My how the landscape has changed since the last blog before the holidays on the Winter Solstice! Near record snowfall has whitened the landscape (see above) and looking out my screened office window I see the resident Northern Mockingbird huddled in his winter larder of possumhaw berries (see below).
The Possumhaws (Ilex decidua) from outside on this dark, snowy day reveal their vibrant red berries that will be the sustenance of the mockingbird. Unfortunately this year our mockingbird is a nuisance as he throws himself at his image in windows of the hort cabin and every car's rear view mirror in the parking lot. He is just being very aggressive to protect his territory and food reserves--thinking his image is another rival mockingbird. One gardener reminded me of the book To Kill a Mockingbird--they are a protected songbird!
Greenhouse I from the outside on this snowy day: for the first time in 14 years we are unable to transport plants from the greenhouses to the Visitor Center's conservatory where they comprise the ever-changing display. "Treasures of the Desert & Winter Blooms" was supposed to open this weekend but many of the plants cannot be moved in this weather so the full display is postponed (check the website for updates).
Inside Greenhouse 1 it is quite comfortable and you can see our extensive collection of succulents -- most destined for the conservatory display as soon as the weather allows.
Here some large Agaves (Agave americana) and an old jade plant (Crassula argentea) in full bloom await transport to the conservatory.
Greenhouse 1 is kept cool in winter and is the place to store or start plants that need cool winter weather. Here 4 California Buckeyes (Aesculus californica) have germinated from nuts gathered by our Director Eric Tschanz in high elevations of the California Sierras. California Buckeye is listed as hardy in zone 6 but prefers a more Mediterranean, maritime or snowy montane climate -- probably even more stunning as a flowering tree in English gardens than in the wild. We will try this plants outside at Powell Gardens because you just never know until you try and Eric found these at or near the coldest part of their native range. Plants grown from the colder (northern or higher elevation) parts of their range are almost always hardier than the same species of plant grown from warmer parts of its range.
Red Buckeyes (Aesculus pavia) have germinated well too as we had great nut production on our plants last fall and I could not bear to let this valuable Missouri native shrub/small tree go solely to the squirrels. These plants will be planted in wooded portions of the gardens where their brilliant scarlet spring flowers will one day attract visitors' gazes as well as hungry hummingbirds. Red Buckeyes grow slowly, but small plants will often bloom.
It is "week 2" in the Greenhouse complex where Horticulturist Donna Covell works to get all the seed scheduled for growing. More than 80 planted seed trays are already sown in the greenhouse but more than 300 varieties are yet to be scheduled. Donna has to determine when the seed is sown of each plant variety requested by gardeners. The gardeners give the date they need a plant by and Donna works backward in time to provide a quality plant ready to go in the ground. Spring planting begins around March 15, summer planting around May 1. Each species and variety takes various amounts of time to germinate and grow into a blooming plant. Yes, it's a mind boggling and time consuming project but Donna always delivers!
Yubi the greenhouse complex mouser gives me a heads up that she has been doing her job and keeping mice out of the seeds and newly planted seed trays. Pre-cat, mice did considerable damage!
Cyclamen in bloom brighten up Greenhouse #6. These colorful blooming plants are perfect for winter displays and a good indoor plant for cool, bright rooms (they despise warm, dry indoor spaces). The phenomenal diversity of this plant is from hybridization of just one diminutive cyclamen species found wild in the Mediterranean (Cyclamen persicum).
Cyclamen Halios white -- note the silver patterned foliage, another great attribute of this plant.
Cyclamen Halios pink
Cyclamen Mini Metis has exceptionally silvered leaves!
Back outside, the winter landscape beckons: an almost unprecedented amount of snow! We invite you out to enjoy this snowy landscape--an opportunity we may not get for many more years. Gardeners have shoveled a path through most of the gardens so they will be accessible by Saturday. Unfortunately Saturday's forecast is for record cold--a prediction we hope fails to come to fruition. Sunday's weather is supposed to moderate and be quite ideal for a winter walk. With the proper garb, it is a great season to enjoy the winter beauty of Powell Gardens.