Bowood Farms: A Garden-And-Home Gem In St. Louis
The term “farm fresh” usually refers to food harvested or produced right before being sold. But Bowood Farms in St. Louis is in the business of selling a living inventory.
The family-run farm in Clarksville, Missouri grows nearly all the annuals sold at its retail shop in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood as well as some of its own perennials and other flora—hundreds of varieties in all. Growing local is a contrast to the typical system where shops source plants from mass growers across the country. And growing local affords the additional benefit of supplying Bowood’s attached farm-to-table eatery, Cafe Osage, with fresh produce and a personal touch.
“There’s a certain coleus I grow each year because there’s a customer who always plants a lot of it, and I want to make sure I have it,” says co-owner Lizzy Rickard. “It’s such a fun process to watch something go from a tiny seed, plug or bare root, develop into a plant and come down to the retail location.”
Her sister, Katherine McPheeters, handles purchasing for the farm and the home-décor side of the shop. Their father, John McPheeters, started the business as a wholesale grower back in 1989. Rickard calls him “a creator by nature,” constantly engaged with the natural world. Though none of them are horticulturists by training, time and exposure have expanded their respective knowledge.
McPheeters and Rickard start ordering in the summer for the subsequent spring planting cycle. Head grower Christine O’Brien and the rest of the farm’s longtime staff handle production, which can take several months or longer for some perennials. “That’s what working with live inventory is all about,” McPheeters explains. “It’s tough, but so rewarding to see that plant come to life.”
Both sisters agree that their surroundings breed inspiration. “We’re very visual people,” says Rickard. It’s an ongoing practice that includes attending horticulture trade shows, reviewing catalogs and talking to sales reps, as well as brushing up on trends via blogs and social-media sites.
Contrary to popular belief, Rickard says plants can still thrive in the heat-drenched summer months, provided they receive proper care. “We encourage people to shop a few times a year, not just once, to hit multiple growing seasons,” she says.
While most of us don’t yet know what we want to grow forever, McPheeters has some sage advice. “Plant the things you love and want to see every day. Then you’ll want to take care of it,” she recommends. “Gardening can be as much work or as little work as you want to put into it. It shouldn’t be as intimidating as it seems.”
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Photos provided by Bowood Farms.