When you think about green space in St. Louis, the image that pops into your head is most likely of Forest Park, which, for you non-St. Louisans, is essentially the equivalent of our Central Park (except that it’s 500 acres bigger- but who’s counting?). And while I can certainly wax poetic about the benefits of having Forest Park so close to campus (free art and history museums, free science center, and, most importantly, free zoo!), it’s actually not my favorite green space in St. Louis. This distinct honor actually goes to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, a place that I’ve been enjoying since I was a little kid.
But what makes the Botanical Gardens so wonderful? For the sake of full disclosure, it could be the fact that my mom has a degree in horticulture and so I’ve been dragged to more gardens/arboretums/random garden stores on the side of the road that I care to remember. However, my interest in the Missouri Botanical Gardens extends beyond my forced interest in the world of flowers. The Botanical Gardens are actually incredibly beautiful, and, unlike Forest Park, there are tons of flowers! They also have a biosphere where you can explore the fauna of the tropics. They also have a lovely Japanese garden and a wooded area where you can explore the local botanical wonders of Missouri (lots of oaks and ferns tbh). Additionally, their rose and tulip gardens are lit and when in full bloom are definitely some of the prettiest sights in St. Louis, maybe across the Midwest.
My roommate and I ate brunch in the garden, enjoying the beautiful blossoms.
In truth, my love for the Botanical Gardens has blossomed (oh the puns!) over the course of the past four years, when I have gotten an opportunity to explore the gardens by myself. Over the past few weeks, I have faithfully gone to the gardens every Wednesday night to enjoy their free concert series, as well as the extended hours they have on Thursday nights.
This past Thursday, I actually had one of the best experiences in the botanical gardens that I’ve ever had. I went there to enjoy the extended hours, planning to just wander and soak up the sights. Things went according to plan until I reached the Japanese Gardens, which is the furthest point away from the entrance. It was here that disaster, in the form of an unpredicted thunderstorm, struck. My friend and I didn’t mind the rain so much until the sky got so dark and this guy on a golf cart rode by yelling (and this is basically a direct quote), “Take cover! Find shelter! There’s thunder and lightning that struck within a mile of us!” before driving off to presumably warn other unsuspecting guests. At this point, we decided we probably should actually find shelter, so we stopped in a gazebo to wait out the storm.
very hard to tell that it’s raining, but I promise it was. Also note the caution tape strung across the entrance that we ignored.
Unfortunately, I only lasted about 30 minutes waiting out the storm until I got very, very hungry. I convinced my friend to make a run for it with me, so after several wrong turns, muddy patches, and random strangers cheering us on, we made it back to the visitor center safe, albeit drenched. Despite returning home damp and a little hangry, it was nice to have an unexpected adventure in such a familiar place.