Container Gardens


As the weather began to change in my garden I eagerly set about planting my favorite colorful annuals in my containers.  I do pots, boxes, hanging baskets, tubs, it is my favorite garden activity trying for the perfect container of flowers.  A container seems so much in my control, the dirt, the size, the placement all arranged and hopefully will provide perfect results.  Yet each fall I think, “Oh if I just had one more container, perhaps a bit bigger, it would be just right.”  Traveling to public gardens made me realize my idea of a container is much, much too small.

There are amazing “containers” in St. Louis, MO.  The Missouri Botanical Garden, MBG, has the Linneas house (named for Carl Linneas, father of plant classification) built in 1882 and in continuousoperation since. A charming brick and glass house with a single path through the center, it has doors on each end that can be opened on perfect days to let visitors wander through.  The highlight of this facility is a camellia collection dating back to the 1930’s.  The camellias begin blooming in December and continue through April.



Also in the MGB is the Climatron, a geodesic dome opened in 1960, providing ½ acre under glass.  It is adjoined by the Temperate house and together they contain an amazing collection of plants.  The Climatron simulates a rain forest with tropical specimens.  The Temperate house showcases warm climate plants from five regions of the world.

Nearby the MGB in St. Louis’s Forest Park is the Jewel Box Conservatory.  It is open again this year after an extensive renovation to this Art Deco structure built in 1936. The main display room is 50 feet high, 55 feet wide and 144 feet long, containing about 7,500 square feet of floor space.  This structure was supported in part by the WPA funds in the 1930’s.  Inside are water fountains, tropical plants and changing displays of annuals creating a fairy tale garden enclosed under glass.

In simple terms the greenhouse conservatories scattered around the world provide a protected space for public gardens to showcase exotic specimens. Conservatories keep things cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather.  Yet there is an enormous importance to the role of these glass houses as described by Dr. Peter H. Raven, President of the MBG “We depend on plants and plants depend on us.”  The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the United States. The MBG is known for its scientific research and Tropicos, a plant database with over 1 million specimens.

The founder, Henry Shaw, retired from the hardware business in 1840 and went traveling. His visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew England inspired him to create his own garden in St. Louis. He believed all citizens needed access to beautiful spaces and information about botanical treasures that could be a part of their home gardens.  Conservatories provide a great service in continuing this mission.

If you aren’t traveling to St. Louis anytime soon consider a visit to AZ’s big container, the Biosphere 2, with more than 3 acres under glass.   Ideal growing conditions are illusive but our glass house conservatories contain a good chance of protecting our plants which in turn may protect us.

In the mean time maybe I could get just one more container for my garden?

originally published


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