Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heartland Harvest Garden Bounty

Now that the summer solstice has passed and the long days of summer have provided abundant sunshine, the Heartland Harvest Garden's bounty is coming into fruition. The staff's masterful selection and care of this unprecedented array of edible plants in a public garden has really provided a remarkable and beautiful produce experience for our visitors. (Many thanks to Horticulturist Matt Bunch, Gardeners Barbara Fetchenhier, Caitlin Bailey, Ginger Johnson, Katie Scott and Dallas Stephens for all their work in making this garden a GARDEN!)

A brief look at the produce in Horticulturist Matt Bunch's vehicle was a literal feast for the eyes! This colorful harvest of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant was on its way to Chef Nick and Fresh: A Garden Cafe. Fresh, located in our Missouri Barn, is now open and if you haven't tasted its menu then you are missing out!

Another crate of colorful produce shows more tomatoes, peppers and even peaches and Asian pears towards the back.

Here's some fresh picked green beans, the purple striped one on the right is the most flavorful cultivar 'Dragon's Tongue,' which Matt had me taste right on the spot. Delicious!!!!

Here's a larder of cucumbers including the unusual hit at the tasting stations: the large, light green Armenian cucumber.
The Insectaries Garden at the entrance to the Heartland Harvest Garden is exuberant with colorful plants that attract all the good bugs and pollinators to the garden. This garden is also a great butterfly garden and will be interpreted during our Festival of Butterflies on August 7-9 & 14-16. We have observed the benefit of this garden and the other companion plantings throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden. There is a plethora of honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bees; and they have done their job by providing the plants and us with fruits of their labor.
Near the Millstone Entrance Fountain the Stanley Plum is laden with gorgeous ripening plums.
Our young apple trees are showing ripening apples. This colorful red beauty is the cultivar 'Royal Empire,' which is noted for its bright red skin and white flesh. Red skinned apples actually are the best for you as they are highest in antioxidants. Lodi, the first apple to ripen has long since been picked.
There are more than 50 varieties of apples in the Apple Celebration Court and this 'GoldRush' apple is a real beauty too. GoldRush apple is noted as being tart and tangy but does sweeten with age.
The grapes in our vineyard are also gaining size and a few are ripening. This is a Neptune Grape, which is a white grape for wine and juice. Remember that the color of a grape does not necessarily mean it will be that color of wine. Our Melody grapes are ripening purple (in the row of white wine grapes closest to the arbor) but they are used to make a WHITE wine.
Here's a picture of the Garretson Persimmons, which are showing an interesting complex of colors. This cultivar of native persimmon is noted for its early ripening and good fruit color. I can't wait to try it in about 6 weeks. Not all persimmons need frost to ripen!
The Colossus Chestnut shows some of its spiny burs are filling out with nuts. This chestnut has been a good producer for us so far -- most of our fruit and nut trees have been in the nursery for three seasons prior to being planted in the Heartland Harvest Garden.
In the Peach Plaza the Contender Peach tempts visitors with gorgeous classic fruit. There is no substitute for a locally grown, tree ripened peach! The Contender peach has greater frost resistance (while in bloom in dicey April) than most, so is a good choice for our area.
The marvelously crisp and tasty Asian Pears are ripening up throughout the garden. This Honsui Asian Pear is noted for its golden brown skin and delicious flavor. Asian pears are star performers in our climate and are a fantastic ornamental tree as well. Their white bloom in spring is followed by these delicious and beautiful fruit in summer and their fall color is a dazzling blend of oranges and reds.
We have European pears too and this Colette Pear shows the classic pear-shaped fruit. Colette pear is known as an "everbearing" pear as it has pears ripening on the tree from August until frost. Look for this pear in the Missouri Star Orchard Quilt Garden.
The Missouri native Pawpaws are also showing their unique fruit. In about 6 weeks the first of these tropicalesque fruit will ripen and sure to be a hit at the tasting stations.
The day neutral or Everbearing Strawberries are still going strong with a new flush of bloom and fruit. This is the popular Tribute Everbearing Strawberry and it too can be seen in the Missouri Star Orchard Quilt Garden.
Make sure to stop in and see the bounty of the Heartland Harvest Garden. It will be in peak production from now until freeze this fall. The more than 500 varieties of summer seasonal vegetables on display along with hundreds of varieties of fruit trees will really give your palette a new experience at our tasting stations or in Cafe Fresh.
Tonight (sold out) Powell Garden's Heartland Harvest Garden is pleased to be hosting the nationally renown Outstanding in the Field dining experience by Jim Denevan ( guest chef Jonathan Justus of Justus' Drugstore in Smithville. The mission of Outstanding in the Field is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Powell Gardens' Plants for a Midsummer's Evening Garden

Midsummer evenings are a time when many of us sit outdoors and enjoy our gardens. Plants with white flowers or otherwise reflective (often bluish or golden) and variegated foliage really stands out as the light fades. Gardens themed around such plants are often called Evening Gardens. If you have participated in any of our Fridays at the Fountains (or Full Moon Fridays in 2008) you had the chance to see Powell Gardens in the evening on a guided tour.
Becky Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x maximum 'Becky') are a classic midsummer white flower. Ask anyone to name 5 flowers and "daisy" is likely to be one of the five! Becky Daisy is our best choice for a daisy in our climate as it is stout (doesn't flop) and is heat tolerant (a trait not needed so far this year but needed here MOST years).
The tall and little known Hungarian Daisy (Chrysanthemum serotinum) also does well in our climate and a good choice for the back of a border. Look for this perennial in the Perennial Garden and now in the Heartland Harvest Garden vineyard.

White Swan Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan') (or other white-flowering cultivars) also are stellar performing garden perennials for us. The flower's cones give a nice contrast of color so that a white garden doesn't look flat. Even a stray seedling in typical purple coneflower adds a nice depth to a planting (as in the image). Look for these in the Perennial Garden and below the north wall of the Visitor Center.
David Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata 'David') is a stellar cultivar of phlox that is mildew resistant and a long bloomer (a past perennial plant of the year). The softly fragrant white flowers simply glow in the evening. White-flowering Gentle Shepherd daylilies add to the composition in the image and are another good midsummer evening perennial. Look for David Phlox in the Perennial Garden.
The unique globe-like flower heads atop open stems of the locally native wildflower Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) are a very underutilized white-flowering perennial. Rattlesnake Master is now a Plant of Merit ( so is a star performer across Missouri. You can see Rattlesnake Mater growing wild along our entrance drive and along our Nature Trail; and planted in the parking lot, Fountain and Perennial Gardens.
This perennial needs a person standing next to it to show how big it is! This is a mature clump of Bartered Bride Joe Pye-weed (Eupatorium maculatum). It is in the Perennial Garden at the back of the white border and is 6 feet tall. This white-flowering cultivar of Joe Pye is a great performer and also attracts many interesting beneficial insects.
Another large, bold perennial is Kopper King Hibiscus or Rose Mallow (a hardy native Hibiscus hybrid). The bronzed foliage and pink "eye" of the flowers really can add contrast and depth to a planting of white flowering plants. Look for this plant in the white border of the Perennial Garden and at the entrance to the Island Garden.
Casa Blanca Lily (Oriental Lilium hybrid) is a classic evening plant because this flower also is incredibly fragrant, especially in the evening. There are two large clumps of this lily in bloom at the beginning of the dogwood walk outside the Visitor Center.
This Garden Party Oriental Lily is a good evening garden choice with yellow-banded, freckled white flowers of intense fragrance. Look for it in the Perennial Garden.
Some of our containter greenhouse plants get set out for the summer to really show their ornamental attributes. These large (4" across) white flowers are on our Night-blooming Cereus cactus and can be seen in the cactus bed out the north ramp of the Visitor Center. If you visit in the morning the flowers will still be open.
Many plants have ideal foliage now with waxy surfaces that make them look bluish. White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba) is a native prairie plant that, though it has tall spikes of white flowers in early summer, still has appropriate foliage for an evening garden now. The light green seed pods are also quite beautiful and they will turn black by fall and be good for interest in the winter season. This White Wild Indigo is next to the blue border in the Perennial Garden but can also be seen in the Perennial Garden's prairie border, in our main meadow and growing wild along the Nature Trail.
Variegated Ornamental Grasses are always stunning in evening light. Here Variegated Giant Reed (Arundo donax 'Variegata') and Variegated Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis cultivar) rise above and beyond white-flowering purple coneflowers and white-flowering daylilies in the Perennial Garden. Both Giant reed and miscanthus are considered invasive weeds in the southwestern and southern parts of the United States but these never self sow here.
There are many great flowering shrubs that make excellent backdrops and screens around evening gardens: Here is Limelight Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight') with its classic lime colored flower buds that do open to pure white and then fade to pinks as they age. Look for Limelight Hydrangea is several locations at Powell Gardens: around the Fountain Garden, in the Perennial Garden and in a large shrub border near the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop.
Pink Diamond Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Pink Diamond') is another great beauty in full bloom in the Perennial and Island Gardens. Its flower heads gradually age to pink and you can already see a hint of pink in the flowers.
The Swan Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is another good cultivar with huge white sterile florets (2" across -- huge for a hydrangea!). This flower is about a foot long. All Hydrangea paniculata cultivars do well here in full sun and can be allowed to become large shrubs if you want. They all bloom on new wood so you can also cut them back or even to the ground if need be and they bloom on new growth the first season! Look for this shrub in the white border of the Perennial Garden.
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) with its whitish-blue leaf undersides also looks good in an evening garden now. There are occasionally a few of its flowers still open although its peak bloom is in early summer. Small trees help make intimate spaces in a evening garden setting and sweetbay is one of the best choices. Sweetbays are planted throughout Powell Gardens: from around the Visitor Center to Island, Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Gardens.
Several evergreens are also a good choice in evening gardens and the tapestry hedge in the Perennial Garden shows 3 of the best! Here the lime-gold foliage of Berkmann's Golden Oriental Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis), green with nicely contrasting light blue "berries" on the middle Emerald Sentinel Juniper (Juniperus virginiana) and the Blue Juniper (Juniperus virginiana 'Glauca') create a rich composition at all seasons. Yep the two cultivars of juniper in this hedge are just selections of our native Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) -- one of the toughest evergreens for our climate.
No matter what your interest in gardening and plants may be, Powell Gardens displays some plants that interest you! We exceeded 15,000 accessions (cataloged plant acquisitions) this spring and we never accession annuals so nearly 8,000 varieties of plants are now on display at the Gardens. From food plants in the Heartland Harvest Garden, to annuals and tropicals around the Visitor Center, water and rock plants on the Island Garden, shade-loving plants in the Rock & Waterfall Garden and all sorts of perennials in the Perennial Garden, there are surely some ideas in store for your gardening endeavors.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Daylily Daze

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are the epitome of bright summer perennials and Powell Gardens' Perennial Garden displays nearly 500 varieties in a landscape setting. Daylilies brighten the garden with light to dark colors from reds to oranges, yellows, greenish, pinks, lavenders, and near white; and combinations thereof. Many appear to glow with sunshine like this yellow in a sea of other colors. Every part of the daylily plant is edible but they are best as food for the soul or "eye candy" as I call them.

Daylilies are planted with appropriate perennials for pleasing combinations like pastel pink Lady Emily Daylily (lower right) combined with Highland White Dream Daisy (left), Summer Pastels Yarrow (upper center to right) and a pink-flowering Asiatic Lily (upper right quarter). You can get some great ideas for what to plant with daylilies in our Perennial Garden.

This plant combination includes the near white Gentle Shepherd Daylily (mid center and left) with White Swan and regular Purple Coneflowers, a hardy Easter Lily and sprigs of Plume Poppy.

Jennifer Bolyard, Senior Gardener in the Perennial Garden, poses with one of her favorite daylilies in the garden: cultivar Spanish Brocade. Each morning Jennifer and intern Sharon Rink remove the spent blooms off all our daylilies so they always look fresh and bright during your visit. Jennifer likes the bold, beautiful and dramatic cultivars.

Here is a closeup of Jennifer's favorite 'Spanish Brocade' Daylily. Look for it on the left side of the walk from the trolley stop into the Perennial Garden.

Intern Sharon Rink stops for a picture while weeding in the Perennial Garden. Her pick for favorite daylily is 'Lusty Leland' as she like the ones in bright, hot colors with a contrasting yellow throat.

Lusty Leland Daylily is a vivacious red. I once had a visitor couple chuckling near our mass of this daylily: turns out his name was Leland. Reading all the names of our cultivars is half the fun!

One of my favorite "reds" is 'Scarlet Tanager' with "diamond dust" making the flowers sparkle.

For a pink-red Daylily 'Fabulous Favorite' stands out on the walk from the trolley stop into the garden.

Mended Heart Daylily, a vivacious orange with darker halo, is Janet Heter's (Senior Gardener in the nearby Rock & Waterfall Garden) favorite.

Outrageous Daylily is aptly named and a perennial favorite of Perennial Garden visitors.

Lady Florence Daylily has some extra petals and a very glowing yellow-orange flower. We have double-flowering dayliles in the garden but most of us prefer the single bloom types.

MoKan Gold Daylily was hybridized by local daylily hybridizer Bob Lennington. It was mentioned by both Jennifer and Sharon as a top pick in the Perennial Garden.

Some daylilies are greenish, especially in the throat of the flower like this Priority Daylily.

One of our finest "purple" flowering daylilies is 'Rue Royal', there are good lavenders but no true purple and definitely no blue-flowering daylily.

There is a good range of pink-flowering daylilies. This is the sumptuous and frilled Holiday Frills Daylily.

The thick, smokey pink petals of Smokey Mountain Autumn Daylily make it a real show stopper.

The fun, bitone flowers of Chicago Candy Cane can really add some zest to a perennial border.

Old King Cole was a merry old sole but the daylily with that name is a most interesting bicolor!

The frilled picotee flower edge and dark eye of Daring Deception Daylily make it another visitor favorite.

The collection of daylilies at Powell Gardens shows a great variety in a beautiful setting. We have no collection policy for daylilies and have many older varieties as well as some of the newest hybrids. They have to thrive here and fit the color schemes or theme of each perennial bed so that you, our visitor, has a beautiful experience. I always like to stroll through with my camera or notepad and get ideas for my own garden and future garden designs.

Jennifer Bolyard and Sharon Rink will be in the garden to answer your daylily or perennial garden questions on Friday afternoon and evening for our Booms & Blooms Festival on July 3 (the Perennial Garden will be open until 8 p.m. that day). Regional daylily expert Bob McConnell (co-owner with his wife Sue of McConnell's Plantland in Columbia, MO) will be selling daylilies in front of the Visitor Center on Friday and Saturday (July 3 & 4), bring him your daylily questions and/or wish list and he will take care of you. We always appreciate his generosity of daylilies to Powell Gardens and his expert advice. He knows which ones really perform in our intense climate!