In five inches of snow, with hand warming chemical packs in my pocket, I saw 90 different varieties of witch hazel sparkle. The Missouri Botanical Garden staff horticulturist Sara Murphy cares for this huge planting. They were in full flower, in the snow, in February in St. Louis.
Sara knows how to make them look their best. If last summer’s leaves hang on too long, she and volunteers “de-leaf” the entire shrubbery. I don’t mean rake. Sara even teaches a class on how and when to go out to pluck the leaves off so the flowers look their best.
The Children’s Garden looked a bit forlorn in the snow. But the discussion was hot: how do professionals balance garden with playground. The garden’s new horticulturist Tyler Prestien sees that using lots of Missouri native plants can do that. Along a fence is a cool planting of a favorite lowlands vine that basket weavers use called Supple Jack.
But the cozy highlight of the day was in the rare book room, mostly books published before the Linnean system of plant classification existed. (In 1758 a Swede named Carl Linaeus proposed the classification systems we still use for living things.) A first edition of Darwin (value $400,000) was the high point of this book tour.
Here is a slide show starting with the earliest of plant books from 1480. Thanks to Linda Oestry for sharing these and her knowledge in the Peter Raven Library.