It’s a true garden oasis with a brick-and-mortar backdrop at 4605 Olive St., the urban home of Bowood Farms. And amidst the lush vegetation of a nursery and gift shop and two abundant gardens, diners can enjoy seasonal fare at Café Osage, the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant component of Bowood Farms. “We have three spaces in all for dining, but in the summertime, people can sit outside under umbrellas in an enclosed courtyard with high brick walls, surrounded by plants,” explains John McPheeters, owner of Bowood Farms. “Our patio is actually inside what used to be an old warehouse building—we took the roof off and created a relaxed atmosphere for warmer weather.”
Chef David Kirkland offers a menu incorporating seasonal produce grown across the street in a quarter-of-an-acre garden, herbs grown on a green roof above the café and crops raised at the original Bowood Farms in Clarksville, Mo. “Our menu changes to reflect the season, even if it’s just a component of a regular menu item,” McPheeters says. “We use fresh, creative ingredients that are literally grown right there, where they are being prepared and served.” He points out that although their produce is not certified organic, they use an organic soil mix and do not use herbicides, pesticides or growth hormones on any of the edible plants that they grow.
The history of Bowood Farms dates back to 1930, when the grandparents (Charles and Ida Bascome) of McPheeters’ wife, Connie, purchased the land in Clarksville. “The name comes from one or two things,” he notes. “It’s either from the Osage orange trees that line the borders of the property, which were used by the Osage Indians to make bows. Or, there is a Bowood House in England that we know of—it probably was a combination of those two things.”
About 35 years ago, the McPheeters purchased the farm from Connie’s parents, Joe and Betty Bascome. “I had been involved in farming for most of my life,” McPheeters recalls. “So in 1989, we opened a wholesale nursery, where we grew ornamental plants for retailers and landscapers in Missouri and Illinois.” Then in 2005, McPheeters started thinking about having a presence in St. Louis, which evolved into a retail nursery in the Central West End. “We had lived in the area in the late '70s and '80s, so we knew the neighborhood well,” he says. “We found some interesting old buildings that we thought were well-suited for what we wanted to do and brought them back from total disrepair.” And according to McPheeters, the café, which opened two years later, was always in the plan—and is a natural combination. “It’s something that’s very common in Europe and is just starting to become more common in the U.S.,” he explains. “There’s a sort of a cross-pollination between the nursery business and growing herbs and food with the restaurant business.”
Looking to brighten your winter days? In January, Bowood Farms is offering a special poinsettia buy-back program to encourage customers to think about other plants that can be grown indoors. Instead of throwing away your poinsettia, bring it into their shop for a 10-percent discount off any houseplant. “We have offered this for a number of years,” McPheeters says. “Some people try to keep poinsettias throughout the year—and a few people are successful at it. But the poinsettia is not an easy plant to grow year-round, so we thought it would be fun for people to bring theirs in. We will compost the plants for them to serve another purpose, and in the meantime, get people excited about growing something else during the winter months.” (Yes, it’s 90 days until the first day of spring…)