Finding England in the Garden

If the Royal Wedding has you in the mood for a truly British experience, you can find several at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Garden has strong British roots, as it was founded by Englishman Henry Shaw. Shaw was born in Sheffield, England and came to St. Louis in 1819 when he was just 18 years old. He became a successful businessman and made three trips to Europe before ultimately settling down in St. Louis and building a home here.

Thanks to Shaw’s heritage, and other English influences, a walk through certain areas of the Garden can feel like a visit to the English countryside. Here are a few you can explore on your next trip to the Garden.



Tower Grove House

Shaw commissioned English-born architect and friend George I. Barnett to design Tower Grove House, his country home, in 1849. The house has an Italiante influence, a style popular among Americans who traveled to Europe in the Victorian era. It has undergone significant renovations since Shaw’s day, but it was restored to reflect his original country home in 2005. Visitors can see Shaw’s 19th century furnishings and other items, including a unique rosewood upright piano from England.


Photo by Phoebe Mussman

The Kresko Family Victorian Garden

When Shaw built his country home, he also decided to surround the estate with a garden. As with Tower Grove House, the garden has changed and expanded of the years, but the Victorian Garden, east of Tower Grove House, resembles an early garden built by Shaw. The garden’s aesthetic was the height of fashion in England in the Victorian Era. The style of landscaping was introduced in the early 1800s, when new varieties of flowers were being developed and new species were coming into England from different parts of the world. Some notable features are “plant tapestries,” or intricate, colorful combinations of flowers, foliage, and succulents. They are often laid out in ornate designs.



English Woodland Garden

Opening long after Shaw’s time, the idea for the English Woodland Garden came to the Garden from another England native, John Elsey. Elsey, former Curator of Hardy Plants, brought the idea from England. The Woodland Garden opened in 1976.  It uses the English style of informal displays of a variety of different plant specimens from around the world. It follows the pattern set by English gardeners and has three layers of vegetation. The garden features azaleas, wildflowers, and hydrangeas under the shade of trees like oaks, maples, and tulip treats, with serene babbling brook flowing through the grounds. It has grown from 1.5 acres to more than 3 acres since it opened.
Learn more about these English-inspired sites and plan a visit to see them for yourself on our website.


Catherine Martin
Public Information Specialist

Leave a Reply