From the Archives: Silver and Gold

The Olympic Games celebrate the world’s premiere athletes, with the best of the best taking home gold, silver, or bronze. In many respects, floral shows in the first half of the 20th century were Olympic events for gardens like ours — a chance to shine on a national stage. And a quick trip through our archives shows we did not disappoint when it came to bringing home some hardware.

A Gold Medal Year

The Missouri Botanical Garden has been much lauded over the years, but 1928 was a particularly golden year.

In March, the Garden set up a display of orchids and pitcher plants at the National Flower and Garden Show in Louisville, Kentucky. The display must have been pretty impressive, because it was awarded the gold medal despite not even being formally entered into competition.

The Garden would later snag three more gold medals (and a silver) at the American Orchid Society’s National Show in New York City. The honors included a special gold medal for an educational exhibit showing the life of an orchid from seedling to flower. That exhibit would go on to win two more gold medals at national exhibitions in 1929.

Nepenthes Exhibit
A display of Nepenthes (pitcher plants) at the American Orchid Society Show in 1928. The exhibit was one of several from the Garden awarded a gold medal.

An Award-Winning Water Lily

Former Garden superintendent George H. Pring could be considered a horticultural Olympian. Pring was an avid hybridizer of both orchids and water lilies during his 50+ years at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

In 1922 he accomplished quite a feat by creating the first tropical white day-blooming lily known to horticulture. Nymphaea ‘Mrs. George H. Pring’ would take home the silver medal from the Society of American Florists and Gardeners.

The award-winning water lily is still part of the Garden’s living collection nearly 100 years later. Its beautiful blooms can be found each summer in the Pring pool on our Central Axis.

Pring Medal
Silver medal awarded to George H. Pring for creating the first tropical white day-blooming water lily, Nymphaea ‘Mrs. George H. Pring’.

The Henry Shaw Medal

The Garden doesn’t just win medals; we hand them out too.

The Henry Shaw Medal was created by Garden trustees in 1893. Here are some of the original criteria for taking home the “metal”: “said medal is awarded for a plant of decided merit for cultivation, not previously an article of North American commerce, and introduced to such commerce by the exhibitor during the year in which said award is made.”

The scope of the award has expanded through the years, and now honors those who make significant contributions to botanical research, horticulture, or conservation.

The Garden also created the Greensfelder Medal in 1980 to honor those who contribute to urban improvement, garden and park planning, and landscape planning.

Cassidy Moody – Digital Media Specialist

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