Royal Botanic Gardens vs. Missouri Botanical Garden

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my first experience in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I loved the place, and knew I’d be back.  Well, today, I went back.  My main goals were to find a couple of letterboxes and to explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which is conveniently located in The Domain section of the Gardens.  However, I couldn’t find either of the letterboxes and no indoor art gallery can hold my attention when it’s 75 degrees and sunny outside.  So I pretty much just ended up wandering around and getting lost in the Gardens.  In doing so, I drew some comparisons between the Royal Botanic Gardens and one my favourite places in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden. Let’s see how St. Louis’ (MoBot) and Sydney’s (let’s call it RBG) stack up.

Location:  MoBot is located in the lovely Tower Grove neighbourhood of St. Louis.  It’s surrounded by charming garden boutiques and old brick homes.  RBG occupies a large piece of land between the harbour and the city, providing a beautiful transition between the two areas.  It’s right next to the Sydney Opera House and a short walk from the trains, ferries, tourists, and cafes of Circular Quay.  MoBot gets points for being close to Ted Drewes, but it’s not walking distance.  Sydney wins this one.

History:  MoBot, founded in 1859, is America’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation, according to its website.  RBG has quite a storied history, but it seems to have been in existence as a garden longer than MoBot has.  So based on age alone, Sydney wins this one.  Historical significance is debatable, but I’m pretty sure Sydney would win there too.

Size:  According to their respective websites, MoBot covers 79 acres (32 hectares) and RBG covers 74 acres (30 hectares).  RBG’s figure does not include The Domain (84 acres/34 hectares), a recreation area adjacent to and managed by the gardens used mostly for picnics, athletics, and informal sporting events.  I’d say the Domain isn’t exactly a botanical garden, so MoBot is a tiny bit larger.  St. Louis wins this one.

View:  The view from pretty much anywhere in MoBot is of, well, MoBot. There’s nothing wrong with that, since that’s what you’re probably there to see anyway.  But if you like a little extra scenery with your greenery, the view from RBG varies from Sydney Harbour to the buildings of the city to the Opera House.  Sydney wins this category hands down.

Food:  MoBot has an excellent cafe called Sassafrass.  It serves organic fair trade locally grown sustainable etc. food at reasonable prices.  RBG has several food options, from fancy restaurants to snack bars.  I got a delicious ham and cheese croissant at a snack bar in The Domain for $6.50, which isn’t too bad for a city in which nothing is reasonably priced.  Since I’ve only been to Sassafrass once and I’ve only been to one food service establishment in RBG, I’ll call this one a draw.

Arts:  MoBot hosts the yearly Whitaker Music Festival, along with some other stuff.  I’ve never been, but apparently it’s free, which is awesome. RBG hosts a yearly Shakespeare festival, along with some other stuff. I might go, but it’s not free, which isn’t awesome.  Let’s call this one a draw.

Price:  Regular admission to MoBot is $8 for adults who don’t live within St. Louis city or county (i.e. me).  Admission to RBG is free.  Yup.  Zero cents.  Sydney wins this one hands down.

Plants:  MoBot has plants.  RBG has plants.  But there are distinctions.  MoBot actually consists of several different types of gardens, including an English Garden, a children’s garden, and the ever popular Japanese Garden.  RBG has a few specialized gardens, including a rainforest area in which I encountered an intimidatingly large spider with an impressively huge web.  Most of the gardens, though, are a mixture of Australian and imported plants arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  Personally, I prefer the more structured, curated layout of MoBot.  Both gardens are equally easy to get lost in–I’ve done it.  St. Louis wins this one.

FriendlinessSigns throughout RBG encourage visitors to walk on the grass, picnic on the lawns, and hug the trees.  MoBot will tolerate nothing of the sort.  From a visitor standpoint (as I’m not a plant or a garden caretaker), Sydney wins this one.

So which botanical garden do I prefer?  Sorry, St. Louis, but when I return to Missouri this summer, I’ll be settling for second best.  Are you taking notes, MoBot?

This post was inspired by the thoughtful city-to-city comparisons of St. Louis/Elsewhere, one of my favorite STL blogs.

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