Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Celebrate our Heartland Wind at Powell Gardens

Lyman Whitaker's kinetic wind sculptures were installed by the Leopold Gallery's Paul Dorrell Tuesday evening and are in place ready for their Powell Gardens public debut. They are a must see in motion by prairie winds in the heartland landscape of Powell Gardens. Here is the centerpiece in front of the Visitor Center, shown with the Heartland Harvest Garden "skyline" as backdrop.

The sculptures are located from the Visitor Center, along the Dogwood Walk to the Island Garden and will remain through Memorial Day weekend. All pieces are available for purchase at the Visitor Center's Perennial Gifts.

Staff (Marie Frye left and Shelly Bruellisauer right) are busy finishing planting the spring, frost tolerant and cool weather loving annuals. Most of the beds of spring season flowers should be planted by this Easter weekend.
Senior Gardeners Jennifer Bolyard and Janet Heter (right) show off the grouping of Whitaker Sculptures below the Visitor Center.

Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor prunes the last of our roses -- it is time to prune your roses! This Hot Cocoa rose was cut back to where new leafy buds were emerging. Anne pruned the stems off at an angle just above a bud that was pointing outward so that new growth would not be crowded and bloom heavily by late spring.

Senior Gardener Mark Gawron was finishing tidying projects in the seating area ensconced in daffodils along the lower Dogwood Walk. The Island Garden's waterfall wall in the background was roaring in the wind and I wish I could add that sound and motion experience to this image.

Early Daffodils will be at peak later this week and drifts are in full bloom here at the entrance to the Perennial Garden.

The Fountain Garden is up and running again and may likely see its first participant in today's 80F weather!

The Heartland Harvest Garden already has many fresh greens ready for picking. The fresh shoots of chives are seen in this picture as companion plants to the apple trees of the Apple Celebration Court.

Please peek inside the movable backyard greenhouse in Barbara Damrosch's Authors' Garden. Many fresh greens including unique Miner's Lettuce (Montia perfoliata) can be observed. I am shocked by how much produce could already be sampled and am tempted to set up a makeshift tasting station so people can savor fresh chives, miner's lettuce, peppery winter cress, succulent Profusion French sorrel, incredibly floral sweet violet flowers and more!!! Tasting Stations should open in May but available produce will be part of Cafe Fresh's menu starting Saturday (April 3) weather permitting.

The new Learning Shed which anchors the Fun Food Farm is nearing completion. The Villandry beds in the foreground of this photo will be planted by this Easter weekend with frost tolerant, cool season edibles.

Don't forget to visit the top of the silo observation deck for a springtime view of the gardens!

100,000 daffodils will bloom this spring season and the early varieties like 'Ice Follies' are already open -- this variety opens with a yellow center cup in cool weather but will soon age to light cream, often fading to almost white in warm weather.

Hyacinths, like this cultivar 'Splendid Cornelia' are also in bloom and attracting hungry honeybees with their sweet aroma.

Our nationally significant collection of Magnolias are also poised for bloom in the next few weeks. Here the cultivar 'March 'til Frost' has swelling buds showing its burgundy colored flowers soon to be in full bloom.
Come experience the spring winds of Powell Gardens this Easter Weekend. You will find awesome sculptures, frothy fountains & waterfalls, and an explosion of spring flowers and new tastes. We guarantee you will experience the Spirit of Place of the Heartland.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Orchid and Garden Companions

Autumn Royalty Encore Azalea (Rhododendron 'Conlec') was not only the Rhododendron Society's 2009 Azalea of the year but now has become a favorite container plant of mine. Our original plant was donated to us for trial by Leah Berg and everything I read about this plant states it is not hardy below zero F, so we planted it in a container. It has far out performed my wildest imagination for a flowering plant. It bloomed last spring, it bloomed last summer, it bloomed last fall, and now it is back in full bloom as a companion plant in our Conservatory's Spring Orchid Display. The new registered trademarked "Encore" azaleas do have real flower power and were sold at many retailers around KC last year -- even though only 'Autumn Amethyst' is suggested as hardy in our zone 6 climate. Since much of the city did not drop below zero last winter, the Encore azaleas probably weathered the weather! I still suggest one use them in containers in shade and overwinter them in a cool garage or basement.

The Spring Conservatory Orchid Display has an overall tropical theme and a wonderful respite in the current weather. The fragrance is absolutely wonderful!

Giant Bromeliad (Alcantarea imperialis) is a choice specimen in the Orchid Display -- this grand plant can reach 4 feet in height and makes a marvelous outdoor specimen in summer. When it blooms the flower spike can reach over 8 feet in height -- ours should bloom this summer! We bought this specimen from Vintage Hill Nursery ( north of Boonville, Missouri, which has one of the finest selections of tropical plants for the home gardener.

Mexican Joe Pye-weed (Eupatorium sordidum) is one of our favorite Orchid Display companions. Everyone wants to know where to get one but this plant is really only of value if you have a greenhouse. It only blooms after the short days of winter and is NOT HARDY. The huge hydrangea-esque flowers are always stunning but planting it outdoors for our long summer days will provide you solely with foliage.

Variegated Fragrant Daphne (Daphne odora 'Variegata') is one of the most fragrant companion flowers in the Orchid Display. This shrub is marginally hardy here in a sheltered site but is worth growing for its creamy edged, evergreen foliage and its intensely fragrant, softest pink flowers. You may want to grow this just like the Encore Azaleas to be on the safe side: plant it in a container and bring it indoors for the coldest part of winter. It will bloom in winter in a bright, cool space indoors.

The Ballerina Blau Fuchsia (Blau means blue in German) has been another Orchid Companion knockout in the Conservatory Display. Most Fuchsias do not tolerate our normally hot summers so buyer beware! We use them for cool season displays as they do magnificently in cool weather. Incidentally, our gardeners fear for a HOT summer in 2010 as payback for the past two cool ones and the uniformly cold winter we just experienced!

I just got back from a speaking and garden tour and have to share a few pics from my trip. The Pinecote Pavilion (shown) at Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi (outside New Orleans) should have some familiarity to Powell Gardens visitors: it was designed by Fay Jones, architect of our Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel. I led a walk and tour there on Saturday, March 13th. This native plant garden is a real gem and remember you can visit it for free as a Friends of Powell Gardens member.

I had to stop in and visit the Live Oaks on central campus of Louisiana State University when I drove through Baton Rouge on the way back. I worked for Campus Planning for two years at LSU -- we never won the battle to have the sheared azaleas beneath the oaks pruned in a more naturalistic style! The azaleas would normally have been in bloom in mid-March in Louisiana but they have had a long, cold winter too, and plants are as far behind schedule there as they are here.

The Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was the last garden stop on my trip where I met with colleagues and visited for half a day. Maurice Jennings, Fay Jones' architect partner, designed this chapel and you can readily see the similarities to Powell Gardens' chapel. Maurice and Fay really do capture the spirit of place wherever they design: this chapel set under tall pines really plays off their form. Powell's chapel is a perfect design for its woods meets prairie setting! The previously depicted Pinecote Pavilion celebrates the piney woods of Crosby Arboretum. Again, Powell Gardens Friends Members can visit Garvan Woodland Gardens "Arkansas' Botanical Garden" for free.

Winter's last fury dumped heavy snow at Powell Gardens over the weekend but the gardens are open and the temperatures did not plummet to damage any plants. The flowering bulbs from the previous blog are still in bloom while many trees and shrubs have broken dormancy and ready to bloom with any stretch of springtime weather. The Orchids in the Conservatory and their companion plants are still a great spring preview of color and fragrance and worth the trip alone.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Resurrection of Spring in Tiny Flowers

I love it when the weathermen are wrong and the weekend turns out nicer than predicted! Spring-like temperatures in the 60's have finally made their appearance following a slow warm up and Mother Nature has burst forth with life. Spring birds and two frogs: the Spring Peeper and Boreal Chorus Frog are singing; and finally the colorful, but tiny, early spring bulbs are making their appearance at Powell Gardens. The first butterflies are out and about too!

The spidery flowers of the Ozark native Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) have unfurled and released their pleasant aroma to attract moths for pollination. We have moths to thank for the wonderful aroma of most flowers!

The purple-flowering cultivar 'Purpurea' of the Vernal Witchhazel has dark purplish-maroon flowers. It is difficult to site this interesting shrub in the landscape to show off these dark flowers at their best.

The flowers of the hybrid witchhazels are 3 times the size of the native Vernal Witchhazel but are not as intensely fragrant. This is a closeup of our Jelena Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) which is a hybrid between Japanese and Chinese Witchhazel species.

Witchhazel flowers are still fairly subtle but at this time of year we cherish any bloom! Arnold Promise Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) is the yellow-flowering cultivar in this picture while the previously depicted Jelena Witchhazel is the coppery orange-flowered one as a backdrop. Look for these two witchhazels in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are in peak bloom, very slow this year though a few have been blooming through the snow all winter. The best naturalized clumps of this bulb are also in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

I captured this snowdrop being pollinated by a honeybee! Its head is deep inside the center of the flower gathering nectar but you can see the bright orange pollen sack on her leg where she stores pollen to take back to the hive. Both snowdrops and honeybees are not native and emerge earlier than native wildflowers and bees.

I took this backlit patch of snowdrops in the Rock & Waterfall Garden, it gives one a better side view of these exquisite, green-centered flowers.
This is another species of Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) which has larger flowers with wider petals. Most of this species of Snowdrop are on the east side of the Island Garden, most already past peak of bloom.

The first Lenten Roses (Helleborus x hybridus) have emerged in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. The flowers of some Lenten Roses change colors from lime to white, often darkening again as they age. The flowers also last a long time and the plant thrives in dry shade, making them a favorite of perennial gardeners.

The colors and patterns of Lenten Rose flowers are astounding -- I recommend you to go to your favorite nursery this spring and buy them in bloom so you know what color and pattern the flowers will have. They range from purest white to green, and various shades of purple, some so dark they almost look black.

Fresh "Tommy" Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) add hues of purple and are the only crocus that squirrels and deer seem to leave alone for us. This is probably the cultivar 'Barr's Purple' but they have naturalized beyond where they were planted.
This is a darker flowering Tommy Crocus cultivar called 'Whitewell Purple' on the Island Garden.

A honeybee leaves his crocus flower larder: honeybees have been out in full force gathering nectar and pollen form these early bulbs.

Bright as sunshine, Gipsy Girl Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) opens its sunny flowers toward the sunshine. On cloudy days when the flowers stay closed, the purple-striped undersides of the sepals add some detail to this colorful flower.

This Crocus chrysanthus with lavender-blushed sepals and nice yellow flowers the cultivar 'Advance'.

The aptly named Golden Girl Crocus (Crocus flavus) really is golden yellow and not the least bit pale!

This early squill with palest blue flowers (almost white) with aqua blue stamens has no common name and a botanical name that is really a mouthful: Scilla mischtschenkoana!

Yep, there are even some iris that are among the earliest of our garden flowers. This is the elaborately marked Katharine Hodgkin Iris (Iris hybrid). Look for nice masses of this flower emerging on the Island Garden.

The rich blue flowers of Harmony Reticulate Iris (Iris reticulata) are of finest blue at this season. Look for beautiful masses of this flower on the Island Garden.
The tiny flowers of spring bulbs are out in full force at Powell Gardens. Come see their exquisite colors and details along with the other sights and sounds of spring resurrected.
All photographs taken on Monday, March 8, 2010 at Powell Gardens

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Flowering Tree Preview

OK, I'll admit it: I went and took all sorts of wonderful pictures of staff and volunteers at work in the greenhouses but when I got back to write the blog -- NO IMAGES because there was no ICF card in the camera! Since one set of the attempted photos showed Marie Frye (Senior Gardener, Collections and Plant Records) planting new hybrid magnolia seed -- I looked at previous magnolia images and they were just what the Doctor ordered to cure spring fever! So here's sharing some of Powell Gardens' spring flowering trees taken in previous springs:

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) has bloomed as early as late February in prior springs but is still smartly in tight bud this year. I would guess it should show emerging flowers in as little as two weeks if the weather returns to normal. We have several of this marvelous huge shrub or small tree planted throughout Powell Gardens and I can't wait to smell its sweet fragrance and see the trees "foliated" in precocious flowers.

Rustica Rubra Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) is always a fine goblet of rosy pink with a blush white interior. We have two young trees of this magnolia northeast of the Visitor Center-- usually in bloom in late March or early April.

Marvelous Maxine Merrill Magnolia (Magnolia 'Merrill' x 'Miss Honeybee') glows with yellow and is one of the latest spring magnolias to bloom. Look for this wonderful tree along the Dogwood Walk. I think I can announce that Powell Gardens has been selected as one of three public gardens in North America to display and conserve the incredible biodiversity of this Genera of plants and its hybrids. A recent private donation of hybrid seeds comprised more than 90 controlled crosses. Marie Frye will germinate the seed and we will grow the seedlings out in our outdoor nurseries until their unique floral and other ornamental characteristics can be evaluated. YOU WILL BE BLOWN AWAY by the new hybrid magnolias and their stunningly exquisite flowers.

Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) almost always are in full bloom by April 10th at Powell Gardens. This image is of the cultivar 'Appalachian Red' with vibrant hot pink (not red) flowers. Since redbuds are native throughout Greater Kansas City I consider them the best flowering tree to capture our spirit of place. Powell Gardens displays a wide array of cultivars of this plant in the Chapel landscape.

Yes there is a double flowering redbud: 'Flame.' Don't blame me for that cultivar name and I have no idea how it was given -- 'Rosebud' might have been a better name! We have several Flame Redbuds near the Chapel trolley stop.

Pauline Lily Redbud is a delightful blush pink. Look for this plant near the Chapel trolley stop as well.

Missouri's state tree, Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) remains a favorite flowering tree and usually is in full bloom by late April, often lasting into early May. Flowering dogwoods set their flower buds in late summer and fall and they must survive the winter to bloom the following spring. Severe winters have been known to damage the flowers but after checking our trees today, the flower buds all look fine!

Pink Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida forma or variety rubra) comes in various shades of pink. We have a young tree we grew from seed that has exceptional peach pink emerging bracts that open to the softest blush pink -- it will be propagated for evaluation and possible introduction into the nursery trade.
Some dogwoods have bracts that emerge almost true red like this 'Cherokee Brave' Dogwood -- these flowers will fade to an almost coral pink over time. Look for Cherokee Brave Dogwood at the beginning of the Dogwood Walk at Powell Gardens.
Mark you calendars to come see Powell Gardens fabulous flowering trees this spring. The early magnolias may start blooming as soon as mid-March, Redbuds in mid-April and Dogwoods later that month into early May. I guarantee the experience will be a cure for spring fever!