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Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis: A National Historic Landmark

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The Climatron Conservatory at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

The Climatron Conservatory at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a national historic landmark in St. Louis. Our friend Mary, an avid gardener, was happy to show my mother and me this amazing garden in October of 1998.

The garden was developed by Mr. Henry Shaw, who came to St. Louis in 1819. As an Englishman, he loved the gardens that he had known in Chatsworth and Kew and was greatly inspired by them. Mr. Shaw was able to retire at the age of 40. He had made a great amount of money outfitting settlers with necessities prior to their trek out west.

He opened his garden to the public in 1859. To this day it is utilized for research and education as well as a glorious place to leisurely spend time wandering among the collection of diverse plantings.

Mr. Shaw generously donated his home and garden to the City of St. Louis, and everyone is now able to enjoy the fruits of his love and labor.

The Climatron Conservatory

When first entering the garden, one's attention is drawn to viewing a long rectangular reflecting pool filled with water lilies. It is also the perfect display site for many sculptures. Numerous additional sculptures are discovered as one walks throughout the spacious grounds.

Many different types of blooming water lilies are seen anchored in this water. One large type of water lily has a diameter of 4–6 feet across! You can see this in one of the photos that I took.

At one end of this pool is the entrance from which one enters the garden. Opposite it, is the Climatron Conservatory, which was one of the first geodesic domed conservatories built in the United States.

Inside this domed structure is a tropical forest complete with flowing water and even a waterfall. Numerous plants that thrive in this warm and humid environment are to be seen and enjoyed. Blooming orchids and bromeliads punctuate the masses of lush green and speckled tropical plants of every type description.

Mixed among this collection is a surprising collection of brightly colored birds that call this environment their home. Butterflies complete this snapshot of what might be found in nature.

Moorish Garden

Inside what is called the Temperate House is a garden featuring plants that grow in warm and dry regions. Some of these plants include carnivorous varieties.

Moorish in design, orange, blue and white tiles were utilized to form an eye-pleasing pattern of creation around a central fountain. Blooming begonias in pots add color to the other lush surroundings.

Our friend and guide Mary is seen looking through the doorway into this portion of the temperate garden. It was a bright and sunny day.

Henry Shaw's Legacy

Henry Shaw enjoyed residing in his "country" home surrounded by his gardens. Now they are all a part of the Missouri Botanical Gardens which all visitors to this lovely place can enjoy. What a beautiful legacy Mr. Shaw left behind him!

His home is called the Tower Grove House, and it is furnished with Victorian furniture authentic to the time. The house is open for tours.

Henry Shaw so loved this spot on earth that he made provisions for it to be his final resting spot. A mausoleum was constructed with glass windows and the sculpture sitting atop his coffin makes it look as if Henry is comfortably looking outside at his beloved garden. Mr. Shaw died in 1889.

Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden consists of 14 acres including a 4½ acre lake.

Among other things to be found here are the following:

  • Wooden walkways and other paths
  • Traditional plants
  • Waterfalls
  • Bridges
  • Koi (also known as carp)
  • Ducks

It is a peaceful and serene place within the botanical garden in which to spend time.

Distinct Areas Within the Garden Environs

There were many different areas in which one could spend time within this garden. There is even a tram that can be taken through parts of these recreational grounds.

  • Seasonal festivals add to the excitement and fun of visiting these gardens.
  • A Maze has been created where one can wander through the designed and trimmed hedges.
  • There is the English Woodland Garden. Imagine walking on shaded paths beneath tall and medium-sized trees with a babbling brook accompanying one. Wildflowers and other shade-loving plants are dispersed throughout this natural setting.
  • There is the Chinese Garden. Just like one would expect to see, the bridge, moon gate, pavilion, rocks, and water do not disappoint one's expectations.
  • The Lehmann Rose Garden consists of a profusion of colorful beauties showing every color and hue imaginable. It is actually an award-winning test garden.
  • Sculptures are interwoven throughout the Missouri Botanical Garden. They add interest to the natural features of this impressive garden.

We spent many hours there and could not begin to see it all. The total area to be seen consists of 79 acres! If you like gardening and enjoy visiting different gardens as you travel, my suggestion would be to allow an entire day or even more to see all of this historic one in St. Louis.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is well worth all the time you can spare to stroll through the magnificent grounds absorbing some of the well-planned beauty that excites all of the senses.

Wonderful video showing many areas of the garden and its mission.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods