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Flowers for the Soul: Kitchen Garden in the Heart of the Park

This article by Forest Park Forever Horticulturist Patrick Greenwald sheds some light on the work that went into this summer's display by the Boathouse. Designed in the cottage garden style, the Boathouse garden beds contained 40 different plants and were a hit all summer long with both Park visitors and passing pollinators.

An article in the St. Louis Star Times on July 14, 1948, was entitled “St. Louis, a city with a soul and it’s all because of its flowers.” This article goes on to explain that the amount of flower gardens throughout the city was so memorable an experience that it caused many visitors to tell the City’s head horticulturist that these flowers gave this old town a soul. This was at a time when 3 million flowers were produced for planting in park grounds and along roadways throughout the city. To me, this story spotlighting those who worked so hard to produce and maintain millions of plants a year has inspired me to take a different look at how I approach gardening: I garden to inspire. I hope that by bringing to life the garden at the Boathouse, I can inspire those who enjoy its beauty to create their own gardens at home in the future. 

This past May, our hardworking volunteers once again transformed the annual display garden in front of the Boathouse – this time into a glorious showcase of 40 different types of annuals and herbs all arranged in the cottage garden style. Can you believe that 40 different types of plants were repeated throughout the display?! Typically, annual designs include 3-5 types of annuals, often planted in rows, groups and other formal configurations. But with 40 different types of plants in the display, we chose a cottage garden style, interspersing groups of each plant throughout. 

The cottage garden style originated in England during the Tudor period of the 1400s, but did not become what it is today until the Victorian period of the 1830s. By this time, cottage gardens, typically contained a varied mixture of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and fruits, and were noted to be adorned with new plants recently discovered from all around the world. Our display followed this lead, including unique plants like Uruguayan firecracker plant (Dicliptera suberecta) and Bolivian Sage (Salvia oxyphora), old-fashioned favorites such as clary sage (Salvia viridis ‘Marble Arch Mix’) and zinnias (Zinnia ‘Bernary Giant white and wine’), herbs like lavender (Lavandula ‘Sweet Romance’) and rosemary (Rosmarinus ‘BBQ’), and ornamental peppers (Capsicum ‘Purple Flash’).

Like a true cottage garden, our garden was planted around a real cottage – the Boathouse! It also contained a picket fence, carefully crafted this past winter by Eric and me on some of the colder days. I added the finishing touches of aged copper post tops, the way-signs on each fence terminal and the thatched roof birdhouses. 

We hope that you enjoyed the homespun feel of our summer display garden as much as our hummingbirds and other pollinators enjoyed the diversity of the flowers this year. A key to a successful garden is time and patience – and a lot of time was involved in the design, installation and maintenance of this garden. With the deadline for next year’s display design looming near, I am already planning summer’s flower design so that once again, the garden will come to life, inspiring those who get to relax and enjoy nearby.