Missouri Botanical Garden

Horticulture Education and Training

Internship Overview and Duties

Missouri Botanical Garden's Mission Statement

"To discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment, in order to preserve and enrich life."

The mission of the MBG Horticulture internship program is to provide an environment in which students of Horticulture and other related fields may interact with professional horticulturists. This interaction is a means by which students may learn practical horticulture from accomplished individuals. Aside from learning through observation and instruction, interns are expected to ask questions and utilize available resources so that they may improve themselves. This internship is an extension of the classroom into the practical application of what is learned. Descriptions follow of areas and duties in the horticulture internship.


This area offers a wide diversity of plant material grown in perennial borders, bulb borders, a scented garden, a hosta garden, Spoeher Plaza and Dining Area and Ridgway entrance. North staff members are responsible for the annual and bulb displays in the Milles Sculpture Garden and Swift Family Garden, plus other seasonal display.

Daily work includes watering, dead heading annuals and perennials, pinching annuals and pruning. Routine work includes such things as liquid feedings, staking, pruning, planting warm season annuals, weeding, mulching, summer pruning and maintenance throughout the area. Two plantings of the main display beds are done each year: spring to summer, and summer to spring. Fall mums are used in selected areas as well. Water plant displays are a highlight in the pools.

Colorful annual displays greet visitors as they enter the Garden and work their way through the many display areas. Display beds are cleverly designed to catch the eye of every visitor through their color, form and texture. Container displays are tucked into focal points around the patios and walkways. Hanging baskets are designed to accent overhangs and standards.

Tropical water lilies as well as other aquatic plants fill the pools with bright blossoms and curious textures. Duties include fertilizing, pruning, dead heading, and change-outs, giving the intern experience in aquaculture and display bed maintenance.

THE CHINESE GARDEN - Grigg Nanjing Friendship Garden
The Chinese Garden brings the design of 2,400 years to St. Louis. Rock, water, an authentic pavilion, bridge and moon gate from Nanjing are featured. The horticulturist practices landscape maintenance in the Chinese style.
The Gladney and Lehmann Rose Gardens contain a multitude of display roses that require pruning, fertilizing and careful winterizing in the fall. Weeding, watering, edging and mulching are other tasks required in the maintenance and care of this special collection of roses.
Beautiful seasonal displays highlight these intensive areas. Each area requires individual cultural techniques specific to iris, daylilies, and spring and summer bulbs. The intern has the opportunity to learn of the many cultivated varieties growing in these areas of the Garden. And, the intern has the chance to tap into the accumulated knowledge of an accomplished grower of daylilies and bulbs. Volunteers from Missouri Botanical Garden Daylily Association, Iris Society and Mid-America Lily Society are active influences in these gardens.

The Dwarf Conifer Garden adds a certain stability and year round appeal to the entrance of the Rock Garden. Though not as showy as annuals, subtle changes in color & contrast add interest throughout the year.

The Rock Garden, fronting the Temperate House, contains numerous herbaceous perennials, alpine & small woody specimens. Color and texture abound in all seasons. Changes & improvements to this area make it an exciting place to work.

Newest of the displays, the Ottoman Garden contains elements and plants of the typical Ottoman garden. Water, fruit trees and herbaceous ornamental perennials comprise the main plantings of this garden. General maintenance and new plant care are some of the jobs required in this area.

This extensive plant collection includes Rhododendron, Azalea, Magnolia, Boxwood and other members of the Ericaceae Family. Interns working in this area find pruning, mulching, weeding and watering part of the daily routine. Occasionally, the installation of new plants is necessary.
The Scented Garden delights all the senses with perennial & annual displays. Raised beds and brail signage allow the sight impaired and sighted alike to enjoy this garden. The Hosta Garden features a wide variety of hosta cultivars in a shady setting. While hostas require less maintenance than many other perennials, care must be taken to prevent disease and pest problems. The hostas require division every 3 to 4 years.
The area from the circular pool at the Milles Sculpture Garden, to the entrance of the Mausoleum is known as the Knolls. The dry streambed and mature hardwood and evergreen plantings enhance the historical buildings located near this section. The dry streambed plantings include several rare or endangered species. A great display of mature American Holly make a stately accent in this area. Numerous cultivars are present with differences in fruit, leaf shape and texture. The Flower Walk begins at the east entrance of the Climatron and borders the path in multiple island plantings toward the Kemper Center. This future site of the Desert House, just south of the Climatron, contains beautiful perennial and annual plantings.
Set in the 1800's, this garden's character stems from structure and native plants. Caves, a treehouse and a village are paired with a pollination garden, woodland garden, swamp and many others. This garden is educational as well as beautiful. The intern will learn about native plants in this playful setting. Duties include weeding, deadheading, watering, pruning, and dividing perennials in the years to come.


The Japanese Garden is a garden like no other. The Japanese Garden offers interns an opportunity to learn about Japanese Garden art - its history, design principles and its religious and philosophical interpretations. Although these aspects are important, there is no expectation for interns to become fully knowledgeable about this garden form. However, a superficial familiarity with some of the philosophical and historical background would be useful.

The main objective of your experience is to learn about the pruning process and develop it into a technique that is correct, practical and efficient. Routine work is very basic: weeding, edging, mulching, lining dry gardens and pruning. The Japanese garden does not have a diverse group of plants, but it does contain numerous conifers and Japanese maples. Plants found there include Rhododendron, Juniperus, Taxus, Buxus, Malus, Prunus, Cornus, Syringa, Magnolia, Berberus, Viburnum and Pinus. Plant selections are based on leaf texture, color and how they relate to the composition of the planting.

The Tea-house Island is located in the Japanese Garden. Trees and shrubs are pruned and maintained in the Japanese style and tradition. The Tea-house was a gift from Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The island can only be visited by guided tour and is used only to entertain dignitaries that visit the Garden.

The Director's Residence is approximately 5 acres surrounding Dr. Raven's home. It is fenced in and not open to the public. There's a little bit of everything in this area; rock garden, roses, daylilies, annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, a small bamboo collection, woodland path, pond, hosta, extensive lawn area and a wide variety of selected native trees and shrubs. Oh yes, a dog, too!

Routine maintenance includes the usual watering, pruning, weeding, edging, fertilizing and mulching. Over seeding of shady lawn areas, planting annuals, dividing perennials and preparing for parties are some of the additional projects encountered at the Residence.

The Victorian Garden and Tower Grove House area include many different plants and collections. Highlights include the Kaeser Maze, Piper Observatory, Museum, and Mausoleum. Handsome specimen trees and shrubs are found in this area. Bedding arrangements are consistent with Victorian Era planting schemes.

Each of these structures allows visitors the opportunity to step back to turn-of-the-century St. Louis, a time when a stroll through Shaw's Garden was entertainment for the whole family. The formal structures and public appeal make them timeless.

Definition of garden space, edging & mulching, weeding, pruning and general grounds management are a few of the maintenance needs in the Victorian area. Renovation of existing shrubs or shearing of the Maze hedges takes place annually.

Changing out annuals three times each year makes the formal Victorian Garden very intensive. Color & pattern are highlighted in the beds. Mulching, pruning, edging and general maintenance of permanent plantings are jobs you can expect in the Victorian Garden area.

A walled parterre in the shape of Henry Shaw's initials has an elegant mix of boxwood species and annuals. The walled areas contain a blend of trees, shrubs and perennials. Deadheading, pruning, mulching & edging keep the horticulturist in this area busy. Several times each year, the boxwood hedges are sheared. The parterre beds are replanted in spring and fall.
The English Woodland Garden offers an eclectic mix of perennials, trees and shrubs in keeping with the English Woodland Garden style. There are many varieties of hosta, native plants, and rare and endangered species acquired through the efforts of the Center for Plant Conservation. Understory herbaceous and woody plants are featured on the site. Micro environments, regenerative areas, bog & stream environments and other specialized environments are found within this woodland setting.

Routine work includes watering, weeding, mulching beds, fertilizing, deadwooding trees and shrubs, dividing perennials and planting new material.

The German Strassenfest Garden is located at the south end of the Lehmann Building and extends across the service road to the old experimental greenhouse. Plantings, many of German origin, follow the design principles of the German designers who, unlike the English 'natural' landscape school, developed the garden lay out according to ecological principles. Broad sweeps of herbaceous perennials, ferns and grasses exemplify the German landscape style.

The Herb Garden and Administration Building area require the usual tasks - watering, weeding, mulching, etc.


This area is vital to keeping the garden looking its best. The turf areas bind all plantings, displays and structures together into one harmonious garden. Vistas and views depend on the quality and care of the turf grass areas.

Maintenance of the turf involves the use of push mowers, walk-behinds, riding mowers, line trimmers, blowers and edgers. By utilizing all this equipment, a continuous rotation of cutting can be scheduled to keep turf areas at their best. A keen eye is also needed to police trouble areas for disease and insect damage. A fertilization and insect/disease program is integrated into the care and maintenance schedule of all turf areas, as well as over seeding, aeration, and verti-cutting.

The Monsanto Research Center grounds were planted in the winter of 1997 - 98 and dedicated in April of 1998. The plantings were all selected to achieve low maintenance, minimal up-keep and minimum energy use. By using native and carefully selected cultivated plant material, a totally efficient and aesthetically pleasing landscape is achieved. It's the landscape of the Next Millennium.

Throughout the dormant season, this crew assists with snow removal, leaf pick-up and provides assistance to other staff throughout the garden.


With a diverse planting of trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, perennials and annuals, you will never be in need of something to do. 23 demonstration theme gardens are in place. Each area has its own required maintenance.

Vegetable gardening, arbors, raised beds, turf & water gardens are just a few of the residential garden features you will find in the Kemper Gardens. This is where the public gardener can gain expert ideas and also learn about proper gardening practices. The latest equipment is used and conservation of natural resources are practiced in this garden area.

Expect to weed, deadhead, transplant, prune, water, install new plants and do general maintenance when assigned to this area. You may be asked to work within the Kemper building, assisting in display set-up or any of the numerous jobs inside that help to inform the public of garden information.


The William T. Kemper Center For Home Gardening opened in June 1991. The Center provides useful, up to date information and demonstrations on all aspects of home gardening. Informative displays are presented that follow the seasons or current horticultural topics. This is the place to go if you have any horticulture questions.

Within the building you will find "The Plant Doctor", a horticulture reference library, a collection of current nursery & seed catalogs, garden periodicals, an active bee hive, a three month garden calendar and displays of contemporary garden topics.

If optional time at the Kemper Center is chosen, duties would involve preparation of displays, interpretive signs, special displays or informative documents for public use.


The name Production Greenhouses should explain the extent of work done in this section. Seasonal crops (mums, poinsettias and Holiday plants, spring, summer, and fall annuals) are propagated, transplanted, and grown to be used around the Garden. However this is not all. A diverse collection of plants are maintained in the greenhouse such as; water lilies, carnivorous and insectivorous plants, aroids, cacti, orchids and other special collections. The Greenhouse list of duties includes the production of hardy nursery stock as well as handling container grown stock.

The intern will experience hands on growing techniques, cultural practices used to control diseases and insects and will be aware of how all environmental factors outside still affect general production of greenhouse crops. The great diversity found in the Production Greenhouses can lead to an educational experience not found in other parts of the Garden.


Summertime brings a lull in major activities in the Floral Display department but does not stop the important work to be done. Preparations are always ongoing for the two shows held in the Orthwein Floral Hall.

Two or three weeks of arduous labor is required to install a show. Staging a show requires the placement of props, setting of the beds, prepping and staging of plants and hauling mulches to create a garden landscape in the 5,117.5 square foot hall. Artistic interns may help design and paint show props.


Interns working in Plant Records work with a variety of plants throughout the Garden and their associated Database records. Discovering the key to the accession numbers assigned to each of the many plants at the Garden is the most exciting part of working here.

The first and foremost responsibility of Plant Records is to keep accurate and up to date records of plants already on the Garden grounds and those being accessioned into the collection. Records are kept in a computerized database called "Plant Records" (developed at the Garden). Plant Records staff are responsible for making identification labels ("zincs") for all accessions and the larger labels the public will see. For some plants or features, they also prepare story signs to better educate the public.


The Conservatory complex consists of the Climatron (tropical), the Temperate House & the Linnean House (camellia). Routine work consists of watering, mulching, leaf pick up, pruning, soil mixing and limited planting. Some animal care including feeding and cleaning of cages may be included. All workers should be on the look out for insects and diseases as part of the integrated pest management.

In the Climatron, you have the opportunity to help with aquatic plant maintenance, thinning banana trees, maintaining epiphytes and vines, cleaning water features and specialty care of several groups of tropical plants such as ferns, cycads, bromeliads, and gesneriads.

The Temperate House provides an opportunity to learn about plants from the warm temperate regions of the world. This includes wild flowers, carnivorous, bog and aquatic plants, Biblical plants, flowering vines, palms and many others.

The Linnean House contains the Garden's collection of camellia as well as other sub-tropical plants. Being one of the oldest operating greenhouses in the nation, its historical significance is outweighed only by its winter display of bloom, a haven in winter on those blustery days in January.


  • Trelease House landscaping design
  • Display beds in front of Climatron
  • Hosta Walk
  • Operations Manual for Orchid Range
  • Rare/Endangered Plants of Missouri
  • Perennial Border Design
  • Additional Plants of Merit
  • Additions to Integrated Pest Management Manual
  • Atrium display renovation
  • Companion planting
  • Japanese maples brochure
  • Text for Climatron web page
  • Botanical Latin brochure
  • Rose Garden maps and inventory
  • Greenhouse Tour Fact Sheets
  • MBG Orchid Collection Photos and Web Pages
  • Scented Garden Landscape Design
  • Choosing Color in the Garden-Kemper Garden Display
  • Using Predatory Mites Powerpoint Presentation
  • Instructor's Manual-Fresh Flower Design Techniques
  • Olympic Theme Children's Garden Landscape Design
  • Exploring the Fair Through the Garden's Eyes
  • Container Gardening Basics Brochure and Insert
  • Endangered Plant Map & Brochure, GIS use in Agriculture
  • Pruning Young Shade Trees information sheets
Matt and Jenn 2003 Robyn in Plant Records

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