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The Missouri Botanical Garden is a world-class botanical garden founded in 1859.
Also known as "Shaw's Garden," it is located just south of Interstate 44. There is ample free parking at the Garden itself, as well as in parking lots about a block to the west. Usually you can park at the Garden or along the street without difficulty, but during special events (such as the Japanese Festival on Labor Day weekend), parking can be difficult to find. Currently children under 12 years old can enter the garden for free, while anyone over 13 will pay $8 (unless they are a member of the garden).
The garden has numerous points of interest and specialized gardens throughout its 79 acres. Although a map of the garden may look to some like a daunting walk, the pathways are all almost all paved concrete or asphalt, and extemely well maintained. It takes the better part of a day to fully explore the Garden, but you could feasibly walk through it in a couple of hours. For those who can’t walk easily or just want a quick tour before exploring on their own, there is a guided tram tour during every season except winter.
The garden boasts an extensive history dating back to its founding by Henry Shaw, a botanist and philanthropist who immigrated to St. Louis from England in 1819. The Linnean House is the oldest greenhouse west of the Mississippi, and houses the camellia collection (flowering in January and February). The Climatron, a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome housing tropical plants, is perhaps the most famous building in the Garden. Tower Grove House (Henry Shaw's country home), and the administration building on the southeast side (utilizing Henry Shaw's city home, which was moved piece by piece to the country estate) are among others of considerable historic interest.
An example of one of the specialized gardens is Seiwa-En, the largest Japanese Garden in the United States. The Missouri Botanical Garden displays many other types of gardens, like Victorian, Ottoman, English Woodland, Chinese, and smaller gardens showcasing techniques for home gardeners.
Attractions in the Garden for children include a dedicated Children's Garden open April through October, the ability to feed colorful koi fish in the Japanese Garden’s lake, and various water features. A number of sculptures, including some by Carl Mille in the lilypad pools in front of the Climatron, and others by glass artist Dale Chihuly (like the large hanging chandelier in the atrium of the main entrance), are also found throughout the Gardens.
On-site food amenities mainly consist of the Sassafras Cafe in the visitor's center, which was the first certified "green" restaurant in Missouri. The Garden's gift shop, called "The Garden Gate", has a wide assortment of gardening related items, as well as books, clothes, jewelry, stationary and other special items.
There are currently two major annual events at the Garden: The Japanese Festival held every Labor Day weekend, and the Best of Missouri market held every October. If you attend one of these events, be prepared to contend with large crowds and a lack of nearby parking.
The Garden also has other affiliated off-campus sections, including Shaw Nature Reserve, (located about 30 miles west on Interstate 44), the Earthways Home in the Grand Arts district (a showcase for green living), and the Butterfly House in St. Louis County. Aside from its recognition as a historical landmark and tourist destination, the Garden is also known among botanists and others in the scientific community as a world-class research facility.
The garden is a wonderful place to spend a day or a few hours, and is a respite from hurry and bustle. Visit the Garden's official website at www.mobot.org for more information.