Oct 12, 2015

Beating the heat at the Missouri Botanical Garden

I was hoping to have a new laptop computer I could take with me on the road by now, so I could catch up on my blog posts during the week when I have down time.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, so I keep getting further behind on things I’ve been meaning to write about. 

That said, I’m pulling this post out of the way-back machine from this summer when The April, The Kiddo and I took a weekend trip to Saint Louis to take The Kiddo to Six Flags.  Fortunately for my few faithful followers, I will not be posting about Six Flags.  But, for a change of pace, I did think our stop at the Missouri Botanical Garden was noteworthy.

Saint Louis is blessed to have what is considered the oldest continuously operating botanical garden in the United States, and it’s reportedly still one of the best.  Located in the Shaw neighborhood just off of Interstate 44, not far from The Hill, the garden covers nearly 80 acres of city real estate.  Once you’re immersed in the site, you won’t even feel like you’re in a major metropolitan area.   

I'm getting pumped up about touring the Missouri Botanical Garden.  The Kiddo needs no more convincing.
Touring a botanical garden is not normally my idea of a must-see tourist attraction, but I happened to win some free passes, so I figured why not give it a shot?  Despite the fact that we chose the hottest weekend of the summer to go, it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience for all three of us.    

Apparently, the thing to do every year at the garden is attend the annual Lantern Festival at night when so many of the giant lanterns on display throughout the grounds are lit up.  Who knew?  As is so often the case, my timing was off, making us unable to fully appreciate what we had stumbled upon.  Still, we found plenty to “ooh and ahh” about on our self-guided walking tour.

Usually, when I see elephants it's not a good thing. 
For instance, it didn’t take us long to find the porcelain elephant lantern/fountain near the entrance of the garden as you leave the visitor’s center.  This is just one example of the size and intricacy of the many lantern structures that dot the landscape throughout the garden.

We also stumbled across this proud peacock all by its lonesome along one of the many paths traversing from garden to garden.   

But our favorite giant lantern – and maybe the largest on the grounds – was the magical floating horses outside of the Spink Pavilion.     

One of the first areas of the Missouri Botanical Garden most people will discover is the Linnean House, which is the first building to the left once you pass through the visitor’s center.  A part of the site since 1882, it’s noteworthy for being the oldest continuously operating greenhouse west of the Mississippi River. 

Inside the Linnean House
The Linnean House has quite a variety of plants, from Camellias to cacti, from conifers to citrus trees.  It’s a good place to start your tour.  Plus, for us, it was an early indoor escape from the midday scorching from the sun. 

Did I mention we picked one of the hottest and most humid days of the year to take this tour? 

I found shade!!
One thing I appreciated about the property as a whole is how many different types of gardens – representative of so many parts of the world – they managed to fit into the place and get to flourish in a Midwestern climate. There was simply no way we were going to get to all of them in one afternoon, but we did manage to visit the rose garden, Magnolia Grove, Japanese Garden, Victorian Garden (with box maze) and English Woodland Garden, among others.   

We spent most of our time, though, inside the Climatron.  Yes, ironically, to beat the Midwestern heat and humidity, we escaped inside a geodesic dome where the artificial climate is set to that of a tropical rainforest.   

The Climatron has been a major attraction of the garden since 1960; it’s the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory.  The fact that is has no support beams throughout the structure is pretty impressive, and it allows the visitor to truly become immersed in a lush, tropical setting.

A walking path zigs and zags you past waterfalls, over bridges and around a huge variety of exotic and rare plants and trees. 

Although we didn’t have enough time to experience the Missouri Botanical Garden in its entirety, I’m certain The April and I are going to return and devote a full day to exploring the entire grounds.  And we’ll be better prepared next time to whatever Mother Nature plans for the day. 

Because, let’s face it, all that walking and exploring on a hot summer day can be tiring.   

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