By Jeanette Swindell
The Bivin Garden, an Oasis on the Prairie
Driving through the rolling prairie of Osage County, the land of Native Americans, oil and cattle, it would be fair to say one doesn't readily imagine this to be the setting for a beautiful botanical garden.
But thanks to a devoted couple, Mollie and Ray Bivin, it is just that. For in the little town of Shidler, known for its oil history, and not far from the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, where grazing bison and prairie grasses form the often photographed vistas, there sits an oasis of sorts.
Here, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is a six-acre botanical garden that's home to a wide variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, ponds, pathways, and arbors accented by amazing rocks and boulders from around the world.
All meticulously planted and placed by the Bivins over a period of nearly 30 years. As amazed and delighted visitors meander along pathways through untold numbers of perennials and annuals framed by flowering trees and shrubs and secured by huge trees in the background, Mollie humbly declares, Anyone could do this.
This being turning barren acreage into a delight to behold. As Mollie explains, she, and husband Ray, (referred to as Bivin) who passed away in 2008, wanted to have a nice view from every window in their house. Only a few trees were struggling to survive when they bought the land back in the early 80s.
The garden was not begun with the intention of someday being a botanical garden for tourists to enjoy. The overriding thing is it is our garden and it still is our garden. It was never our intention to open the garden, but friends spread the word about it and people started asking if they could tour.
So in the late 80s during Shidler's Chamber of Commerce Heritage Day Festival, the Bivin Garden welcomed 200 visitors. The following year's festival saw the garden hosting visitors again and eventually word of mouth brought tourists on weekends.
In the early 90s, Mollie became involved in area tourism and began operating the garden as a business. So, the garden that was and still is their garden has afforded thousands of visitors an opportunity to walk its paths, delight in the plants and visiting birds, and just relax among its beautiful landscaped acres.
It all started in 1982 when Bivin decided Mollie needed five flower beds. And that's all we were going to have, plus some trees and shrubs. The development of the garden was gradual with the Bivins working on it mostly on weekends. We didn't just do it, Mollie says. Our criteria for planting something in a certain location was to be able to view color, shape, and form all year long from any window or doorway of the house. We wanted to have a pleasant surrounding to our home, somewhere we could sit, relax and enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty.
The actual layout of the garden was because of the house and wanting to see something any time of the year. But Mollie says she enjoys the visitors and is happy to share the views she and her Bivin enjoyed.
I remember a young teenager visiting the garden with a group quite some time ago, surprising us by stating that he felt the Garden of Eden must have been similar because it was so wonderful being here.That was an incredible sentiment to us both, but so gratifying.
The Bivin Garden is open from May through September for the enjoyment of visitors. Admission is $2.00 per adult, children under 12 are free. Along with the beautiful gardens, bird watchers enjoy the variety of birds either passing by or inhabiting the oasis in the prairie. For more information, call 918.793.4011 or visit www.thebivingarden.com