I just returned from a wonderful fall vacation to the Missouri wine country. The wine country is located along the Missouri River and extends about as far west as the state capitol; so we decided to use Jefferson City as our base and explore the countryside from there. Missouri’s two great rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri (which meanders about 1100 miles from its starting point in Montana until it meets the Mississippi), combined with its myriad of state and national forests, make for some breathtaking landscapes. We had hoped to see some of the beautiful fall color the area is famous for, but a warm October meant continuing clear, mild, sunny days with relatively little leaf change. Consequently, annuals still looked their best, alongside asters, mums and ornamental grasses, and there were plenty of migrating warblers staying in the area to please this inveterate bird watcher.
Carnahan Garden occupies the space between the exquisite 1871 Neo-Renaissance Governor’s Mansion and what is arguably one of the country’s most handsome state capitol buildings; with all three attractions overlooking the Missouri River, the setting is storybook pretty. The garden began as a WPA project in the 1930s. (I don’t know if the small red brick building, seen on the right side of the image below, is part of the original garden–although it is certainly typical of the fine construction characterized by WPA structures–or whether it is an outbuilding constructed at the same time as the Governor’s Mansion.) Unfortunately, money ran out to continue the WPA work, and it wasn’t until 1945 when Juanita Donnelly, wife of the then Governor, decided to recussitate the project. Under Mrs. Donnelly’s direction, a sunken garden, terraces, walkways, and a reflecting pool were added.
Although no literature is publicly available on the garden plan, you can see that a small, formal planting of evergreens encompasses the reflecting pool. The beds surrounding the lawn are left available for abundant planting of annuals–this year, it was white and lavender Salvia farinacea (Mealycup Sage). I only noticed a few perennials tucked in among the shrubs, but I was pleased to see several modest plantings of Buddleia Lo and Behold™ ‘Blue Chip’ (Butterfly Bush), a new dwarf buddleia cultivar, located behind the cedar seating benches. I think all public gardens should experiment with new varieties to allow their visitors to see what’s currently available for use in their own gardens.
The walkways are lined by a pleasant selection of shrubs, including Ilex (Holly), Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea, possibly the ‘Alice’ cultivar), and some viburnums that I presume are Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Willowwood’, since they were blooming again in the fall. Several nice varieties of trees form the backdrop for the shrubs, including Acer (Maple), Magnolia, and Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood), the state tree of Missouri. (In another Missouri post, on the Runge Conservation Center, I will have more to say on dogwoods and dogwood anthracnose.) Carnahan Garden provides a restful interlude in the midst of the city, as well as some well-designed examples of plants that succeed in Zones 5 and 6.