Missouri Botanical Garden Members’ Board: Growing the Garden Since 1939

Enacting the mission of the Missouri Botanical Garden would not be possible without the dedicated support of the Garden’s many members. In fact, without members, the Garden as we know it today may not even exist.

In 1939, the Garden confronted significant financial woes. The strain of the Depression and the challenge of maintaining the Garden’s facilities greatly depleted Henry Shaw’s bequest, and the Garden was forced to eliminate staff and reduce offerings. Financial shortfalls also repeatedly delayed the opening of Shaw Nature Reserve, then called the Arboretum.

Fortunately, the Board of Trustees had a plan. They established committee called “Friends of the Garden” to raise funds for the completion of the Arboretum as a Garden fiftieth anniversary project. The Friends were dispatched to solicit donations, and they yielded incredible results. The Friends raised $25,000—more than $200,000 in today’s economy—which gave existing resources the boost needed to open the Arboretum in 1941.

Friends of the Garden Picnic at the Shaw Arboretum (now Shaw Nature Reserve), 1963

The Friends of the Garden officially transitioned from a fund committee to a volunteer leadership organization in 1946, renaming themselves the Members’ Board. From that time forward, the Members’ Board has provided crucial financial support and volunteer power to the Garden. In addition to the millions of dollars raised in support of horticulture programs and building expansion through galas, events, and garden-themed travel, the Board is also responsible for many popular activities for members and the public, including floral show premieres and previews, the Member Speaker Series, Henry Shaw’s annual birthday celebration, Best of Missouri Market, and the triennial Garden Tour. 

Members’ Board members also contribute thousands of volunteer hours each year supporting events such as Eggstravaganza and Ghouls in the Garden, which foster meaningful connections between the Garden and the member community. These events share the Garden’s mission in creative ways while educating visitors about the importance of plants in our lives.

Photo by Bethany Ottens

For more than 75 years, the Members’ Board has been growing the Garden with contributions of time, talent, and treasure. You can help them support the Garden by participating in the annual Holiday Wreath Display and Silent Auction. Visit the Ridgway Visitor Center to view festive wreaths designed by some of St. Louis’s top florists. Then make your silent auction bid to take one home.


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