Missouri Botanical (Shaw) Gardens Is For Tree Lovers Too

Two weekends ago we were looking for some local entertainment and ended up taking a little trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It is on our short list of great St. Louis attractions, and even though it isn’t free like the zoo, the science center, or the art museum, we go there at least once a year. We live in St. Charles now, which is just outside of St. Louis County, so we don’t get a reduced rate or free days like we did when we lived in Hazelwood, but it doesn’t matter. It is well worth the full price of $8 for adults. Children under 12 are free, but the Children’s Garden will add $5 to the bill. Still, for about twenty bucks, it is well worth it.

As soon as I walk through the main building I feel a little lighter and happier, like the worries of the world have just vanished. It feels right. It is so nice and clean and Disneyesque. I can’t help but think that someone needs to build a hotel next to the gardens to capitalize on what they have going. Of course, I’m biased though. I love the outdoors, plants, gardens, and trees.

As soon as you walk out of the main building and head down the path to the right, you are greeted by large trees. I noticed Tulip Poplars and a big Sycamore right away, but they are mixed in with every tree you can think of. The beauty is that they are big, they are old, and they are labeled (by people who I trust).

This path sets the tone at the front of the gardens with big trees like the sycamore at right.

This path sets the tone at the front of the gardens with big trees like the sycamore at right.

The trees are set among themed gardens and are usually together in a small group or grove. The Children’s Garden, which is an excellent recent addition, is built in and around a grove of Osage Orange trees like you have never seen. Usually these trees are bushy, with short crooked trunks. Sometimes, they are called “hedge apple” or just “hedge” for short, because they will form a fence-like impenetrable barrier. They are rarely trees that you would look at and say “I could make some good lumber out of that”, but these are a different story. One, in particular, that I photographed is 36″ in diameter at 8′ from the ground and has 16′ or more of good trunk. “Unbelievable!”  I say.

This osage orange is 36" in diameter at 8' from the ground. Notice how almost straight the trunk is (not normal for osage).

This osage orange is 36″ in diameter at 8′ from the ground. Notice how almost straight the trunk is (not normal for osage).

Throughout the park the story is the same. Big trees mixed in with beautiful gardens are a constant, except of course, in the Japanese Garden, where everything is more petite. Back by the English Garden are the biggest trees; Ash, White oak, and a record Basswood.

Keep moving! Nothing to mill here. All of the trees are so small in Japan.

Keep moving! Nothing to mill here. All of the trees are so small in Japan.

The formal English Garden uses lots of plants, but they are surrounded by plenty of trees.

The formal English Garden uses lots of plants, but they are surrounded by plenty of trees.

One group that stood out during our visit was the Black Gums or Tupelo. Three smaller trees hung over the path and were buzzing with the sound of thousands of bees. I have heard about Tupelo Honey and I got a chance to hear it being made (the girls were not as excited as me to be under those trees). There were a few beehives a short distance away, and you could smell the honey in the air.

These black gum (tupelo) trees were buzzing with the sound of thousands of bees.

These black gum (tupelo) trees were buzzing with the sound of thousands of bees.

As always, we didn’t see everything because the park is so big, but we got to fly through most of it in a couple of hours. If you really wanted to take in everything there, it would take a full day, and I am sure you would still miss something. Even so, I highly recommend that you visit this world-class park. You will not be disappointed.

Here are some other photos of the park for your enjoyment (click on any photo to view the slide show):

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

3 responses to “Missouri Botanical (Shaw) Gardens Is For Tree Lovers Too”

  1. gcotton78 says :

    We love the Botanical Gardens!

  2. Mickey McCann says :

    Hi Scott. I just read your latest installment and when I read about the osage orange it reminded me of something. Here is a picture of a giant one at my dads plumbing shop in leavenworth ks. It is supposedly one of the largest in the state. It may actually be on record as the largest. I figured you’d be into it.

    Hope alls well with you. I’m good. The jointer is fantastic. Stupendous even.

    I just was talking to a friend I get wood from who was telling me about some kind of disease the ash trees out here are getting where the center of the crown dies and the rest of the tree follows. Was wondering if you’d seen it at all in Missouri. It would suck if ash became hard to come by. It’s a nice tree too. It was one of the few that didn’t totally get screwed up by the hurricane winds last year.

    Mickey McCann 410.533.1794 http://www.mickeymccann.com

  3. Cindy says :

    I love the “gardens”!!! I take the kiddos about once a week to check out the ever-changing blooms. They love it, but it’s mostly for me … I’m with you, you walk in and the world seems miles away. We should do a concert together 🙂

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