Location: 4344 Shaw Blvd Saint Louis, MO 63110
Size: 79 acres
My first exposure to the Missouri Botanical Gardens was through the MoBot Plant Finder, which I used extensively to look up zone-appropriate plants for planting plans as a student. And even though I used multiple plant identification search engines for my assignments, MoBot ranked as a top favorite because of its level of detail, organization, and its rating/comments option. Thus, my connection to the Missouri Botanical Gardens date back a few years, even before I’d ever seen the grounds.
So when I found out that the Missouri Botanical Garden was actually in St. Louis, it was imperative that I visit. The Missouri Botanical Garden is actually the nation’s oldest botanical garden. Within the 79-acre grounds are a number of smaller, carefully-manicured gardens, most of which act as centers for botanical research, demonstration/trial gardens, and science education. The Missouri Botanical Gardens have had such a long, rich history with St. Louis–dating back to 1859–that the gardens play host to numerous annual cultural festivals, including the much-looked forward to and signature event, The Best of Missouri Market–an event that coincided with my visit.
Hosting over 120 Missouri local and regional food producers and crafters, this three-day market draws massive crowds of over 25,000 people each year. I started my visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with an early morning visit to the Best of Missouri Market, eating and picking my way through the massive white tents. Artisans, horticulturists, bee keepers, chocolatiers, jewelry makers, blacksmiths and more had stalls set up, all trying to keep up with the crowds that steadily built up as the day crept closer to noon.
The major Missouri staples I noticed throughout the market were the wines, honey, sausages, and sweets. The favorites of the treats I indulged in included the St. Louis favorite ‘Ooey Gooey Butter Cake’, a spiced chocolate bar, and the most delicious and decadent pumpkin walnut goat cheese.
Hot cider in hand and sated by the market, I then set off to explore the rest of the garden’s grounds, beginning with the Climatron, “the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory, incorporating the principles of R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic system.” Within the greenhouse dome is a lush, hot and humid tropical rain forest filled with exotic and rare plants. It’s a really phenomenal exhibit and a treat to escape from the 50 degree weather outside. Unfortunately, it was so humid that it fogged up my camera lens that I wasn’t able to take any indoor shots.
Apart from the Climatron, the Missouri Botanical Garden is home to numerous gardens that span a variety of functions and styles: there are 23 demonstration gardens on display in the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, a series of formal gardens and tall hedge labyrinth, international gardens–the Japanese garden with koi was my favorite–, and the Victorian District, highly manicured gardens that exemplified the age of Henry Shaw, the founder of the gardens.