The Prairie Garden Trust is a piece of preserved nature in New Bloomfield, Callaway County.
Located at 8945 County Road 431, the gardens are only about 40 minutes from Columbia.
The property is rich in natural sights and sounds, with walking trails that meander through woods, ponds, streams, bluffs and rolling fields with plants and wildlife everywhere in plain sight.
In spring, the featured performance comes from masses of dogwood blooms in the woods, while in summer the native wildflowers come to life, and in the fall, grasses, flowers and trees turn red and gold.
Special attractions include Indigo Prairie with more than 50 types of grasses and flowers, including the yellow cornflowers and purple blazing star; Beaver Lake with its phlox, bloodroot, false indigo and butterfly weed; and the Lotus Ponds, with cattails and corkwood, plus the occasional duck, heron, turtle and frog.
It all started when Hern and Joan Domke, who are passionate about gardening and landscaping, moved to what would become the basis of the gardens in 1971.
Since then, the Prairie Garden Trust, or PGT, has expanded and become a nonprofit organization.
The original founders have died, but their legacy of nature conservation and appreciation remains through the nonprofit.
“The PGT is for people who enjoy walking in nature,” said Director Lorna Domke. “We have a half-mile of paved walking trails and miles of mowed walking paths through prairie and woods.”
To better plan a trip to the gardens, visitors can check an interactive map online with a breakdown of all lakes, ponds and sights.
On the website, they also have a list of time estimates for each trail and pictures of every area, so visitors’ planning goes as smoothly as possible.
The longest path takes approximately 25 minutes to finish, and the shortest is about a five-minute walk.
The Lotus Pond path, one of the most popular, takes you through a lake of lotus flowers and is a short one — about 7 minutes.
If you’re unsure which way to go, the map offers a quick description of each nature area, describing the trail (paved or not) and good spots for pictures.
The Prairie Garden Trust is only open for the public between April and October, and the administration asks visitors to email the gardens at least a day in advance to schedule a visit.
Admission is free, and donations are welcome.