Wasn’t that a lovely film? I haven’t seen the whole movie yet, but as I was researching the things we wanted to do for the Master Gardener Study Tour for 2013, clips of that classic 1944 film with Judy Garland kept coming up.
Why did we choose St. Louis for a study tour? Well, we were looking for a place that is far enough away to give our Georgia MGEVs a reason to get on the bus with us, but one that wasn’t so far that the distance would be overwhelming. Some place that would give us ample time on the coach to get to know one another, yet not so long that we’d be sick of each other by tour’s end. And, of course, a city that had great gardens.
I did not know a lot about St. Louis, other than that the Gateway Arch was there. I remembered reading an article or seeing a news feature about St. Louis’ green initiatives and developing a greener city. That idea prompted me to do some research. One of the first things I read about was Gateway Greening, a nonprofit that brings together the resources and people to promote community development, food security, and greening projects on abandoned land. This was exactly the kind of place we were looking to study.
So I did some more digging, and realized that the world-renowned Missouri Botanical Garden was there. I was familiar with their Kemper Center for Home Gardening, having used it for online research about plants. But, wow! I did not know about the history of this garden, the oldest one in the United States (begun in 1859 and operated continuously since), and its founder Henry Shaw. A successful businessman who retired before he was 40, Henry was a visionary and true plantsman. He traveled the world and brought back ideas (and plants) to build a botanical garden and, later, Tower Grove Park, a 280-acre park with thousands of plants and trees. Henry Shaw didn’t just appreciate a beautiful garden, he also understood the need to begin a research facility for scientists. He also founded the School of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis.
The more I read about St. Louis’ garden history, the more excited I was about doing a study tour there. Then, I happened across an events blog for a cemetery in St. Louis that was so intriguing. Belle Fontaine Cemetery, founded in 1849, was a cemetery developed in the era of the Rural Cemetery movement. This movement, begun in the Victorian Era, envisioned the cemetery as a community resource and emphasized the beauty of the landscape. With something like 87,000 burials, this beautiful cemetery is a fascinating repository of history and architecture over a rolling landscape of 314 acres, planted with 1,100 shrubs and 4,000 trees.
So, these are a few of the highlights that we will be exploring on our 2013 Cultivated Spaces: Gardens of St. Louis study tour, leaving Georgia on April 29 and returning May 4. Sheri and I will be your tour co-leaders and Tavia Henderson with Southern Touch Tours will be making tour arrangements for us. If you have traveled with us before, you will know that she does a spectacular job.
If you are a current, active MGEV, you can do some extra work and receive Advanced Training credit in the YCG category. If aren’t interested in credit, it’s still going to be a fabulous tour. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org