History of the Garden

Spanish Lake Community Garden

Stand with the tenders of the Spanish Lake Community Garden in what was once a weedy, trash-strewn median in this St. Louis community and you hear passers-by shout things like “It’s pretty!” or “Can I give you some money for plants?”

What is there now is not always pristine. Grass sometimes needs trimming. At certain times a small bed for incubating new plants may look a bit ragged. But the main, diamond-shaped perennial bed, measuring 60 by 60 feet, is a gem. It is anchored on either end with clumps of River-Oats. Velvety artemesia surrounds the diamonds’ four sides, while Shasta daisies, asters, day lilies, iris, coneflowers, Queen Anne’s lace and gooseneck loosestrife fill in the middle. Presiding over the garden is a scarecrow whose fashionable wardrobe changes throughout the year.

It is this diversity – guaranteeing three seasons of bloom – that won this garden the Best Community Garden award in the 2001 Great Garden Contest sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

This garden was first planted in 1998, just a short time before the Spanish Lake Community Association was formed, to address some of the problems of this older, inner-ring suburb. “We wanted something immediate,” said one of the early volunteers. Natural beauty – symbolizing strength in the community – was desired.

Many volunteers are involved over the gardening season. On big projects, senior citizens work alongside high school students (earning their community service hours) and home-schoolers (working on science projects). Contributions have come from Gateway Greening, a non-profit group that supplies community gardens; ORMI, a local composting facility; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562; and the Spanish Lake Community Association. The ground crew of the neighboring Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall keeps the grassy areas neatly mowed.

Garden volunteers have spearheaded other gardening projects in the community. They helped students from Larimore Elementary School across the street plant bulbs on their school grounds. A native plant garden in Spanish Lake Park was established. An annual plant sale is held using plants from residents’ gardens and the community garden.

The Spanish Lake Community Association recently purchased The Twillman House, an historic home that will be renovated as a community center. Residents will gather for meetings, events or a cup of coffee there. Our new residents will feel welcome, become invested in the community and learn of ways to participate in a number of projects such as the new demonstration gardens on the grounds of this community center.