Carnahan Garden in Jefferson City, MO

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.

Entry to Carnahan Garden

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.

Carnahan Garden view toward the Missouri River

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.

Carnahan Garden view toward the capitol building

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.

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4 Responses to Carnahan Garden in Jefferson City, MO

  1. HT says:

    Beautiful. Bulb planting time. Any suggestions about over wintering gerraniums? I’ve never been successful in the past and would appreciate some guidance.

    • grayslady says:

      Most geraniums (Pelargoniums) originated in South Africa, so if you think of the climate there (coastal and also mountainous), plants that thrive there prefer plenty of sunlight, cooler temperatures and relatively dry conditions. I always used to take cuttings of my geraniums at the end of August in order to have full grown plants the following summer without much effort. However, in place of cuttings, there are two ways you can overwinter geraniums:

      1) Grow the geraniums under fluorescent lights (one cool white, one warm white) placed less than 15″ away from the plants. Put the lights on a timer for 16-18 hours of light per day. Keep the room cool (as low as 55 degrees), and use a small table fan (directed away from the plants) to keep the air moving. Water sparingly throughout the winter, and don’t begin to fertilize again until spring.

      2) Cut back all branches on the geranium by one-half. Unpot the geranium, trim any messy roots, and repot the plant in a snug container (relative to the root system) in a loose, friable container mix instead of soil. Water the plant sparingly a couple of times during the first month, and then maybe once a month thereafter. Place the plant in a cool location with bright, indirect light for the first month, then in a window with an eastern exposure, if possible (western and southern sun can really bake the plants). If you can, add a grow light nearby just to give them some extra hours of light after the sun goes down. Begin fertilizing in the spring and water a bit more often.

      In either case, be sure to harden off plants before you place them outside for the summer.

  2. HT says:

    Thanks, I’ll try the first suggestion, as I have room in the basement and I usually keep the house at 65 degrees, so the basement is always a bit cooler.
    I haven’t seen you over at Skydancing or anywhere. I do hope everything is okay.
    Please know that I”m not the only one who reads what you post, cause I know I’m not. I love your site and thank you for your taking the time to respond. It means a lot.

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