Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HHG Progress & Mid Season Daffodils peak

Powell Gardens Maintenance Staff (C.C. Aldrich center, Mark Mallinson right) work on installing the Rosalind Creasy Author's Garden. The custom rebar works built by maintenance include 2 tall "Blackberry Fountains" and a cauldron pot holder. These works will be billowing with plants in the future: old fashioned climbing petunias in the cauldron and blackberries planted in the fountains -- what an imaginative way to display tall caned blackberries! The raised beds are sided in reused barn siding as the theme of the garden is re-use of local materials.

The "Chicken Coop" at the end of the Tutti-Frutti maze is going up. This will be a fun building for children to explore but won't have live chickens. The concrete pad in the foreground is for the Learning Shed, the classroom and restrooms for the Fun Food Garden.
The Quilt Arbors are almost complete and half the soil has been added to the intricate beds of the Villandry Quilt Garden. Almost 6" of rain fell in March and soil is too wet to move at this time.
If you want a preview of the Heartland Harvest Garden be sure and call in to reserve a spot with a guided tour on Earth Day (Saturday, April 18th) at 11a.m. or 1 p.m. The number to call is 816-697-2600 x307.

Bloom Alert: Mid Season Daffodils at Peak (ahead of schedule)!
Last Saturday's rain, ice & snow did not destroy Powell Gardens' spring flowers. The minimum temperature was 28F but the ice and snow helped to insulate buds and flowers. Over one hundred thousand mid-season daffodils are currently in full bloom and with cool conditions predicted for the week they should hold well and retain their rich colors through the weekend.
A mix of daffodils line the entrance walk to the Perennial Garden. The blend of yellow and white really create a lively sparkle to the display. For the most part we have masses of the same cultivar but we do have some mixes of harmonious colors (these were purchased as a mix and planted about 10 years ago).
On the back side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden a swath of blue hyacinths compliments the masses of daffodils.
A mass of 'Las Vegas' daffodils all face the morning sun along the walk from the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop. This large trumpet daffodil is listed in catalogs as a "showgirl" and has been a great daffodil for forced displays or in the landscape at Powell Gardens.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring has Sprung: Flowers of March 2009

Mark Gawron, Senior Gardener on the Island Garden, samples the aroma of our most uniquely scented magnolia blossom: 'Miss Jack' Anise Magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia). I would describe the scent as wintergreen with a touch of anise and a flutter of cayenne! Many of the precocious magnolias are in bloom around the grounds so remember to sample the aroma of each.

The Hellebores or Lenten Roses (Helleborus spp.) are in full bloom. This plant is at the entrance to the Island Garden and is being pollinated by a honeybee. We have noticed very good numbers of wild honeybees this spring at various flowers. Our best displays of Hellebores are in the Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Gardens.

I am still in shock at how many Daffodils (Narcissus) are already in bloom. This is the cultivar 'Ceylon' (in the Large Cup division) blooming on the Island Garden. You will really notice its orange rimmed corona upon close inspection.

One of my favorite Daffodils is 'Cum Laude' in the Split Corona Division. Look for this beauty at the entrance to the Island Garden where it fits beautifully into the color scheme of burgundy, orange and pink.

Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are already in full bloom too, along with their delicious aroma. This is the cultivar 'Splendid Cornelia' around the Island Garden's upper pool.

In the shady section of the Island Garden's living wall (under the arbor) is the beautiful Corydalis cheilanthifolia (no common name) but is named for having foliage like a lipfern: cheilanthes=lipfern, folia=foliage. It does indeed look like a fern until its yellow flowers emerge, then you know it is a relative of bleeding hearts!

The Missouri native Sand or Cleft Phlox (Phlox bifida) is in full bloom on the Island Garden's living wall. This wildflower is found solely on sandy open woods and prairies but is a great garden plant. It has bloomed for us EVERY month of the year in the living wall--an occasional set of flowers even during mild spells in January or extreme heat of July.

The rare and local Biscuitroot (Lomatium foeniculaceum) is in bloom above the wall. Our plants above the Island Garden's living wall were grown from seed off the wild plants on our Byron Shutz Nature Trail. Look for them on the high, rocky hilltops along the trail. They hug the ground for protection against spring cold snaps and sweeping winds. Smart plant! Yes, Native Americans made a sort of biscuit from the roots.

Henbit, to weed or not to weed? Henbit is quite beautiful in bloom in the buffalograss on the Island Garden. It contrasts nicely with the dormant blond buffalograss, blue Grape Hyacinths and yellow Jetfire Daffodils! So far we will let it be a part of the floral display on the Island Garden. Come see for yourself as the grounds are decked out in spring attire in every nook.

All photographs were taken by Alan Branhagen on March 25, 2009, at Powell Gardens.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has sprung at Powell Gardens! Forsythias, magnolias, daffodils and others add splashes of floral color around the grounds as the fresh spring greens of lawns and woodlands replace the browns of winter. The image is from the Visitor Center Trolley Stop with 'Gold Tide' Forsythia in the foreground--this is a great lower growing forsythia and a Plant of Merit.

The yellow-flowering 'Butterflies' Magnolia is nearly in bloom -- it has always been a later blooming cultivar, blooming after the Saucer Magnolias. I like our long-time volunteer and local resident farmer, Wilbur Kephart's comment about local winter weather "it will be different." The sequence of bloom in plants in the gardens is NOT typical this spring.

Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata) with their delicate aroma are in full bloom now. We have several cultivars on the grounds that have pink to white flowers with varying aromas. I always like to buy Star Magnolia in bloom to make sure I get a sweetly scented plant.

Mid-season Daffodils are also already in bloom. This shot shows mostly 'Ice Follies' Daffodil (white with cream center). They usually bloom later, with or after the flowering cherries. There are thousands and thousands of daffodils in bloom across the grounds with large drifts in the Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Gardens.

Construction progresses on the Heartland Harvest Garden. The main arbors where all the quilt gardens come together are complete. This is the view from the Villandry Quilt.

Staff and Volunteers were busy preparing and loading soil for the intricate beds in the Villandry Quilt Garden. This will be a spectacular display of summer vegetables in four themes on opening day in June. The four themes are: tomatoes & basil, plant families, heirloom vegetables, and companion plantings. Each bed will have 18 inches of good soil and is defined by an edge of Ipe lumber.
Matt Bunch (Horticulturist, Heartland Harvest Garden) inspects our Pluot in bloom. What is a pluot? It is a plum-apricot hybrid!
Peaches are also in bloom in the Heartland Harvest Garden. The predicted wild weather will test the hardiness of our selections! This is the 'Saturn' Peach, which produces doughnut shaped peaches.
The flower buds of pawpaws are very swollen and close to opening. The green buds cloaked in purple fuzz will gradually open to sage green petals that mature a madder dyed maroon.
Predicted cold and possible heavy snow this weekend do not faze us. It is part of the exciting challenges of gardening in our climate. Each season we learn more and are often humbled by what we think we know. We actually hope it snows because it is the best insulation we know of against cold!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Flowers of the New Conservatory Display

Anne Wildeboor (Horticulturist, Seasonal Displays and Events), along with gardeners and volunteers, is busy planting ground covers and placing orchids for the new conservatory display of Orchids and Bromeliads. The conservatory is being transformed into a jungle showcasing these plants.

The display includes the Red Powderpuff (Calliandra haematocephala), which is in full bloom.

Forced azaleas are perfuming the air: this is the hardy 'White Lights' Azalea, one of the best for growing outdoors in our climate.

This is the flower truss of the 'Mandarin Lights' Azalea, another azalea that does well outdoors in our climate.

Our winter flowering tropical Joe Pye-weeds (Eupatorium sordidum) are always a hit but they only bloom after the short days of winter so will not work as plants set outdoors for summer. Enjoy their huge trusses of blue flowers.

All orchids with flower spikes or flowers have been pulled from our greenhouses and are staged ready for placement in the display.

Orchids are the major flowers of this display but the handsome foliage of a striped bromeliad is the backdrop for this white Paphiopedilum orchid. There are thousands of species of orchids, even more hybrids, and even more cultivars! Most of the orchids will not be labeled in the display--it distracts from the beauty of the experience. You may leave a plant information request form at the front desk if you need to know a name. Many orchids are complex crosses that are produced in limited numbers. Exact clones are generally not available, so the value of the name is minimal. Below is a quick sample of some of the orchids you will see in bloom in the display. I did not pull out their labels so no names are given. We hope you enjoy the exotic beauty of these most marvelous of flowers.

The new conservatory display opens on Saturday, March 14. Forced flowering dogwoods and the aforementioned azaleas add a preview of spring to the display. A great selection of orchids will be for sale from a display case adjacent to the front desk. We hope this gets you excited for the 2009 growing season!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Early Spring Flowers

Many of early spring's first flowers are tiny and must be sought out and looked at in close inspection. Personally it is my favorite time of year, each new bud, each new voice, and each new sighting of the season a cause for celebration!

The first butterflies have emerged from hibernation and Eastern Commas could be seen visiting crocus in the gardens today (along with an abundance of honeybees). The Spring Peepers, Western Chorus Frogs and leopard frogs were all voicing their approval en masse at the warm weather that has returned. New birds include Eastern Phoebe, an insect eater, so you know spring is here! The American Woodcocks are also back and carrying on at dusk with their outrageous flight display of almost alien sounds.

The Parrotia or Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) has flower buds that are about to open. Though small, their fiery stamens contrast exquisitely with their furry brown bud scales. Look for 3 Parrotia trees south of the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop. The middle tree has the remnants of last summer's Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest.

The locally native American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) is also in bloom. The male flowers are exquisite dangling catkins that shed pollen to the wind. Subtle but look close at the arrangement of each.

Yes the red "spider" is a flower: the tiny female flowers of the American Hazelnut. This captures the pollen to produce the nut that is so delicious. Look carefully along the twigs of the hazelnut to spot a flower. Squirrels get almost all our hazelnuts and look for them in the Rock & Waterfall Garden where the trail to the trolley stop leaves the main path through the garden.

The first Cornelian-cherry Dogwoods (Cornus mas) also are in flower in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. The tiny bunches of yellow flowers are quite showy in abundance. Make sure to try the tart red fruit late this summer. We will have a major collection of varieties of this plant in the Heartland Harvest Garden. The fruit are very popular for culinary uses in Eastern Europe where the small tree is native.

Drifts of Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) carpet areas of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

The Double Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno') looks beautiful only upon close inspection -- the flowers hang down so you have to turn them over to see the beautiful "rose" of inner segments.

Here is a drift of a different species of snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii), which has larger flowers, green inner segments, and glaucous (bluish) foliage.

A closeup of Snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) reveals the flowers in more detail. I really like the green inner segments, surrounded by white outer segments. I don't know why they are called segments and not petals and sepals! Snowdrops are in the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is really coming into bloom and opens fully on sunny days. Remember, it is actually still winter!

The first "big" blooms of the season are always the Daffodill 'Rjnveld's Early Sensation' (Narcissus Trumpet Division). I always tell people with spring fever to plant this great bulb! It has bloomed as early as late January but this year has held off until now. Ahhhhhhh. Look for these daffodils at the Perennial Garden trolley stop and in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

The weekend looks like it will be mild so be sure and come out to walk the gardens and see the tiny treasures of early spring. There are many Genera of plants now in bloom outdoors but the best displays are on the Island Garden and in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Surprise Snow brings March in like a Lion

5 inches of snow fell on February 28, 2009! Roland Thibault, our receptionist and photographer, took this photograph from the conservatory looking onto the south terraces. Fay Jones' gutterless overhangs often create beautiful icicles to view through from the Visitor Center. The Southern Magnolias are luxuriously green on their shady side and help complete the composition.
The late spring snow is nothing out of the ordinary and the largest snowfall of our season. All the spring bulbs already in bloom are safely insulated by this white blanket of nature's best mulch. By Wednesday (March 4) we expect it all to have melted and spring to be back on track with mild temperatures predicted for the latter part of the week. The spring bulbs will no doubt explode with this much needed moisture. Come check them out!