Columbians’ Green Thumbs

This article is presented in partnership with Visit Columbia.

The four-season beauty of Columbia can be found throughout the town in its private lawns and public gardens. Here’s where the green-thumbed go to find inspiration.

The Mizzou campus doubles as the Mizzou Botanic Garden, where trees and carefully curated plants supply both natural beauty and educational opportunities. A downloadable garden map highlights 18 special areas on campus, including a butterfly garden, the Memorial Union Annual Flower Garden, and Native Missouri Tree Collection. College students aren’t the only scholars who benefit from the garden; the Mizzou Botanic Garden features programs and resources specially designed for younger children. Thanks to the efforts of the Mizzou Botanic Garden staff and volunteers, the University of Missouri has been named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

It’s not unusual to see men and women, outfitted in business attire and athletic shoes, taking a lunchtime stroll through Shelter Gardens. Families enjoy picnics on the manicured lawns. Many brides and grooms have said “I do” in the gazebo. Nature lovers enjoy outdoor concerts held there in the summer. The five-acre garden sits adjacent to Shelter Insurance’s corporate headquarters and features 300 varieties of trees and shrubs, and more than 15,000 annuals and perennials. A replica 19th-century schoolhouse, Vietnam veterans’ memorial, and a fragrant garden for the blind are among the highlights. Frequent visits reveal a changing landscape as every plant cycles through its season and different areas of the gardens burst with glorious color.

Other gardens you should see include:

• the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Gardens, which has a sculpture as the centerpiece and can be reserved for outdoor weddings. This is at the trailhead for the MKT Trail, as well.
The Jefferson farm and Garden is a an outdoor classroom with the purpose of teaching people about food and agriculture. It also offers workshops and special events.
Chance Gardens in nearby Centralia was built by the founder of Chance Company. A massive stone arch and a wishing well are attractive, and the gardens are next to Centralia Historical Society Museum.

After admiring all the beautiful blooms, you’ll want to shop to enhance your own gardens, and Columbia has some exceptional opportunities:

Superior Garden Center has been beautifying the local landscape since 1985. The garden center, located just west of Columbia, is a six-acre wonderland where you’ll find hardy specimens, many of which are native to Missouri. People who don’t have the patience to nurture a sapling to maturity will appreciate Superior Garden Center’s selection of large, shade-making trees.

You’ll find lovely plants and flowers (and a sensational assortment of succulents!) at Helmi’s Gardens, but that’s just the start. There are glories galore, including antiques and vintage collectibles to enhance your home, as well as containers and outdoor décor to punch up your patio. Chickens, ducks, peacocks and a lazy trio of cats live in harmony at Helmi’s and add to the one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

Between March and October, serious gardeners head to Strawberry Hill Farms for bedding and garden plants. The farms, located south of Columbia, feature a generous selection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and fruit and vegetable plants. Novices will appreciate Strawberry Hill Farms’ online guides featuring planting and care instructions for deer-safe gardens, butterfly gardens, herb gardens, and more.

Every plant purchased from Giving Gardens comes with something extra: the satisfaction you get from helping others. The commercial greenhouse is part of CMSE (Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises), and provides meaningful work to people with disabilities while supplying healthy plants to the customers who shop there. The business offers a wide variety of plants for sale, including succulents, tropicals, hanging baskets, and Missouri natives. Add to your botanical expertise by digging into some of Giving Garden’s hands-on classes.