Fun at the Botanical Garden

Missouri garden offers summer exhibitions and more

Buddha art

This Buddha was created by Nicki de Saint Phalle as a gift to a Japanese art collector who has purchased many of her sculptures. The exhibit, Nicki in the Garden, continues through October 31 at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden/Heather Marie Osborn

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The world-renowned Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis offers 79 acres of blooms, new exhibits, free concerts and events and more this summer. The garden is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Roses, the favorite flower of garden founder Henry Shaw, bloom all summer. Climbing varieties cover the circular white fence and trellises of the Gladney Rose Garden. The Lehmann Rose Garden features the newest rose hybrids.

A new addition to the Garden is the Niki pop art exhibition of 40 imaginative sculptures created from fiberglass, glass, mirrors, ceramic tiles and semi-precious stones. Many of the works are meant to be touched or explored from the inside out. The exhibition is open daily and on “Niki Nights” from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays.

The popular Whitaker Music Festival outdoor concert series returns on Wednesday evenings through August 13. Music begins at 7:30 p.m., with free admission after 5 p.m. The Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden is open on concert nights and free from 5 to 7 p.m.

Throughout the summer, Great Green Adventures family programs will be offered inside the 2-acre Children’s Garden from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Summer day camps and programs for all ages are offered in June and July; call 314-577-9506 or visit the Web site at

The Arbor Day Foundation’s interactive traveling exhibit, “Exploring Trees Inside and Out,” presented by Doubletree, allows visitors to climb into a large oak, explore the inside of an oversized leaf, crawl through a giant log and more through September 1 inside the Brookings Interpretive Center.

At the Garden through Aug. 17 is Seasons of the Heartland, an exhibition of stunning photos of Missouri and Illinois landscapes, from the pages of Midwest Living magazine.

A narrated tram tour offers a way to see much of the grounds in just 30 minutes. Hop off at Tower Grove House for a free guided tour through Mr. Shaw’s country estate. Stroll through the pincushion gardens, maze and gorgeous flower beds of the newly renovated Doris Waters Lichtenstein Victorian District, to be dedicated June 13. Nearby, more than 1,250 varieties of daylilies reach peak bloom in June and July. Head to the Cherbonnier English Woodland Garden for a cool and shady respite under the trees, then explore the Japanese Garden, Seiwa-en, to find sacred lotus rising from the muddy lake waters, blooming in June.

On the Fourth of July, admission is free to all visitors. Visit for free also on July 24 in honor of Henry Shaw’s 208th birthday, with old-fashioned entertainment outdoors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Start the day at Trailnet’s free “Petal Pedal” bicycle ride from the Garden to neighboring Tower Grove Park from 10 to 11 a.m.

In August, giant Victoria water lilies spread several feet in diameter in the reflecting pools outside the Climatron® conservatory. Flower beds and hanging baskets at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening showcase summer annuals and perennials. The outstanding vegetable garden might inspire you to enter NatureSweet’s “Best Homegrown Tomato Challenge” on Aug. 16.

Need ideas or plants for your home garden? Browse several shows and sales hosted by local plant societies throughout the summer for roses, bonsai, lilies, daylilies, African violets, iris, orchids, carnivorous plants or selections for a rock or water garden. Visit the Garden’s Web site at for dates. The Missouri Botanical Garden Daylily Association offers plants from the Garden’s own displays on Aug. 2, and the Henry Shaw Cactus Society’s big show and sale is set for Aug. 9 through 17. Bring empty pots accumulated from summer gardening to the Plastic Pot Recycling collection center, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at 4500 Shaw Blvd.

Summer draws to a close with the annual Japanese Festival, held Labor Day weekend. A sumo-sized line up of cultural activities includes wrestling demonstrations, taiko drumming, tea ceremonies, and candlelit walks through the Japanese Garden at sundown.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis. Admission is $8 adults (St. Louis City and County residents, $4 adults, $2 seniors). Children 12 and under are free. Special rates apply for some events and amenities. Visit for details or call the recorded line at 314-577-9400.