The Missouri Botanical Garden began in the mid-nineteenth century as the garden of businessman Henry Shaw (1800-1889). He later gave his garden to the city of St. Louis so that visitors could learn about plants and horticulture.
It was no ordinary garden. Shaw designed it in the English landscape style.
Before he drew up his plan for the garden, Henry Shaw traveled to England to visit famous gardens.
According to Carol Grove’s book Henry Shaw’s Victorian Landscapes his stop at Chatsworth, Derbyshire in 1851 turned out to become a turning point for him. Shaw wanted to build a garden back home much like Chatsworth, with its many gardens, rockery, shrubs, water features, and extensive lawn.
Head gardener Joseph Paxton rose to national fame as a glasshouse designer, landscaper, and writer after his work at Chatsworth.
To this day in the history of English gardens Chatsworth, with its three hundred year old history, remains the Mecca for landscape design
Shaw’s plan included English garden writer John Claudius Loudon’s suggestion for the landscape, which meant flower gardens, an arboretum, or collection of trees, and a frucitetum, or orchard. The ideas in Shaw’s landscape originated in the English gardenesque view, prominent in nineteenth century Victorian England.
NY nurseryman Andrew Jackson Downing, the premier nineteenth century American landsape designer, borrowed heavily from Loudon’s work in his own books and articles.
Today the Missouri Botanical Garden remains a place to learn about plants and a source of inspiration for gardeners at any level of experience.