Citygarden, How Have You Grown? Photos Tell The Story | St. Louis Public Radio

Citygarden, How Have You Grown? Photos Tell The Story

Jun 30, 2014

A birthday party will be held Wednesday for St. Louis' youngest urban treasure: Citygarden. In honor of its fifth birthday, the lunchtime concert featuring DJ Nune, will run from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and refreshments will be served.

Five years ago, a St. Louis Beacon article said:

"Build it and they will come? Most definitely.

"Citygarden, which opened today, was full of curious visitors ready to explore. Even skeptics came away with enthusiastic reviews.

"The downtown urban park, a partnership between the city and the nonprofit Gateway Foundation, has transformed two city blocks with a collection of fountains, plants and sculptures."

Now? The popularity of the urban oasis bound by 8th Street to the east, 10th Street to the west, Chestnut Street to the north and Market Street to the south is readily apparent to all who visit. The plants are lush and happy looking. Beneath the green surface, however, it has not always been so verdant. The gardeners have had to wage a battle with the bunnies.

Even before Citygarden opened, the rabbits -- such as the one at left -- had discovered the park. No visitor ever got to see the hollyhocks because the bunnies ate them..
Credit File photo | Rachel Heidenry

Sue Chaires, owner of Wild Horse Botanicals Inc., said that in the first two years, rabbits ate 13,500 of the 7,000 perennials that had been planted in Citygarden. "They ate 2,000 ferns," Chaires said.

As the rabbits zeroed in on their targets -- cone flowers, cardinal flowers, even geraniums -- the folks from Wild Horse experimented and found other plants to deter the rabbits. In the end, she said, "We've gotten rid of all the bunnies' favorites."

The latest challenge has been to find plants that can survive the salty muck that snow plows fling into Citygarden as they rid the streets of snow in the winter along Market Street. Because of the stone and plants within the park, Wild Horse handles snow removal there. But this winter's severe weather meant more salt which changed the soil chemistry. Plants that are better suited to that have been put in.

The garden takes constant care. Someone is there 365 days a year, according to Chaires. And as many as eight people can be found working at any one time. On Friday, Chaires said, "there were seven of us." And they have to start early. "After 10 a.m., there are too many people."

For a look at how the garden has grown, I tried to go back to the places where Rachel Heidenry shot photos right before Citygarden opened. I went in the morning (and saw the gardening crew at work); Heidenry went in the afternoon. We used different lenses, and the angles aren't precise, but the growth of and change in the plants are clear. As Chaires said, most of the trees have done exceptionally well.

Jim Dine, Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels; the older photo is at left.
Credit Rachel Heidenry and Donna Korando

Mimmo Paladino, Zenit, the older photo is at top
Credit Rachel Heidenry and Donna Korando

Bernar Venet, 2 Arcs x 4, 230.5 Degree Arc x 5. The pink sign on the recent photo says, The safety of children who come to Citygarden is the sole responsibility of their caregivers. Playing in or near or on sculpture is inherently dangerous. Common sense and caution must be used by caregivers carrying out their responsibility.
Credit Rachel Heidenry and Donna Korando

Laura Ford, Bird. Earlier photo on top
Credit Rachel Heidenry and Donna Korando