Monday, June 30, 2008

Daylilies Dazzle Booms & Blooms

Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are once again the star of the flower show at Powell Gardens! Their annual extravaganza is right on schedule though a bit behind recent early years. Senior Gardener Jay Priddy said they have never been looked so lush, robust and floriferous -- certainly one advantage to a benevolent spring and copious rainfall so far this season. Enjoy the images taken this afternoon in bright sunlight.

Gentle Shepherd Daylily: certainly one of the better white-flowering cultivars.

Lady Emily Daylily is a good pink with yellow center.

Beyond the Blue Daylily has lavender tones but there is NO blue daylily.

Mauna Loa Daylily glows like the lava flowing from its namesake volcano in Hawaii. I couldn't resist this glowing back lit flower.

Siloam Joy Daylily is a soft yellow bloomer with good substance.

Cat's Cradle Daylily is a huge spider-flowering daylily (flowers at least 9 inches across) in bright yellow.

Be Still Daylily with its dark eye contrasting with yellow petals (and sepals).

Daring Deception Daylily is a stunner with peach and burgundy eyed and picotee flowers.

Cuban Nancy Daylily like most, must be seen in person to show of the "gold dust sparkle" to the frilled edges.

This is but a teaser of the 450 cultivars of daylilies on display in the Perennial Garden at Powell Gardens. We have old, classic and new cultivars as well as many species daylilies.

We are pleased that Bob and Sue McConnell of McConnell's Plantland outside Columbia, Mo., will be on hand this Saturday and Sunday to sell you some of the finest daylilies for our region. Bob is a daylily expert extraordinaire and offers the best cultivars that hold up in our intense sun and heat. Bob is always ready to share his extensive knowledge and experience growing daylilies in the lower Midwest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Solstice Flowers and Flying Flowers

The exquisite white flowers of Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) are out tempting the eye and nose with their alluring form and scent. The flower depicted is from a locally propagated tree we named after the owner: 'Margarite.' Powell Gardens has the finest collection of the hardiest Southern Magnolias you can find in the lower Midwest.

A closeup of the Southern Magnolia flower depicts its cone-like center. We will have some in bowls during Friday night's "Full Moon Friday" event for you to admire up close. (Remember you must RSVP for this event)

Hydrangeas are the theme of Full Moon Friday and two species are in full bloom now at Powell Gardens. The Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is depicted in front of the Horticulture Cabin. This plant is a special one grown from a cutting from a friend's garden in Rockford, Illinois: it has the most colorful flowers of any oakleaf hydrangea we have seen. I will never forget the first time I saw this shrub in the wilds of the Southwestern corner of Mississippi in my "Flora of Louisiana" class at LSU. It has been a favorite shrub of mine ever since. It is fully hardy in Kansas City but native only to the South Central part of the United States.

A closeup of the above Oakleaf Hydrangea reveals the pink tones already overtaking the older blooms (left). This special plant we have named 'JoAnn' for the friend who gave us cuttings of this fine plant. I was so thankful my friend JoAnn Mercer sent a package of cuttings to us at Powell Gardens before they moved from their premier garden in Rockford, Illinois, to Gastonia, N.C. We really saved many garden treasures! By next week I will show you how the flowers have all turned pink. Then they age to a beautiful rust pink a while later.

'Snow Queen' Oakleaf Hydrangea (on the Island Garden) has tighter upright panicles of flowers. Remember Oakleaf Hydrangeas bloom only on old wood from flower buds that were formed on the plant the previous fall! If you prune them anytime other than right after flowering, you will have no flowers. Deer also love to eat all the flower buds off the plant in winter so beware. We receive lots of comments from visitors that their oakleaf hydrangeas do not bloom.

The magnificent flowers of the 'Annabelle' Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) are also in bloom on the Island Garden. Here in good soil and with extra irrigation we can get away with planting them in full sun. It is best to plant these in afternoon shade, especially if they receive no extra water during dry spells. This is a selection of Missouri's native Wild Hydrangea -- it was discovered by two lady "belles" from Anna, Illinois. This hydrangea (unlike the Oakleaf Hydrangea) blooms on new wood so can be cut back in spring to encourage huge flowers on strong, new stems.

The classic Jackman Clematis (Clematis x jackmanii) is also currently in full bloom. This plant takes me back to growing up in Iowa and the huge vine of this my Grandmother cultivated. There are many new varieties with huge flowers but none can hold the flower power of this old variety! It was bred in 1858 by George Jackman and Son in England. We have an exuberant pair on the east bridges to the Island Garden.

The marvelous Betty Corning Clematis also is one of the best and also cascades with a million bells of bloom on the east bridge to the Island Garden. This was a chance seedling found on the porch of Betty Corning's house in Albany, N.Y. Many of our best garden plants were chances like this! We feel our Margarite Southern Magnolia and JoAnn Oakleaf Hydrangea may be premier plants just like this someday.

The gorgeous orchid-like blooms of catalpas are also out now. This is the rarer Purple-leaf Catalpa (Catalpa x erubescens 'Purpurea') growing northeast of the Visitor Center.

The magnificent flowers of our native Prickly-Pear cacti are also in full bloom. Look for them on the Island Garden where two species (Eastern Opuntia humifusa and Bigroot O. macrorhiza) are in bloom side-by-side on the Living Wall. The state endangered Bigroot Prickly-Pear O. macrorhiza can also be seen blooming along the high ridge of our nature trail.

The purple coneflowers are also in full or beginning to bloom. This clump in the Perennial Garden is a spontaneous hybrid between the Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). We will keep an eye on this clump as it merits further garden testing.

The butterflies are also starting to make a noticeable appearance in the garden as their numbers increase with the temperatures. This male Monarch rests (posed?) on a sunflower leaf in the Perennial Garden after nectaring on Purple Milkweeds. Monarchs may be in trouble as their tiny wintering grounds are under siege by armed illegal loggers! Make sure you mark your calendars for August 8-10 and 15-17 to attend our Festival of Butterflies to see and learn more about these marvelous creatures.

One of the tiny jewels of the season is this Banded Hairstreak sunning on a hosta leaf in the Perennial Garden. These tiny wonders are only found in mid June each year! They overwinter as eggs laid on the twigs of black oaks and the caterpillars emerge to dine on the fresh new leaves next spring. This unique butterfly is called a hairstreak because of the "hairs" on its hindwings that mimic antennae. The butterfly actually moves its hindwings so that these hairs move and the orange and blue markings nearby give this the appearance of a false head to the butterfly. Any predator often goes for the wrong end of the butterfly and it escapes! (The real head of the butterfly depicted is on the right).

Numerous brilliant Great Spangled Fritillaries are out in the gardens, here nectaring on native Purple Milkweeds (Asclepias purpurescens) in the Perennial Garden. I noticed many garden visitors admiring the butterflies out in full force today.

Friday at 7:59 p.m. is the summer solstice and the bright sunlight has made the flowers spectacular and the flying flowers (butterflies) out in abundance. Come out and enjoy their beauty and grace. Literally the most brilliant time of the year!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer is the Season for Colorful Containers

Tropical plants in containers displayed outdoors in the garden are one of the botanical pleasures of our hot, steamy summers. Below are some masterful container combinations put together by our Horticulturist Donna Covell for the Under A Blue Moon Rare Plant Auction at Powell Gardens last Saturday night. The combinations were so spectacular I thought I should share them with our Powell Gardens' friends for container combination ideas. It is not too late to put together some of your own masterpieces! Most of the plants depicted were donated by Heartland Nursery (I-470 and View High Drive) and Vintage Hill (north of Boonville, MO--a great day trip from here).

Here Belize Rubber Tree with its spectacular pink tinged variegated foliage is the "thriller" of this tall, dark green ceramic container. Good container design often uses "thriller," "filler" and "spiller" plants (P. Allen Smith's terms). Chenille plant will be a spectacular spiller as this container grows.

This hanging cone basket has 'Black Coffee' begonia as its thriller, white impatiens as its filler and fronds of Boston fern as future spillers.

Agapanthus makes the thriller in this ceramic container, with petunias as filler and Margarita sweet potato and purple heart as future spillers.

The thriller of this plant is the 2008 hot plant Agonis 'Jervis Bay After Dark' or "Peppermint tree" from Australia. We got this plant from Heartland Nursery and the use of brown Kalanchoe and silver Curry Plant make this an exquisite combination for the blue ceramic container.

The Leopard Palm (Amorphophallus konjac) with Calatheas in a translucent tan container was the hit of the silent auction.

These combinations of white and chartreuse plants in contemporary, translucent aqua blue containers were also a hit. The back container's thriller plant is a variegated ginger and the foreground planter's is Kona Coast Copperleaf.

Here Russian Red Canna is the thriller with a blend of other annuals to set off the foliage and the ceramic container.
The wild, almost tie dyed pink foliage of 'Haight Ashbury' Hibiscus is quite the thriller in this container. The filler is a Geranium and the spiller is Blackie Sweet Potato.
Here Euphorbia cotinifolia is the thriller while golden dewdrop (Duranta) shines with contrasting yellow foliage.
Come out to Powell Gardens and get more ideas for containers; we display them extensively throughout the grounds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Peach Orchard Follows the Non-yellow Brick Road

The benevolent, cool spring without harsh freezes has given us cute "baby" peaches. Adorned in their thick coat of peach fuzz, it won't be long until some of them are ready for picking and for us to slurp down. We all missed fresh peaches last year because the Easter Freeze killed the tiny fruit, but luckily not the trees.

The first peaches in the Heartland Harvest Garden's (HHG) "Peach Orchard" were planted last week. The peach orchard is located on a brick spiral walk that imitates the "yellow brick road" from the Wizard of Oz. You can see the brick is not yellow but a rosy color to play off all the blooming fruit trees in spring. The first peaches to go in are the mini or patio peaches. Here Matt Bunch, Horticulturist - HHG, does some measuring with his spade for the new tree. Barbara Fetchenhier, Gardener - HHG, is ready to dig the hole to the proper size, which just fits in the inner spiral. Barbara grew all the peaches for the past couple seasons in grow bags in our nursery. Powell Gardens' Director Eric Tschanz stops by for a look at the progress.

The first peach ('Stark Sensation') is in place and Barbara begins to fill the soil back around the tree's root ball. The mini/patio peaches fit nicely into the tight space at the center of the spiral. The planting beds get larger as the brick walk spirals outward; likewise, the peach varieties get larger and larger from dwarf to standard sizes on the outer ring. There will be about 30 cultivars of peaches in the completed spiral, some cultivars duplicated in both dwarf and standard size. We selected only the hardier cultivars with ripening times from late June through September! On your visit to the Heartland Harvest Garden next year, you will likely be able to sample various peaches during that time.

Here is the layout of the other mini peaches on the inner ring. Powell Gardens' maintenance staff puts finishing touches on the garden infrastructure while Matt and Barbara install the plants as beds are completed. The trees in our nursery were grown in grow bags and this has allowed for successful transplanting this late and will allow us to continue planting through the season. After a rain delay, more peaches are going in today! If the rain holds off, the peach orchard "spiral" will be completely planted.

Well, actually the companion plants won't go in until fall and next spring. The brick walk is quite a walk if you follow the whole experience from beginning to end. You will see apples at its start, pears in the middle and peaches at this end of the spiral.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Exquisite White Flowers Exclusively at Powell Gardens

Some of our most exquisite flowers are currently in bloom and many of them are in elegant pure whites and from plants rarely seen in this region. White flowers are a favorite to use near outdoor seating and entertainment areas as they literally glow at dusk. Most are also very fragrant too -- a very important aspect to consider in good garden design. Here are some to search for at Powell Gardens and for use in your own garden.

The magnificent Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) flowers are almost 8 inches long in bud and open out on their second day. This small tree is found wild only in the Florida Panhandle but is hardy as far north as Chicago! Look for Powell Gardens' tree below the south bridge in the Rock & Waterfall Garden where the wonderfully scented flowers can be easily viewed. Its huge tropicalesque leaves have a silvery underside and are simply stunning in a breeze, but this tree always needs a sheltered, wooded site so it will not get too wind whipped! It's one of the finest trees for a secluded patio space and available by mail order from places like Pine Ridge Gardens or Fairweather Gardens.

The wonderfully true white flowers of the Charles Coates Magnolia (Umbrella Magnolia M. tripetala x Oyama Magnolia M. sieboldii) is another rarity in bloom in the Rock & Waterfall Garden with luscious tropical looking leaves adorning each flower. This tree is also hard to find -- we got ours from Fairweather Gardens about a decade ago.

The graceful downward facing Oyama Magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii) is the epitome of style. It is native to Eastern Asia and the Japanese place the cut flowers in high vases so you can look up into the fragrant flowers. The Oyama Magnolia demands shade in our climate and remains a large shrub. Look for plants in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. I would love a garden where it grew above a retaining wall alongside an outdoor seating area where it would canopy over to create a wonderful space.
The Chinese Allspice (Sinocalycanthus chinensis) has waxy downward facing flowers. This is a heat tolerant large shrub. Our oldest plant bowers over the path to the lower deck in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. It is beautiful but emits no scent. Seedlings from this large shrub are already quite large along the upper walk in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This rare Chinese plant has been hybridized with the American native Carolina Allspice "Sweetshrub" (Calycanthus floridus) to produce the new cultivar 'Venus' with the beautiful white flowers of the Chinese plant and the awesome fragrance of the American sweetshrub. Its new botanical name is a mouth full: X Calycalycanthus raulstonii. The X before the Genus name means it is a hybrid between two Genera.
The China Snow Peking Tree Lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'China Snow') is in full bloom at the entrance to the Perennial Garden in the fragrance beds. This tree has fragrant white flowers but nearly so nice as an old fashioned lilac (more privety if you know what that means). It is a great small tree with some of the most beautiful of all exfoliating bark so looks great in the winter landscape (see January blog with Jay Priddy).
In our nursery beds we have our finest tree lilac blooming! It is a Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) grown from cuttings from an old tree in my old Rockford, Illinois, neighborhood. It is the best tree lilac I have ever seen and we may need to give it a cultivar name and introduce it into the nursery trade sometime. It has huge flower clusters every year and larger than normal leaves. The parent tree is about 80 years old in the wonderful Edgewater neighborhood of Rockford, Illinois: that old neighborhood with lots of interesting trees and plantings, sidewalks, some brick streets, porches and garages along an alleyway in the back. It's what new urbanism is trying to reproduce today! I am happy a dear friend JoAnn Mercer sent cuttings of the tree and our propagator Marie Frye was able to root this plant, which is now 10 years old.
A closeup of the frothy flowers of the "Rockford" Japanese Tree Lilac. You can see the tree if you walk the road to the Chapel: its just east of the Horticulture Building. It always gets comments while in bloom.
The Innocense Mockorange (Philadelphus hybrid)is also finally in bloom and is hands down the most fragrant of our mockoranges.
Innocense Mockorange is not a very vigorous shrub but still produces a fine shrub for a border where you want to cut some flowers or enjoy its fragrance while it is in bloom and then let it blend with other shrubs through the rest of the year. Look for this shrub in the White Border of the Perennial Garden.
What a plethora of beautiful plants to experience at Powell Gardens. And this is only the tip of the iceberg in this time of a million blooms!