, so I only went there during the day. ☀️
- Check out Seasonal Shows🌻: seasonal shows tend to put an emphasis on something specific about the garden that you’re visiting. Right now, the Missouri Botanical Garden is preparing for the Japanese Festival, and their Japanese garden, which is the largest Japanese garden in North America, will be at the center of the attention! So this is somewhere you want to be if you’re anywhere close to St Louis or Missouri! They also have other signature events such as Spirit in the Garden (October) and Garden Glow (November – January).
- Dress the Part!👗: this never gets old and I will say this over and over again. When you’re a tourist, you take pictures, and there is no point in taking pictures if they don’t look good! I could have worn anything else to go to the garden that day, but instead, I decided to wear this…
Think this happened by chance? Nope. And just so you know… again, I got amazing reviews. Just like I did with my Dragon Tattoo here!
Have you been to the Missouri Botanical Garden? What were your favorite moments? Drop it in the comments section below!
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein