Monday, February 22, 2010

Powell Gardens on Ice

The weekend storm brought ice to the Powell Gardens vicinity and we were thankful it ended when it did. Any more ice load and we would have had major damage to trees! The ice storm created a beautiful and ephemeral landscape so I raced out to capture it in the morning sun before the ice dissipates.

The North Side of the Visitor Center shows magnolias (center) and holly (right) encased in ice, frozen in time and just at their breaking point.

The conifer garden looks great etched in ice, most of these plants are designed to handle large ice and snow loads.

The butterfly bench appears to take flight on this magical day.

I was the first to walk the dogwood walk through the grove of native trees east of the Visitor Center.

The Swamp White Oak at the hairpin curve of the dogwood walk survived the catastrophic ice storm of 2002 and looks extra beautiful with its 2010 ice load.

The entrance to the Island Garden lines up with the Meadow Pavilion on the far hill and almost looks like a black & white photograph today.

The Island Garden Arbor and dock

When I stopped to take a photo across the lake a flock of nervous Greater White-fronted Geese took off and added to the composition! (The local tame Canada Geese just stayed put on the lake, outside the photograph)

The walk to the chapel through the woods takes on a whole new feel etched in ice and snow.

The chapel looms beautifully at the end of the walk, we seldom show an image of it flocked in snow.

The wave of prairie grasses encased in ice on the meadow that sweeps from the chapel to the meadow pavilion glistens in the morning sun.
The Loblolly Pines (left) are one such long-needled conifer that is susceptible to damage from ice but it did hold up this time, the bushier pines are Virginia Pine -- one of the best pines for wildlife. Both Loblolly and Virginia Pines do well in our local heavy clay soil.
Various birches bend almost to the ground with ice load at the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop. The tree on the left is a Szechuan Elm from China and so far that tree has been a stellar performer for us through all types of weather.

This Japanese Tree Lilac, flocked in ice and snow by Mother Nature almost looks surreal with the backdrop of dark Virginia Pines.

The bench that commemorates Dr. Norlan Henderson looks over iris hill. It won't be long and we will be amazed that this icy landscape existed. In about 10-12 weeks this hill will be ablaze with the blooms of Merit winning Tall Bearded Iris.
As a horticultural practice reminder: do not try to shake off ice load from shrubs and trees as you will do more damage than good. I have seen the whole top of a 20 ft. tree crash down after it was shook with a broom! Be patient and let the ice melt off, the tree will gradually recover its form. Props of support are best added only while the ice storm is in progress, and this only works safely for small trees. Some of the most ice resistant trees at Powell Gardens (surviving the catastrophic ice storm of 2002 with almost no damage) include Post Oak, Bur Oak, Shagbark Hickory, Baldcypress, Kentucky Coffeetree and Sugar Maple.
Powell Gardens is open if you want to come see Mother Nature's magic in person. We left the walks with their dusting of snow which has made them easy to walk on, giving safe traction to a walk through the gardens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hard Winter? Not According to Plants!

It's the talk of Kansas City: when is it going to warm up? Well, I doubt this cheers anyone up but this uniformally cold weather has actually been good for most landscape plants. I'll be the first to admit I miss our old manic-depressive winters -- you know: 70F one day, then zero or below within just a few days. Well that up-and-down, roller coaster ride of weather is hard on lots of plants, especially broadleaf evergreens. This winter has also had no record cold temperatures -- big "whew" with this weather pattern because it could have been much worse. Most zone 6 plants are just fine (it's not dropped below -10F) and if you live in the urban core of the city and old suburbs, it hasn't even dropped below zero in most places!

The evergreen Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) near the visitor center have leaf burn on their south sides but no worse than average. Those in the sunniest spots are even more brown (Bracken's Brown Beauty Magnolia really looks like its name) but the leaves and stems aren't killed and will recover quickly when spring decides to arrive.

Conifers out the north end of the Visitor Center show a variety of colors and textures and only the golden 'Chief Joseph' pine (Pinus contorta) has burned needles on its south side (right side of this image) -- but it does that every year for us. We forgive it for this short window of imperfection in late winter into early spring because it is so beautiful most of the year.

The American Holly (Ilex opaca) out the north wing of the Visitor Center is sparkly green but its red berries were darkened by the below zero weather in January (you can click on the image to enlarge it and see the berries). No leaf burn at all on American holly.

The greenhouse production for spring is growing exponentially and the spring foliage crop of frost and freeze tolerant cabbages and kales is a sea of various textured greens. Hard to believe its less than a month until some of this gets planted outdoors.

I plan on a blog about the cold and frost tolerant spring flowers as soon as they are looking their best to photograph. Here Eric Perrette is deadheading begonias masked by some summer foliage production. The sea of cabbages in the foreground are looking great!
The seasonal planting beds around the Visitor Center and in Heartland Harvest Garden are scheduled for planting beginning March 15, weather permitting. Anne Wildeboor (Horticulturist- Seasonal Displays and Events) has selected 78 varieties of flowers and foliage for the spring in the 16 beds around the Visitor Center. Matt Bunch (Horticulturist -- Heartland Harvest Garden) has selected over 100 varieties of cool weather, frost tolerant vegetables for the spring display in the Heartland Harvest Garden. A blog will follow on those selections as well. Mark your calendar for March to see all these literally cool plants that give us an early start with spring.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flowers from the Greenhouses on a Snowy February Day

Yippee, it's snowing outside again. Just kidding, as folks around Greater Kansas City are getting a bit stir crazy this uniform cold and dreary winter. I never thought I would want our normally bi-polar winters back, we could sure use even a brief warm up!

Greenhouse #6 is full of springtime warmth in both flowers and fragrance. This photo shows Cyclamen in the foreground with multi-colored Ranunculus behind them, then pink stocks and red Kalanchoe in the back.

On a snowy day, a lovely white Ranunculus just doesn't elicit as beautiful response as it otherwise would. Ranunculus are close relatives of our wild buttercups, hybridized to produce large double flowers of a fine crape paper like substance. They are among our most popular of spring flowers we display at Powell Gardens. They are great in outdoor containers during our cool spring season but do not last beyond that. Some complain they are not perennials but isn't part of the beauty in a flower the fact that it is ephemeral?

Yellow flowered Ranunculus look more like their wild buttercup ancestors and the warm color is more inviting on a snowy white day.
Vivid orange-red Ranunculus really make the heart pump!

Greenhouse #6 is also the home to sweet single Stocks (Matthiola incana) that emit a marvelous spicy perfume. Stocks are another great annual for spring or fall but will not perform in summer's heat.

Stocks also come in double flowered form, some visitors prefer the showier double flowers to the singles but I, like the bees, prefer the single flowered varieties. If only I could send the fragrance along with this image!

Greenhouse #6 also houses Dynasty Red Dianthus (a.k.a. pinks) which are a smaller flowered relative of the carnation. They still have the fine carnation scent but they are very reliable spring annuals, readily surviving the summer and the following winter as well.

Vivacious Floral Lace Purple Dianthus have some pretty shocking colored blooms pairing vivid purplish pink with red.

Kalanchoe is one of the finest blooming succulents that has now become a beloved winter blooming house plant. Succulents are a theme in our current conservatory display and that is where you will see a variety of these plants currently in full bloom. The pronunciation of this plant's name is also varied: I say ka-len-KO-ee while others say ka-LON-cho!

Here's a closeup of a yellow-flowering Kalanchoe.

How about a Kalanchoe in light pink?

This Kalanchoe has molten, hot pink flowers.

Shamrocks (Oxalis tetraphylla 'Iron Cross') are also starting to bloom in Greenhouse #6, though we all enjoy this plant for its exquisite foliage. We annually give away a variety of shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day.
Next week is supposed to be cold and snowy but this can't continue much longer. The lengthening days and accompanying spring warmth are sure to return before we know it. I hope these images of some of our spring flowers provided a bit of a respite from the winter. Visit Powell Gardens, the Kauffman Memorial Garden or your favorite Garden Center to see more!