Why We Give: Blanton and Peg
All About the Wildflowers

Peg and Blanton WhitmirePeg and Blanton at Shaw Nature Reserve

Visitors to Shaw Nature Reserve love the Whitmire Wildflower Garden. They enjoy the year-round showcase of over 800 Missouri native species. They are inspired by the diversity achieved through native landscaping.

They probably don’t know the entire display began in the 1980s as a birthday present.

Blanton and Peg Whitmire loved the outdoors. They discovered the Missouri Botanical Garden when they moved to St. Louis and became members in 1974. Their neighbor, noted conservationist and naturalist Edgar W. Denison, introduced Peg to Shaw Nature Reserve (then Shaw Arboretum) after learning of her love of native wildflowers.

For Peg’s 70th birthday, Blanton wanted to create one grand display that showcased the diversity of Missouri wildflowers. This undertaking would require vast space and scientific knowledge to properly develop and care for the plants. Edgar Denison suggested Blanton contact John Behrer at Shaw Nature Reserve about the idea. Blanton knew how fond Peg was of the Reserve, so he met with John to discuss creating a Missouri wildflower display.

Shaw Nature Reserve was very interested in Blanton’s idea; they had wanted to create such a display as well. The landscape architecture firm MTR developed a master plan which identified an ideal tract for the wildflower display, and details for the garden’s development began to take shape.

Peg’s birthday was the week before Christmas. She was completely surprised when the family arrived at Shaw Nature Reserve to be greeted by friends and Garden staff. There she was presented with her birthday gift—the plans for the five-acre Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve.

By the time Peg received her birthday gift, Blanton was deeply engaged with the science, conservation, and education work at the Reserve. He and Peg were frequent visitors and contributors. They continued to support the development of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden and also became engaged with other projects.

The Whitmire Wildflower Garden now hosts classes and programs all year long for casual gardeners, PhD-level researchers, and everyone in between.

“The garden serves a purpose,” Blanton said. “People are just beginning to fully understand the value of native plants. The garden showcases their beauty, diversity, and adaptability. You can go to one place and see many wonderful examples all year long.”

This focus on understanding, education, and the native environment echo the Reserve's mission, which is to “inspire responsible stewardship of our environment through education, restoration, and protection of natural habitats, and public enjoyment of the natural world.”

“It means a lot to have the Whitmire Wildflower Garden,” Blanton said. “Science education is so important. I feel good about what's going on at Shaw [Nature Reserve]; it's a good thing to support.”