Conifer gardens coming near Capitol

Jim Schwieterman, left, and Janelle Schwieterman, right, examine a tree and discuss the variety of colors and shapes that conifers and evergreens offer. These trees will be transplanted into the new conifer garden in north Jefferson City, a cooperative project between the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and the Central Missouri Master Gardeners.

Jim Schwieterman, left, and Janelle Schwieterman, right, examine a tree and discuss the variety of colors and shapes that conifers and evergreens offer. These trees will be transplanted into the new conifer garden in north Jefferson City, a cooperative project between the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and the Central Missouri Master Gardeners. Photo by Michelle Brooks.

A new fireworks viewing hot spot may be in place by Independence Day 2015.

Members of the Central Missouri Master Gardeners have long anticipated the addition of a conifer garden to its other demonstration gardens in north Jefferson City.

The next in a more-than-one-decade-rich list of cooperative projects began this spring with the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department clearing and preparing about one-half acre of high ground across Cottonwood Drive from the newly-named Bill Quigg Commons.

When completed, the conifer garden will include not only about 150 trees and shrubs but also a gazebo, welcoming groups, weddings and fireworks spectators with a unique view of the Capitol.

“At this point, it takes a lot of vision,” said President Steve Stacy.

The gardeners and the city department have a relationship praised and envied by other communities.

They received a Missouri Parks and Recreation Association citation this winter. And their cooperative locations have become destinations for professional development from elsewhere.

“We feel they are teaching people how to be successful in a recreational activity,” said department director Bill Lockwood.

The two groups began working together in north Jefferson City after the Great Floods of 1993.

Then, 10 years ago, the master gardeners developed a native plant specialty garden in commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery bicentennial.

Since then, they have added a children’s garden, perennial garden, daylilly garden, turf garden and compost demonstration area.

And this year, they’re also adding a Meditation Garden and a Memorial Hosta Garden, which should be completed by the group’s 10th anniversary celebration in October.

The master gardeners’ ability to expand community projects came when the department gave them space to build a greenhouse, hoop house and raised beds. That allowed them to grow more plants for their sole fundraiser — a plant sale in May.

Sixteen trees were purchased from the previous budget year and they soon will be planted along the handicap-accessible paths in the conifer garden. More than 40 species of trees and plantings will be purchased each year for the next four years, Stacy said.

“This is one of a kind in the state,” he said. “It’s going to be gorgeous 10 years from now.”

The original landscaping designs were drawn by Jeff Schwieterman, son of two master gardeners and a professional landscape architect in the Pacific Northwest.

Then the department refined the layout, which added much needed parking for the nearby ball fields.

“They have helped get a rugged, undeveloped area cleaned up and put into a higher level use,” Lockwood said.

Conifers and evergreens provide a surprising variety of height, color and shapes, Schwieterman said.

“When we get done, this will showcase what conifers can add, like winter interest and a wind break,” he said.

The Schwietermans have more than 100 conifers from about 35 varieties in their own home landscape. So, they are familiar with which plants do well with Missouri’s stressful climate.

As with their other specialty gardens, the conifer garden is designed as much for beauty as it is for education.

For example, the conifer garden strategically was located on the highest part of the former Cedar City, because those plants do not do well in wet soil.

And landscape professionals recommend one-third of a garden be made of evergreens as the foundation of design, Schwieterman said.

More people continue to discover the gardens near the Noren Access, particularly those following the Katy Trail.

“We wanted a place where people could come and relax and enjoy,” Stacy said. “People can come in all seasons.”

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