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Missouri Botanical Garden
Celebrates 150 Years

Photos by Craig Presnell
Click to enlarge

Englishman Henry Shaw was a businessman who found great success in St. Louis, Missouri. One of his many real estate acquisitions was a large tract of land southwest of the city where he built a country home. Shaw traveled widely and, in 1851, he visited the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Crystal Palace and Chatsworth. He returned home determined to create a garden on his property equal to Kew. In 1859 he opened "Shaw's Garden" to the public.

The same year, he made a will that would create the Missouri Botanical Garden as a charitable trust upon his death. He died in 1889 and the Missouri Botanical Garden was established. The 150th Anniversary is dated from the year Shaw opened the garden to the public.

In the 1880s, Shaw engaged his favorite architect George I. Barnett to build a smallish brick greenhouse to house palms, citrus and other tropical plants. Called the Linnean House, it is flanked by three reflecting pools that contain tropical waterlilies in the summer. At the time these photos were taken, the tropicals were just being set out as the ponds are unheated.



Three more formal lily ponds are part of the garden's "central axis", two long and rectangular and the large round home of Victoria. These ponds are graced by bronze sculptures by Carl Milles, most notably the three angels with musical instruments in the center. This year Chihuly glass onions juxtapose the giant water platters and angels.


Ponds and bog features dot the garden. Not all the colorful accents are living.



More Chihuly

Spider lilies

Hardy waterlilies

Day lilies

The Climatron was the first geodesic dome conservatory, based on the concepts of Buckminster Fuller, and opened in 1960. The first major construction project at the garden in 50 years, it marked a clean break with the past in its futuristic design.



The Japanese Garden, Seiwa-en, covers 14 acres (5.7 hectares) and its lake is 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares). Designed by Koichi Kawana, it was dedicated in 1977.








Tropical aquatics are prepared for planting in the garden in a state-of-the-art propagation house. Raised tanks have individual temperature controls. 

Each year propagator Steve Wolff raises enough Victorias to share with St. Louis' other legendary gardens, Tower Grove Park and the Jewel Box.




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