The Missouri Botanical Garden, also
known as Shaw's Garden, is one of the top three botanical gardens in the
world. The 79-acre urban oasis was founded in 1859 and is one of the oldest
botanical institutions in the country and the first botanical garden of its
kind to be established in the United States. The Garden is on the National
List of Historic Places and in 1976 it was designated a National History
Landmark by the National Park Service because it possesses national
significance in commemorating the history of the United States. Highlights
include a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, the Climatron geodesic dome
conservatory, a children's garden including a pioneer village, and Henry
Shaw’s original 1850 estate home.
Henry Shaw, a native
of Sheffield, England, who came to St. Louis in 1819, created the Missouri
Botanical Garden. Shaw operated a hardware store in near the riverfront
selling goods to the people of St. Louis, soldiers, farmers, and the
pioneers making their way west. In 1839, at the age of 40, he was one of the
largest landholders in the city and was able to retire. Shaw began to take
extended trips to expose himself to the arts, languages and cultures of the
great civilizations of Europe. In 1851, Shaw made his final trip abroad in
order to attend the first World’s Fair in London. On this trip, he visited
the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the gardens at Chatsworth, the most
magnificent private residence in Europe. Shaw was so successful as a
businessman he was able to retire by the age of 40. On a trip back to
England he visited Chatsworth, the most magnificent private residence in
Europe. It was during the visit to Chatsworth that Shaw was inspired
creating his own garden on his properties in St. Louis.
Henry Shaw was
determined to have not just a pleasure garden but also rather one of the
finest botanic gardens in the world. The difference is that a botanical
garden has facilities and personnel for scientific research in addition to
beautiful grounds and plants. Historically, botanical gardens served the
same role in the collection and study of plants that zoos played in the
collection and study of animals. To achieve this goal Shaw consulted Sir
William Jackson Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew,
Dr. George Engelmann, a well-respected amateur botanist from St. Louis, and
Harvard University’s Asa Gray, America’s leading naturalist. Shaw opened
his garden to the public in 1859. It grew in the European tradition of
horticultural display combined with education and the search for new
knowledge. For the rest of the life, the creation and care of a garden and a
park on his property would be his principle occupation. Shaw also gave St.
Louis Tower Grove Park, an unusual Victorian walking park, and Shaw Nature
Reserve, some 35 miles west of St. Louis. Shaw died in 1889 and in his will
to created a trust to manage the property for the purpose of running a
Botanical Garden continues the traditions that Shaw began. The Missouri
Botanical Garden an internationally acclaimed center for botanical research
and science education.
Climatron conservatory has become a symbol of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The Climatron was built in 1960 to replace the crumbling Palm House that
housed the Garden's palm and cycad collection since 1914. This geodesic dome
rises out of the surrounding greenery and incorporates the principles of R.
Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic system. In 1976 it was
named one of the 100 most significant architectural achievements in United
States history. The Climatron houses 1,200 species of plants including
bananas, cacao, coffee trees, and a collection of orchids and epiphytes. The
natural tropical setting (photo left,) complete with pools and waterfalls,
give a true tropical rainforest and is home to a variety of animals,
including tropical birds. The Shoenberg Temperate House is a spacious
conservatory that complements the Climatron and displays plants unique to
the temperate regions of the world.
Missouri Botanical Garden has a variety of different gardens for the visitor
to enjoy. The 14-acre Japanese Garden (photo left) is the largest Japanese
strolling garden in the Western hemisphere and features a four-acre lake,
waterfalls, streams, water-filled basins, and stone lanterns. hildren
especially like feeding the giant “koi” (Japanese carp.) The Grigg
Nanjing Friendship Garden features an authentic Chinese pavilion, bridge,
and moon gate, accented by traditional stones, carvings, water features, and
plantings. The Cherbonnier English Woodland Garden is a quiet, informal
garden that attracts people and wildlife alike. The William T. Kemper Center
for Home Gardening features twenty-three distinct residential-scale gardens
contained in a spectacularly engineered eight-acre design. The Doris I.
Schnuck Children’s Garden introduces children to the significance of
plants and nature in fun and innovative ways.
A portion of the original 19th century Garden
surrounds the Tower Grove House, Henry Shaw’s 1849 Victorian country home
that was named for its significant tower overlooking a grove of oak and
sassafras trees. The house was renovated in 1953 and furniture and materials
once belonging to Shaw were located and returned. A number of structures and
landscaping (photo left) have been added to the area to recreate features
built by Shaw in the Garden and Tower Grove Park. The Kresko Family
Victorian Garden is a majestic example of the height of fashion in England
at the time Henry Shaw was planning his gardens in St. Louis. The
entertaining and puzzling Kaeser Memorial Maze recreates a maze constructed
by Henry Shaw in the 1800s. The Mausoleum Garden, surrounded by a
wrought-iron fence, contains the mausoleum that is Henry Shaw’s final
Ridgway Center is the main visitors’ center and entrance to the Garden and
contains the Garden Gate Shop, Sassafras cafe, educational facilities, art
exhibits, and the Spink Gallery, which features a beautiful display of
ceramics. The Linnean House, built by Shaw in 1882, is the oldest
continuously operating greenhouse conservatory in the United States and
contains the Garden’s camellia collection.
Missouri Botanical Garden
9 am to 5 pm daily,
except for Christmas
Open until 8 pm on
Wednesdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day
The grounds are open at 7 a.m. Wednesdays and
Saturdays for early morning walkers
Admission is charged to the Missouri Botanical
Garden. Additional admission is charged for some special events and flower
shows. See the Missouri
Botanical Garden website for details.
Location: The Missouri Botanical Garden is located
southwest of downtown along I-44. See the Missouri
Botanical Garden website for detailed directions.
N 38 36.988
W 90 15.579
Learn more about the
St. Louis area.
- Use the official site of the Missouri
for answers to all
the questions you may have.