Friday, June 25, 2010

Midsummer's Bloom: from Lotus to Trees & Shrubs

The most magnificent flower currently in bloom in the gardens is the Mrs. Perry Slocum Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera). This water garden plant can be seen on the Island Garden though a few more weeks must pass for the Island Garden lotuses and waterlilies to be at peak season.
Magnolia trees are in the same ancient Order of plants as the lotuses and waterlilies and the Southern Magnolias continue with their sporadic bloom: abuzz with bees and visitors alike. This is the Twenty-four Below Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) on the south side of the Visitor Center -- its flowers don't stand out in the photo.

A closeup of a Southern Magnolia flower reveals its relation to the lotus. It has a marvelous lemony perfume: we have picked one for the front desk for all to smell as they are mainly up in the tree -- out of reach to visitors.
The Royal Crown Magnolia is our only Asian hybrid magnolia with a marvelous midsummer bloom that beats its early spring show. Look for the Royal Crown Magnolia at the Visitor Center trolley stop.
Golden Rain Trees (Koelreuteria paniculata) are also in full bloom around the gardens. Their warm, cheery flowers seem most appropriate in this sun drenched season. Many of our trees have suffered this year from being too wet for the third season in a row. This is a tree that demands good drainage. Golden Rain Trees can be invasive in certain areas with glade-like natural areas but has never escaped in the wet clay soils of Powell Gardens.

Hardy Mimosa trees (Albizzia julibrissin var. rosea) are also in full bloom at the gardens -- these outside the Conifer Garden outside the north end of the Visitor Center. See my blog from last year on this "you either love them or hate them" tree. This tree is native to cold Korea and is hardier and more refined than the typical species found wild from Iran to Japan.
The Hardy Mimosa trees around the Rock & Waterfall Trolley stop we have named 'Kansas City Red.' This selection is from a tree in Brookside that weathered the severe winters of the 1980's but besides its proven hardiness, its first flush of flowers are brilliant hot pink-red! The later flush of flowers is more typical of the others and a rich pink. This variety comes true to type from seed and is more vigorous than others. The original tree is now gone so I'm glad we saved this unique plant.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) with its marvelous spherical flowers is coming into bloom on the Island Garden. This huge, native shrub can easily be trimmed up into a small tree like we have done on the Island Garden. Its flowers are rich in nectar and visited by many beneficial and pollinating insects.

The large white pom-poms of flower make the Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) one the largest flowering of all shrubs. This is actually a selection of Missouri native Wild Hydrangea and was discovered in a garden in Anna, Illinois. Many of our best ornamental shrubs were never specifically hybridized -- just chance seedlings that were discovered by a plantsman with a good eye for promising and unusual garden plants.

The huge flowered and aptly named Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is also a superior midsummer blooming shrub. Bottlebrush Buckeye does become a massive shrub over time -- easily 15 feet or more at maturity with twice the spread! It can be controlled by removing wayward stems and cut back on occasion if so desired. This shrub is almost exclusively native to Alabama, barely venturing into adjacent states in the wild but popular intemperate gardens world-wide!

The showy red color in this shrub is not flowers but fruit. The Shasta Doublefile Viburnums (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum) on the Island Garden are loaded with bright red berries this year. Often grown solely for its lacecap flowers that march down either side of its twigs (double file!), the fruit (which ripen black) are actually showy for a much longer period of time than the flowers.
The Tapestry Hedge in the Perennial Garden just got a haircut to keep it a maximum height of 8 feet. You can see that the Perennial Garden is awash in floral color as Booms and Blooms looms for a daylily extravaganza next week.
Enjoy the midsummer colors of Powell Garden, there were simply too many in bloom so I focused on the trees and shrubs. Daylilies, Lilies, Coneflowers, Beebalms and Milkweeds are other flowers commanding attention among the Big Bugs in the garden. Blueberries are still at peak in the Heartland Harvest Garden so be sure and taste their fresh picked taste there as well.


julie said...

hi, my mom died last month and i am looking for a photo of a magnolia blossom to put on my sidebar in memory of her. could i have your permission to use one of your gorgeous photos?
my blog is
You can read about my adoption story there. She was my birth mom and I met her 8 years ago.
Thank you for your consideration.

Kansas City's botanical garden said...

Hi Julie,
We're sorry for your loss. You are welcome to use a magnolia photo on your blog.