The Grand Garden Experiment

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Published on: May. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

heating and cooling system. Hardware was forged from recycled metals, the lumber was salvaged, and wood finishes were created from ground earth and stale beer.

While the upstairs houses Shaw Nature Reserve’s staff offices, the downstairs offers a glimpse into the past from eight different characters’ perspectives. The “People on the Land” exhibit is a joint project between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Botanical Garden and gives an account of human interactions with the land in the lower Meramec Valley over the past 12,000 years. Visitors can experience testimonials from an Osage Indian woman, a sharecropper, and the original owner of the Bascom House, Confederate Colonel Thomas Crews, among others.

The Whitmire Wildflower Garden

A network of paths near the Bascom House leads visitors through the Whitmire Wildflower Garden. This 5-acre tract includes more than 400 species of native plants from a variety of Missouri habitats. The garden is an inspiration to the thousands of visitors who learn about native gardening techniques for their own backyards.

“The Whitmire Wildflower Garden is a great place for people to see native landscaping in action,” says Scott Woodbury, the reserve’s chief horticulturist. “We have demonstration prairies, wetlands and woodlands for those with larger landscapes. For the smaller home gardener, we have a native shrub and vine planting, a native perennial garden, a rock garden, Osage Indian garden, shade garden, and a rain garden.”

Shaw Nature Reserve offers a native landscaping program throughout the year called Native Plant School, which is held monthly at the garden. Class schedules can be found at or in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s course catalog, which can be requested by calling (314) 577-9441.

Tours and Trails

One of the best activities at the nature reserve doesn’t require scheduling or equipment and can take from 10 minutes to an entire afternoon, depending on your interests. There are 14 miles of self-guided tours and hiking trails, and each one offers a unique setting.

Trails vary in length from three-quarters of a mile to 2 1/2 miles. Whether you’re interested in an early morning jog by the Pinetum—a collection of pine, spruce, fir and cedar that boasts thousands of daffodils each spring—or just want to take a gentle stroll to the Bluff Overlook Trail, the Shaw Nature Reserve offers one of the best collections of hiking trails in the state.

Of special note is the Prairie Trail, with its spectacular views from an observation deck high above

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