Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

The Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel, masterfully sited where the prairie meets the woods and overlooking Powell Gardens' main lake, epitomizes the end of a bountiful season.

The Heartland Harvest Garden America's largest edible landscape was a monumental planting operation finished on schedule in June -- still wonderful in fall crops as photographed from the observation silo on November 20, 2009.

Poinsettias photographed on November 23, 2009, in the greenhouses have put on their holiday colors...

The horticulture staff are the folks who take care of the plants in the Powell Gardens' landscape. I am thankful for all their hard work and accomplishments from the Heartland Harvest Garden to the Visitor Center, core Island-Rock & Waterfall-Perennial Gardens, Grounds and Greenhouses. It makes me think of a poem titled Garden Meditation by the late Rev. Max Coots I received from Seed Savers Exchange in 2001:

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.

For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the eveningtime and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

Meet the Powell Gardens horticulture staff:

Gardener Becky Ammon maintains the 50 Highway entrance, Gatehouse, Visitor Center Landscape and Fountain Garden.

Gardener Caitlin Bailey maintains the vegetables and herbs in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Senior Gardener Jennifer Bolyard maintains the Perennial Garden.

Gardener Shelly Bruellisauer maintains the Visitor Center beds and Conservatory.

Horticulturist Matt Bunch is in charge of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Horticulturist Donna Covell is in charge of Powell Gardens' greenhouse production. Photographed with her most challenging crop of the season!

Gardener Barbara Fetchenhier maintains the fruit and nuts in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Photographed celebrating the opening of the Apple Celebration Court last June.

Gardener Tracy Flowers maintains the Kauffman Memorial Garden, here helping with finishing touches in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Senior Gardener Marie Frye is in charge of Plant Records and Plant Collections; our propagator of native plants! Photographed marking a white prairie blazingstar at Friends' member Ona Gieschen's native prairie.

Senior Gardener Mark Gawron maintains the Island Garden and rain "Bog" garden below the Visitor Center. Photographed enjoying the extraordinary fragrance of the Miss Jack Anise Magnolia blooming last spring.

Senior Gardener Janet Heter maintains the Rock & Waterfall Garden, Meadow and Chapel landscape. Photographed showing off the snowdrops late last winter in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Horticulturist Richard Heter is in charge of Grounds and Natural Resources, and works as the property's arborist. Photographed next to one of our old growth Northern Red Oaks on the property.

Horticulturist Duane Hoover (standing) is in charge of the Kauffman Memorial Garden. Here he is with intern Ben Aaron helping with finishing touches in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Part-time Gardener Penny Hudson helps maintain the Greenhouses.

Senior Gardener Eric Perrette helps maintain the greenhouses and is in charge of the spring plant sale production.

Gardener Kellyn Register helps maintain the greenhouses, with focus on the Heartland Harvest Garden's plants.

Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor is in charge of Seasonal Displays and Events, which includes the seasonal flower beds around the Visitor Center, Conservatory Displays and as photographed, with centerpieces for events like the First Taste preview opening of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

I want to give thanks to all the guests, Friends members and donors to Powell Gardens so that we may help you celebrate the Midwest's spirit of place and inspire an appreciation for the importance of plants in our lives.

A bountiful Thanksgiving to all in 2009.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's A Girl!

The tropical food plants of the Heartland Harvest Garden are safely tucked away for the winter in the greenhouses....

Papayas (Carica papaya) are palm-shaped perennials that become tree-like over time. Seed planted last spring are producing some handsome plants that have begun to flower profusely.
It's a girl! For some reason most of our papaya seed has produced only male plants, but finally our first FEMALE papaya! The female papaya flowers are larger and hug the stem so that the large fruit can be held sturdy against the "trunk" of the plant. You can already see a fruit forming on the right side.

Male papayas have clusters of yellow flowers that are quite handsome. All these papayas are scheduled to be planted in the Fun Food Section of the Heartland Harvest Garden next spring -- look for them near the large corn crib.
The Pineapples (Ananas comosus) had a good year and grew profusely. They are a species of bromeliad that originated in Southern Brazil and Paraguay but are extensively grown in Hawaii.
Our Pineapples are setting flower buds to produce real pineapples next summer. These too will be planted in the Fun Food section of the Heartland Harvest Garden.
Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) is in bloom along with many of our citrus. I can't wait to have fresh limes next year but key lime blooms are NOT fragrant like other citrus blossoms.
Our Banana collection (these are all different types of bananas!) keeps growing and next season should really put on quite a show in the Heartland Harvest Garden. HHG Horticulturist Matt Bunch has designed some really interesting themes for next summer's displays: food plants will be grouped into the four major regions of the world where they originated: Southeast Asia (where the bananas will be along with citrus), Americas (potatoes, tomatoes, corn, avocados, chocolate...), Mediterranean and Northern Eurasian themes.
All the above images were taken in our greenhouse complex which is not open to the public but you can see some of our major tropical plants (bananas, cacao/chocolate, oranges, coffee, black pepper, cinnamon, etc.) on display in the Seed to Plate Greenhouse in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November Garden Star Plants

November is often thought of as a bleak garden season but there are many plants that are stars of the garden right now. Take note of these plants and add them to your garden next season as they are sure to brighten up the late fall garden for next year.

Deciduous Hollies are garden stars right now! This blaze of red is the Sparkleberry Holly (Ilex serrata x verticillata) in the Perennial Garden. A male Apollo Holly is planted next to this blaze of red to act as pollinator so that the berries are set each season.

Fickle "Blue" Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are showing exceptional fall color this season. Here Hydrangea 'Let's Dance Starlight' (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lynn') in the Rock & Waterfall Garden shows its lacecap flower and foliage in pink to violet fall color. Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars are difficult to flower in our climate and soils -- even the new remonant (blooming on new wood) varieties have not lived up to their hype. Let's Dance Starlight has been our best variety while the cultivar Endless Summer has not bloomed here in years.

The best Endless Summer Hydrangeas are in the Kauffman Memorial Garden where they are grown in heavily amended soil, routinely watered and fertilized. Kauffman Memorial Garden Horticulturist Duane Hoover took this picture -- some leaves I saw there were actually violet colored this fall! Acid soil or the availability of aluminum ions make this plants' flowers blue -- they are pink in our normally neutral to alkaline garden soils.

Our last-to-bloom understory tree is the Missouri Native, Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. In the mild 70F weather of Friday afternoon (November 13), there was a pleasant scent carrying off these spidery, yellow flowers.

Why do all hedges and evergreen plantings have to be uniform? Consider a planting like the Tapestry Hedge of Berkmann's Golden Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis 'Aurea Nana'), Emerald Sentinel Juniper (Juniperus virginiana) and Blue Juniper (Juniperus virginiana 'Glauca') in the Perennial Garden. The results greatly enrich the colors and textural experience in the garden.

The few evergreen perennials really stand out now. Like bright green corn plants, Lily-of-China (Rohdea japonica) thrives in the woodland shade of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This long-lived perennial is related to the lily-of-the-valley and has clusters of orange fruit at the base of the leaves. In its native China, it is given to new families as a long-lived plant of good luck; it is also much prized in its native Japan. Hardly any gardeners know it here!

A female Blackgum or Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) in the Perennial Garden is loaded with bluish berries. Blackgum is a dioecious tree -- in other words -- either male or female.

Back lit Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra 'Compacta') really is the thousand points of light! I always have visitors look at this plant both lit and back lit in the low light of the season, the difference in the landscape is remarkable. The leaves are just evergreen and lackluster when viewed with the angle of the sun. Consider planting this plant on the south edge of a garden (and thus back lit) for it to really light up a landscape.

No, November is not dull in the garden. Make the trip to Powell Gardens and take a hike through its gardens to see even more wonderful plants at their prime in this season. The exercise will help compensate for a good Thanksgiving feast!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Here Comes the Sun: November Blossoms in 2009

After a cool, gloomy and wet October (Powell Gardens had measurable rain 19 October days for a total of 7.87 inches!) November 2009 is shaping up for make up sun and Indian summer!

The overall garden landscape speaks to the earthy colors of November. The baldcypress trees dressed in their rusty fall attire and the leaves of many oaks cling "marcescent" to their moorings on the twigs. The rich shades of prairie grasses contrast to the greens of the lawn. The sky is icy blue.

As you enter the gates of Powell Gardens you will see vibrant red Possumhaws, a.k.a. Deciduous Holly Ilex decidua decked out in brilliant berry attire.

A closeup of a Possumhaw ablaze in berries for the season. A winter larder for mockingbirds, robins, bluebirds and waxwings. This flame of red will last well into winter, far longer than a blooming tree's color. See November's Kansas City Gardener for my article on the possumhaw to learn more.

Flowers still garnish much of the garden: this Gaillardia (Gaillardia aristata 'Arizona Sun') feeds a grateful bumblebee.

The Visitor Center's terrace beds are in full fall flower: planted with annuals that take a frost and will thrive until Thanksgiving or beyond. This gold Strawflower Bracteantha 'Sundaze Golden Beauty' has a name that says it all.

This Ribbon Yellow Snapdragon points skyward, occasionally snapdragons will even survive the winter and bloom next spring too.

Red Rocket Snapdragon glows when back lit by the low November sun. Look for it in the bed outside Cafe Thyme.

Pansies' hardy faces are always a fixture of the season. This red-toned pansy has the boring name 'Matrix Red Blotch' and is teamed in the red themed bed with the Red Rocket Snapdragon outside the cafe.

Violas are smaller flowered Pansies and this one is the cool flowering cultivar 'Penny Deep Blue.'

Some bedding plants really mimic the season's colors -- the "everbrown" grass is actually the sedge Carex 'Toffee Twist' and it is paired with two lettuces that echo its colors: 'Little Brown Leprechaun' and 'Flashy Trouts Back'

Many cultivars of lettuce make awesome ornamentals to mix in the fall flower border. They provide for a quick salad as well if you like! This gorgeous Lettuce is the cultivar 'Merlot.'

Ruffled and fresh springy green, Simpson Elite Lettuce adds a bright color and rich texture to a fall flower border.

"Flowering" Kales are some of the most colorful and hardy of fall plants (and delicious too). This is Tokyo Red Kale.

Kamome White Kale is blushed with rose.

Nogoya Emperor White Kale is always an aristocratic plant for the season.

Magnificent Cardoons (3 feet tall and 4 feet wide) get the most comments as you enter the Heartland Harvest Garden. This plant occasionally survives a mild winter and has huge, artichoke-thistle-like blooms the following summer. It is a relative of both.

Oregon Giant Peas got a good start this year and are decked in white bloom inside the wattled fence of the Potager Garden.

A few roses continue to bloom as the coldest temperature has only been down to 29F. Here's Abraham Darby Rose (Rosa David Austin Hybrid). I believe this rose is named after the "father" of the industrial revolution. Look for this rose at the entrance gates to the Vineyard. It smells divine!

The weather has been ideal for "cole" crops as seen here in Barbara Damrosch's Authors Garden.

The dark, corrugated leaves of Osaka Purple Mustard really stand out in the Villandry Garden. It is a delicious mustard greens.

Horticulturist Matt Bunch was wise to leave freeze dried ornamental peppers in place as they provide much color to the fall vegetable garden.

A view across the Villandry Quilt Garden from the barn really shows how rich a fall "vegetable" garden can be. Come see for yourself and get ideas for next year's spring garden -- most of these cold tolerant, cool weather loving plants are great for a spring garden as well.

Matt Bunch had to cut me up some Red Meat Radishes a.k.a. Watermelon Radishes. Sorry, I tried one and as beautiful as they are, they still taste like a radish. Matt says older ones are sweeter.

The Alpha Calendulas are probably the most colorful flowers in the garden. Look for this edible flower in the Kitchen Garden south of the barn.

Chard is always a beautiful ornamental with colorful stems from red to yellow. The low November sun back lights them beautifully!

Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) smell and taste wonderful -- they make a beautiful and tasty garnish to a salad.

Volunteers John and Sandy Teeple had the pleasure to pick the saffron (Crocus sativus) today. I did sample one -- its the 3 stigmas -- the long orange-red filaments pointing left, right and down in this flower. Matt says they taste like "sweet buttery green tea." They are the most expensive of spices as so much labor is involved in plucking 3 per flower. We planted 1,000 saffron crocuses and more and more are coming into bloom even though they often don't bloom well the first year after planting. Look for the saffron in the Tapestry of Thyme bed south of the barn.

The weekend is predicted to be as nice of weather as it gets in Kansas City. Come stroll through Powell Gardens and enjoy the glorious beauty of late fall and all the splendid fall flowers.