Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Heartland Harvest Garden a Hive of Activity

Behind the scenes the Heartland Harvest Garden is blossoming with activity. This very fragrant Jubilee Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa) graces the understory of the Apple Celebration Court. Its flowers are edible but add more fragrance than flavor to the palate. This rose produces extra large fruit "hips" for tea and vitamin C-rich preserves. It is also a beneficial companion to apple plantings.

Can you guess what young fruit this is?

Baby peaches are fuzzy and cute at this season.

Sweet cherries ripen quickly! I have bird netting on order as last year birds sampled every one!

We planted strawberries a bit late because of the wet season. It takes about a month from bloom to fruit.

Matt Bunch (Horticulturist in charge of the Heartland Harvest Garden) sets stakes to string lines to sharply define the triangular and square beds of the Kansas Star Quilt - Forage Crops. Horticulture staff from all components of Powell Gardens teamed up to help Matt plant in the Heartland Harvest Garden today.

Duane Hoover (Horticulturist - Kauffman Memorial Garden, standing) and Ben Aaron (intern - Kauffman Memorial Garden) help plant forage grasses in the Kansas Star Quilt - Forage Crops garden.

Tracy Flowers (Gardener - Kauffman Memorial Garden) waters in new plantings in the Kansas Star Quilt. This garden will be a three-quarter acre patchwork quilt showcasing pasture and range grasses along with legumes like clover and alfalfa. Where does your beef and dairy come from?

Richard Heter (Horticulturist - Turf & Trails) is dwarfed by the crane installing the spiral staircase in the observation silo. Richard is preparing a bed for turf in front of the Missouri barn.

Here's the current view down the main path to the Missouri Barn's observation silo.

Parts of the Villandry Quilt - Vegetable Garden are already planted but we have held off on some veggies like tomatoes until now. Near record cold would not have been good for warm season plants like tomatoes and basil.

Caitlin Bailey plants a rainbow of indeterminate cherry tomatoes to climb over a rebar tunnel --a cherry tomato tunnel by late summer. This is part of Rosalind Creasy's Author's Garden.

Donna Covell (Horticulturist - Production Greenhouses) left and Kellyn Register (Gardener - Greenhouses) pose on a bench in the Apple Celebration Court. The two were checking on the plants they grew for planting today. Chives and roses add color to the space, most of the trees will produce some apples for sampling through the latter half of this season.

Mark your calendars for the public opening of the Heartland Harvest Garden on June 14th. The young fruit in the second image was a nectarine. We can't wait to savor its flavor later in the season.

All photographs taken by Alan Branhagen on May 19, 2009.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Iris Dazzle Powell Gardens Guests

Powell Gardens' Iris Hill greets the morning ready for the American Iris Society's (AIS) national convention visitors. Iris are not quite in peak bloom but are ready to put on a good show. Iris Hill is the Master Planting for the 2009 AIS Annual Convention so is at its maximum size with over 1,400 iris on display. Volunteer Pat Taylor was responsible for their immaculate care leading to the convention.

Convention visitors hike through the sweeping beds of iris that line the hills on the east side of Powell Gardens. The iris hill is open to all Powell Gardens' visitors and can be reached by trolley today, Friday and on weekends.

An AIS judging group huddles around select iris for judging. Powell Gardens Iris Hill normally displays only those iris judged Merit winners for each year -- going back 20 years; plus some iris of local and historical significance (approximately 660 iris in total).

The 2009 AIS Convention Dedication went to Dr. Norlan Henderson for A Lifetime of Science (left in this picture with volunteer Betty Gember center and Doc's daughter Peg Homeier right). Doctor Henderson has donated all the Iris of the original planting on Iris hill. He also maintained the garden for many years and still checks on the plantings on nearly a daily basis.
Historical Iris 'Kansas City' greeted guests with full bloom! This was Dr. Henderson's hybridization breakthrough in dark iris. It once graced the city sticker of Kansas City as the iris is Kansas City's official flower. Look for even more spectacular dark iris that have since been hybridized including: 'Before the Storm', 'Hello Darkness' and 'Fade to Black' on Iris Hill.
Gorgeous and fragrant merit Iris 'Vivid' immediately draws attention on a quick overview of all the iris in flower.
Merit Iris 'Everything Plus' deserves its name as a spectacular clump in full bloom.
All iris in the original Merit Iris collection are labeled so you know their name, who hybridized them and what year they were introduced.
Merit Iris 'Lady Friend' appears close to red but their is no true red flowering iris.
Merit Iris 'Nordica' sparkles in white with heavy substance, ruffling and contrasting orange beards.
Merit Iris 'Halo in Peach' is aptly named and simply stunning.
Over 800 convention guest iris currently are on display including Iris 'Solar Flare' that really has an inner glow! This portion of iris hill will be dismantled this summer so is a great chance to see up and coming iris in bloom now.
All guest iris are also labeled so you can see their name, hybridzer and year introduced.
Guest Iris 'Burst of Glory' epitomizes the beauty of iris on Iris Hill. They should be in peak bloom over the next several days. Be sure and come take a closer look at these "flowers of the rainbow."
All photographs taken May 14, 2009 at Powell Gardens by Alan Branhagen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Two Spring Favorties now in Bloom!

Two favorite spring blooming plants at Powell Gardens are currently in bloom: Oriental Wisterias and Azaleas! The slow, cool spring has been much to their liking and their flowers are lasting a long time. Look for Wisterias covering the Perennial Garden lakeside arbor and Azaleas throughout the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Oriental Wisterias (the hybrid cultivar 'Caroline' depicted) are quite fickle in our climate. Oriental wisterias set flower buds the previous late summer and fall. In spring, emerging flower buds are often nipped by a late freeze and hence they never bloom. This year they are grand! Oriental Wisterias bloom before most of their foliage is out and the flowers are very large and fragrant; making them the a spring favorite. We have tried many types of Oriental Wisteria and the cultivars 'Caroline' and 'Texas Purple' are our best performers. We recommend you grow a selected cultivar to ensure good bloom as we have some wisterias that are more than a decade old and have never bloomed! There are also American native species of wisterias which bloom in late spring/early summer and they are 100% reliable because our weather has settled down by then.

America's favorite shrub is also painting the understory of the Rock & Waterfall Garden: Azaleas! It is best to come walk through the garden to get the full effect of their rich hues, the spring sunshine, the floral aromas and the songs of all the visceral birds in the garden. I tried to find some compositions to capture the glory of the garden this morning but agreed with several visitors that it is something that must be experienced in person.

The top performing azalea in the Rock & Waterfall Garden is the cultivar 'Herbert' seen here. It has what is called hose-in-hose flowers (its like two flowers in one) of a vibrant lavender purple and a darker flare.

Herbert azaleas like most of them, look better in masses set among shade loving plants.

We have some azaleas you cannot see in these parts including this white Glenn Dale Azalea. It is an unknown cultivar that was a good doer by long-time local nurseryman and azalea enthusiast Andy Klapis. Andy is currently in his late 80's and donated the original collection of Rock & Waterfall azaleas. I gave him a call to let him know that the azaleas are spectacular this spring. We have both a pink and white Glenn Dale azalea from him that are among our most spectacular azaleas.

Azalea Girard's Dwarf Lavender is a great choice for small spaces and vivid color.

Azalea 'Girard's Hot Shot' has orange in its red blossoms so can be difficult to sight in the landscape though is beautiful with other red azaleas and white flowering dogwoods.

Azalea 'Stewartstownian' is our best red azalea and can be found in good masses in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. Again it can be a bit difficult to sight in a landscape but is gorgeous set with green foliage and white flowering dogwood. Blue flowers like woodland phlox and Spanish bluebells are also good companions.

Powell Gardens are currently at their peak of spring color! Dogwoods (see prior blog) and azaleas are as good as ever this year. Together with the wisterias on the perennial garden arbor a visit to the Powell Gardens delivers an ethereal experience.