Celebrate the Grand Opening of the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden This Weekend
By Rachel Huffman
In St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden has long been a place of beauty, serenity and discovery, as well as an institution of scientific research and education. With the opening of the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center and its surrounding landscapes, garden-goers will become further immersed in the Garden’s vision.
The visitor center presents an inviting indoor-outdoor experience, which exemplifies the Garden’s global plant collections and conservation work. New gardens on the north and south sides of the visitor center – which will be planted in fall 2022 and spring 2023 – will feature 30,500 plants, representing a total of 332 species. Approximately one-third of the plants are rare or endangered; 153 species will be brand-new to the Garden and 80 species will be native to Missouri.
The building itself suggests an opening in the forest. “You’ll be surrounded by gardens when you enter and exit the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center,” says Catherine Martin, public information officer of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “The building represents the clearing in the woods, where the sunlight comes through the trees.”
Other biophilic design elements that link the building’s interior with its natural surroundings include brass leaves inlaid in the floor; 10-foot glass panels filled with dried plant specimens from the Garden, such as water lilies and grape leaves; a large bench and a separate table made from an oak tree that once grew on the property; and a massive glass skylight dubbed “The Lantern,” which features a metal scrim that filters light to mimic the lighting of the on-site Cherbonnier English Woodland Garden.
Entering through the William T. Kemper Lobby, guests can see directly into the garden through glass walls on the south side of the building. As you continue to explore the space, you’ll find an expanded Garden Gate Shop, boasting an outdoor plant shop. “Obviously, we have a lot of plant enthusiasts who visit the Garden,” says Martin. “Now, they’ll have a lot more plants that they can take home with them.”
Sassafras is another new addition to the visitor center. Part-café, part-restaurant, it will offer everything from coffee and pastries to chicken shawarma, chorizo burritos and Ozark Forest mushroom and leek frittatas, plus plenty of patio seating. There will be two daily flatbread flavors, as well – think short rib with caramelized onion; white garlic sauce with prosciutto, scallion and fontina; and gochujang with chicken, Cotija cheese and sesame-Napa slaw. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the restaurant will also serve brunch, featuring a smoked salmon platter, Belgian waffles, cocktails and more.
A bite here will give you all the energy you need to meander through the Emerson Conservatory, a glass greenhouse with swirling ceiling fans that will house a permanent collection of Mediterranean plants. The conservatory will also host the Garden’s two annual floral shows: the poinsettia show in conjunction with Garden Glow and the ever popular orchid show.
The final piece of the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center is the Lelia J. and David N. Farr Auditorium, where guests can watch a video about the Garden’s history and its conservation work around the world. Fun fact: The video is narrated by St. Louis native Jon Hamm.
As a whole, the visitor center exhibits a commitment to sustainability. Rooftop solar panels will produce an average of 300-megawatt hours per year, resulting in a reduction of carbon emissions equivalent to the annual output required to power approximately 33 homes. Limestone and granite cladding on the exterior was sourced from a quarry in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, eliminating the emissions associated with transporting goods across long distances. And a 50,000-gallon stormwater collection system was built into the Garden landscape to reduce water consumption for the care of the plants in the displays around the visitor center.
From the ticket counter to the visitor engagement station and the restaurant to the shop, everything you need when you enter and exit the Garden is on one level of the visitor center. And this weekend, you can come and see it for yourself.
The grand opening of the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center is Sat., Aug. 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Opening weekend includes performances by the Red and Black Brass Band, Metro Theater Company, The Bach Society of St. Louis, Bob Kramer’s Marionnettes, STL Rhythm Collaborative’s Mostly TAP and Thomas and Tricia Jöstlein, along with storytelling sessions, sustainability showcases and public walking tours. In the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden, kids will also have a special opportunity to pot a free plant (while supplies last).
Admission is free, and advanced tickets aren’t required. So, whether you want to practice therapeutic horticulture in the Zimmerman Sensory Garden, watch artists from the Missouri Plein Air Painters’ Association create masterpieces or simply be among the first to see the new Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center, make sure you stop by the Missouri Botanical Garden this weekend.