It's the birthday of the man who created the Missouri Botanical Gardens, also known as "Shaw's Garden," or "Hank's Garden" - I'm talking about none other than the great Henry Shaw who was born on this day in 1800.
Shaw is easily in the top ten of any list of great American botanical philanthropists.
Shaw is commemorated on the St. Louis Walk of Fame with this epitaph:
Shaw is celebrated on the St. Louis Walk of Fame with this epitaph:
"Henry Shaw, only 18 when he came to St. Louis, was one of the city’s largest landowners by age 40. Working with leading botanists, he planned, funded and built the Missouri Botanical Garden, which opened in 1859. Shaw donated the land for Tower Grove Park and helped with its construction. He wrote botanical tracts, endowed Washington University’s School of Botany, helped found the Missouri Historical Society, and gave the city a school and land for a hospital. Of Shaw’s gifts, the Botanical Garden is best-known. Said as early as 1868 to have “no equal in the United States, and, indeed, few anywhere in the world."
In addition to the Botanical Garden, Shaw built the Linnean House in 1882. It is the oldest continuously operated public greenhouse west of the Mississippi River and was initially designed to be an orangery, a place to overwinter citrus trees, palms, and tree ferns.
And, there's a little story I love that reveals Shaw's regard for the plants in his garden.
It was posted in the St. Louis Star and Times on April 5, 1933:
"Mr. Shaw was escorting a lady through his gardens, pointing out objects of interest.
The visitor said: " I cannot understand, Sir, how you are able to remember all of these difficult names."
He replied, with a courtly bow, "Madame, did you ever know a mother to forget the names of her children? These plants and flowers are my little ones."