Monday, May 24, 2010

Good as Gold in the Landscape

One by one, the Big Bugs are being installed for their debut this weekend and the Daddy Longlegs caught my camera's eye for a photograph. I noticed the resident mockingbird has already made its left leg its song perch (do you see his silhouette with the fountain behind?). When I looked at this image, I noticed how wonderfully green the scene was. The intense sun of this season (less than a month until the summer solstice!) is apparent as I took these images close to mid-day.

The steps down to the Fountain Garden are lined with color: blue-flowering Walker's Low Catmint, but gold foliage crowns the end of the view: Golden Spirit Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot'). In this season of intense sun and peak of verdant, lush foliage -- golden plants really add some sparkle and warm contrast in the landscape.

Carefree Sunshine Roses splash a bit of light golden yellow flowers around the Fountain Garden. You know this is a disease resistant rose when it has perfectly clean foliage all year and receives regular mist from the fountain too!

On the east periphery of the Fountain Garden, Magic Carpet Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet') is the centerpiece of this image: its gold foliage adorned with pink flowers. Gold Thread (foreground right) and Vintage Gold (back left) are two cultivars of evergreen with golden foliage in the scene too -- both are cultivars of Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera'). The wonderful rose to the left is Blush Knockout Rose, which never seems to get tiresome like its sister cultivars.

Yes, there are even gold leaved trees -- if you walk to the northeast of the Fountain Garden you will see the beginnings of one of the best: Golden Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonoides 'Aurea') which someday will reach 50 feet and have marvelous white flowers in early summer. The large leaves create a coarse, tropical texture in the landscape.

Like a beacon northeast of the Visitor Center, perhaps the largest of all gold-leaved plants is the Gold Rush Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Ogon'). One day this tree may be close to 100 feet tall! What a beacon in the landscape already with shocking Diabolo Ninebark to its side. The fine-textured needles are a very sharp contrast to many broad-leaved trees.
Two goldies can also be seen just outside the north doors of the Visitor Center: Frisia Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia') and Gold Drop Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Gold Drop'). Frisia Black Locust may be the only gardenworthy cultivar of a Missouri native plant that is usually a thug in the garden -- the species usually runs and suckers profusely. Frisia has not been problematic that way here or at the Kauffman Memorial Garden but it does suffer from borers which limit the lifespan of the tree. Gold Drop Arborvitae is considered one of, if not thee best gold arbos but is very difficult to procure. We can thank Marvin Snyder (past president of the American Conifer Society) for the specimen depicted.

This sprawly gold leaved shrub is Dream Catcher Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis 'Maradco'). We were about to throw this shrub away but as it has established itself I have forgiven its initial bad looks as a youngster and now wait for it to bloom. Give this shrub time to establish itself -- the wall behind it protects it from the hottest rays of the afternoon sun which can scorch its golden leaves.
In the partial shade of oaks and hickories southeast of the Visitor Center the Cherokee Sunset Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Cherokee Sunset') adds a bit of contrasting golden edged leaves to the green scene. This dogwood arose from the popular "red" flowering Cherokee Chief Flowering Dogwood and has vivid red new flower bracts that age to a fine pink in spring. The golden variegated foliage really stands out in fall too -- turning pinkish where it is now yellow.
Euryops Daisy Tree from South Africa brightens the Grand Hall of the Visitor Center as sun beams through the skylights and helps adorn the plant. This is a great outdoor container plant spring-fall but only does well indoors with bright light like this situation.
Consider some gold in your landscape this season of intense, saturated sunlight! Some don't like this in foliage color because they think it looks sick or chlorotic, but take a second look at all the neat special cultivars of many plants with this characteristic and think of how they can brighten your landscape (I've heard the term "June blah" for this season in the garden and the early spring has already made us there). Come to Powell Gardens and get some ideas for yourself as this is only the tip of the iceberg: look for golden hazelnuts and golden cornelian cherries in the Heartland Harvest Garden and a wide array of gold-leaved hostas brightening the shade of the Rock and Waterfall Garden, there are gold leaved weigelas and ninebark on the Island Garden and gold leaved coreopsis and iris in the Perennial Garden to name a few. Good as gold in this season!

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