I couldn’t be happier about the new mission recently adopted by the Powell Gardens board:
“Powell Gardens is an experience that embraces the Midwest’s spirit of place and inspires an appreciation for the importance of plants in our lives.”
The Heartland Harvest Garden, currently under construction, helped inspire the revision. We want it to be America’s premier edible landscape and know it must be beautiful but it also must be educational, fun and provide the 5th element of our senses (often lacking in public gardens): taste.
It will have an open, spacious skies design like the fruited plain that is the Midwest. But it goes well beyond that and I have an extraordinary, long-time Powell Gardens friend, supporter and volunteer to thank for that – it’s Dr. Norlan Henderson. Doc, age 90-something, still drops by nearly every day after driving out from Kansas City. He always stops in my office and asks: what is the most important chemical process on earth? If you answered photosynthesis you would be correct.
Doc, a long-time teacher and professor emeritus in botany at the University of Missouri Kansas City states that he has failed to teach people that we owe our utter existence to green plants. All the food we eat and the air we breathe would not be possible without them. He reminds me that photosynthesis cannot be done in a lab but requires the green plants living cell. He is so excited about our Heartland Harvest Garden because it will literally show the plants that sustain us and help us all maybe “to get” the big picture. (More on Doc and his Iris at another time.)
We know from many studies that plants do many other things beyond our physical sustenance. Hospitals with views of living landscapes have patients that recover more quickly. Schools and housing surrounded by grass and trees have residents less violent and with greater self esteem. Plant filled “greenspace” is cooler than the built “hardscape”. Trees and plants hold the soil, filter pollutants, and absorb water runoff. We know that a long time ago the southern side of the Mediterranean was once the world’s breadbasket but is now claimed by the Sahara and that replanting appropriate trees, shrubs and grasses there is slowing and reclaiming desertification! All big stuff to ponder but I know you all have a story about how plants are important in your lives. We would love to hear it.
Posted by Alan Branhagen, Director of Horticulture