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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Victorian Garden, Stumpery, and origami sculpture: Missouri Botanical Garden, part 2

June 24, 2021

It’s Pollinator Week, so I’ll kick off Part 2 of my visit to Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) with this bee-attracting patch of coneflowers behind one of the administrative buildings.

What a pretty little garden of echinacea, allium, and amsonia in a hidden-away spot.

Victorian Garden

In contrast, the high-traffic spaces in the Victorian District encompass some of the garden’s oldest structures, including Tower Grove House, the country home of MOBOT founder Henry Shaw.

A historically accurate Victorian garden displays geometric beds of colorful annuals and shrubs in a red-brick plaza.

A white marble statue of Juno, acquired by Shaw in 1885, holds court in the center.

Another Victorian staple was the pincushion garden, so named for its circular shape. A number of round beds in a strip of lawn were prepped but unplanted. But a couple were already done, like this pretty star-shaped design of turquoise and rosy-hued succulents. Got a lot of succulent cuttings? Here’s your solution!

At the edge of the Victorian District, an onion-domed observatory tower (the upper story was closed) makes a handsome viewpoint among stately specimen trees.

Origami sculptures

Jennifer and Kevin Box’s origami sculptures, part of the temporary exhibition Origami in the Garden, entertained us throughout the gardens. Here’s an equine variation on rock-paper-scissors.

Other origami horses were prancing across a lawn.

Historical homes and Shaw’s mausoleum

Tower Grove House was built in 1849 as Henry Shaw’s country residence, and it’s where he planned the botanical garden after retiring with his hardware-store fortune. Today it’s a museum, but due to covid it was closed during our visit.

Shaw constructed his own mausoleum just a few dozen yards away…

…and posed for the marble effigy that lies within. Shaw died in 1889.

A gatekeeper’s cottage, Herring House, stands nearby at the garden’s former entrance.

A charming cottage garden surrounds it, but it’s closed to visitors, so I could only peek over the hedge.


Another Victorian design, coming back into favor — I’ve seen a few on my garden travels — is the stumpery. I really enjoyed MOBOT’s Stumpery, a shady woodland garden that incorporates old logs, sections of tree trunks, and upturned root balls.

Scrolled cross-sections of tree trunks resemble curled strips of paper among ferns and hosta.

A bony log at the end of one path seems to stand in as a bench.

Displayed on a slope, upturned and tentacled tree roots appear amid lush foliage. My photos really don’t do these justice. They look bigger and more dramatic in real life and are quite beautiful as natural sculpture and a reminder of trees that have passed on.

Grove of dawn redwoods

An impressive group of living trees along another path provided welcome shade on this hot day. These giants are dawn redwoods.

Their reflections in the mirrored windows of an adjacent building create the illusion of a double colonnade.

The mirrored windows also make an irresistible selfie spot.

English Woodland Garden

In the English Woodland Garden, we sat in the shade for a while, enjoying green dappled sunlight.

When we emerged, an origami squirrel gathering an origami acorn greeted us.

Up next: The beautiful and serene Japanese Garden. For a look back at the Climatron conservatory, Ottoman Garden, and other gardens near the entrance, click here.

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