For millennia, gardens have served as a showcase for man's ability to control and reproduce, in miniature, the wilds of the natural world. St. Louis' own garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden, is no exception, though it encapsulates the essence of the urban landscape around it as well. It doesn't matter if you take your guests to one of the colorful weekend cultural festivals, invite them to check out the life-size dinosaurs currently on display in the glittering jungle-under-glass Climatron or merely walk them down the winding paths of the garden to take in the ever-changing colors and textures; they'll still get a sense of the things about St. Louis that are hardest to explain to out-of-towners. Cloistered fountains, like so many gated neighborhoods, showcase the beauty of careful, homogeneous cultivation. Shadowed Victorian lawns and hedge mazes convey the reverence for history of a city that suspects its greatest days were gone with its gaslights. Free programs, concerts and events, offered every day for just a few dollars, perfectly illustrate the civic spirit with which Shaw's Garden was planted. While plenty of programs are available at the garden, the most edifying tour for your out-of-town guests may be one of urban psychology, not rhododendrons.
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