Wednesday, April 2, 2008

March Statistics and Early April Flowers

March 2008 was a wily month! The temperatures ended up about 1.5 degrees below average though it seemed so much colder! We have been spoiled by warm, early springs in the past few years. We had a whopping 4.82 inches of rain, which is well above average (and NO snow). I cannot complain because we continue to replenish subsoil moisture and groundwater so depleted from recent droughts.

There were two days with highs in the 70s, six days with highs in the 60s, 11 days with highs in the 50s, seven days with highs in the 40s, and five days with highs in the 30s. One day the high was a meager 30F, more than 15 degrees below normal. The coldest temperature was 10F on March 8.
The Flowering Dogwoods in the conservatory display continue to shine with spectacularly large bracts. The tiny true flowers in the center are also now in bloom and give a golden centered look to each blossom.
This is a spectacular new Phragmipedium Living Fire orchid in the conservatory display. Be sure and take time to observe all the orchids at their peak of glory -- they are tucked in throughout the display.
The azaleas are coming into bloom in the conservatory as well. Here is White Lights Azalea, a very hardy and fragrant cultivar from Minnesota. It is very reliable as an outdoor shrub in our climate and a must for a white or evening garden. Our outside "Lights" azalea collection blooms around the Spring Plant Sale in early May. It's located on the north side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.
The Cornelian-Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas & C. officinalis) are in full bloom (C. officinalis depicted). They are one of our few showy, yellow flowering trees and look best with an evergreen or blue sky backdrop. This one can be seen below the Visitor Center on the Dogwood Walk. Cornus mas is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia while Cornus officianlis is from Eastern Asia. You can tell them apart by counting hairs on the undersides of their leaves!
The exquisitely aromatic Japanese Grape-Holly (Mahonia japonica & 'Bealii') are in full bloom. This is a marginally hardy shrub that continues to thrive with our mild winters. IT NEVER GOT BELOW ZERO AGAIN OUT HERE! I saw beautiful plants for sale at Soil Service in Kansas City. I still recommend a sheltered site for them.
Dawn Viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn') is one of our earliest flowering shrubs. The sweetly scented flowers draw the first honeybees to their nectar. They can be injured by severe cold now but this spring has held them off to bloom a month later -- hopefully we are done with extreme cold.
One of the first plants to leaf out in spring are the buckeyes (Aesculus). This is the new leaf bud of the Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia), a shrub native to southeastern Missouri with brilliant red tubular flowers. It demonstrates why this is my favorite time of year! I think emerging foliage buds epitomize the term extraordinary in the ordinary. Be sure to look at emerging buds up close this spring -- they are all beautiful in their own way and show a stunning range of forms and colors. Buckeyes may be the first to leaf out but conversely are one of the first woody plants to lose their leaves in late summer or early fall.
All photographs taken on Wednesday, April 2, 2008, at Powell Gardens by Alan Branhagen.

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