My Love Affair with the Missouri Botanical Gardens
A Hidden St. Louis Treasure
Being raised across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO, it is common to work and play there. St Louis has many great attractions and events. One of my favorites is the Missouri Botanical Garden. Hidden away in the historic Shaw Neighborhood, Henry Shaw founded the garden in 1859 and as a result, it is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
I visited the gardens for the first time over 25 years ago and immediately fell in love with it. With so many varied garden styles, I couldn’t get enough of all the photographic possibilities. Still a novice photographer, program mode on my Nikon 35mm received the greatest use. No wasting those precious film frames. Fast forward many years and the rise of the digital camera era. With this visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, I am feeling like a kid in a candy shop with $5 in my pocket! (Or maybe $20?)
To my delight, a Chihuly glass sculptures display filled the gardens. I love the colors and the creativity that each sculpture represents. The main fountain and pools are a perfect display area for these bright ‘bulbs’.
The Climatron is the first air-conditioned greenhouse and first plexiglass geodesic dome design built-in 1960. There are no internal supports inside the dome. It is one of the top 100 architectural designs in US history. With plant life representing lowland rainforest from the Amazon to Hawaii and Java to India, it houses over 2800 plants, including banana, cacao, coffee and wild and rare exotic plants. Although it is air-conditioned, don’t be surprised at the high level of humidity (85%). It’s a rainforest environment after all.
There are two levels inside the Climatron. Ramps lead to the higher level and an overlook to the plants below. As well as, a simple cave type tunnel behind one of the two waterfalls. Also on the lower section, there is a river life aquarium with exotic fish.
The ornamental pools in front of the Climatron stretch farther back than pictured. They are a photographers delight. If you enjoy shooting water lilies and dragon flies, plan to spend some time there!
Near the Climatron is the Shoenburg Temperate House. With themed areas, the overall design reflects “Mediterranean climates.” This façade is from the St. Leo’s School in St. Louis. Honestly, the Temperate House is one of my favorite spots in the botanical garden. I love the structures and tiles. Surprisingly, I did a model photo shoot here in my 35mm film days.
The Linnean House built-in 1882 is the oldest continuously operated greenhouse west of the Mississippi. Although transformed over the years, it is still true to its original design. Built as an orangery by Mr. Shaw, today it houses camellias, cacti and various tropical and citrus plants. In the latest renovation, they added heated floors to help in the cold winter months.
Botanical Gardens remind us to slow down & be present in life
Up to this point, you might be thinking are all the gardens indoors? Not at all! There are acres and acres of outdoor botanical gardens. See a map of the gardens here.
The Boxwood Garden is full of gorgeous vibrant raised flower beds and an elegant gazebo. I love this garden. In fact, a shot from this garden graced the cover of my 2017 calendar. Look at the purples and oranges!
The Kemper Center for Home Gardening is a fun area. Designed to be a resource for local gardeners, they offer classes, advice, a weekly blog and lots of inspiration. With so many varieties of plants and blooms, you can linger for a while and maybe learn a thing or two. This shot is one of my favorites from the day. I walked in and WOW!
The Rose Garden, near the Linnean House, is filled with blooms of every color. Unbelievably, this garden is 100 years old with 900 rose bushes of 250 varieties. This Chihuly sculpture is a vibrant addition to the classic beauty of this garden!
In a corner, is the walled Ottoman Garden, a new display that I enjoyed. Its gorgeous sundial is based on one in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul! What is significant about this garden, is that there are no surviving examples of this style garden. Last seen between the 16th and 19th centuries in what is now Turkey, it is a perfect addition to this historic botanical garden.
Another highlight on a hot summer day is the play fountain. The fountain cycles its spray height up and down. Fun for children (and adults), as well as a great way to cool down. I’ll admit it, I get my feet wet every visit!
My other favorite garden to photograph and find solitude is the 14 acre Japanese Garden. In the back area of the botanical garden, this beautiful pond is surrounded by trees, sculptures, gorgeous blooms and a waterfall. Every season features different flowers and trees in bloom. Without a doubt, it is a garden masterpiece.
Seiwa-en – Garden of pure, clear harmony and peace
All in all, these are some of my favorite photography spaces at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Be certain, there are other gardens there I didn’t feature here. I left them for you to discover and explore!
Don’t hesitate to add Missouri Botanical Gardens to your list when you visit St. Louis.
You will be delighted you did!
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