The summer solstice (longest day of the year) looms and Powell Gardens is at unprecedented lush foliage and a rainbow of blooms. We are thankful for a third season of abundant rainfall which makes all the difference in the world. Enjoy the sampling of flowers from white through all the colors of the rainbow in bloom at Powell Gardens on May 10, 2010.
Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) have one of the finest white flowers of exceptional lemony fragrance. The air smells like lemon water around these trees! The trees looked a bit disheveled after the long, cold winter but have a fresh attire of new leaves. Their exquisite flowers make up for their untidy spring appearance.
Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) laden with flowers drape over a wall in the Perennial Garden. This scene reminds of the first place I saw these magnificent shrubs in the wild: cascading over a loess embankment in the Tunica Hills near the Mississippi-Louisiana State Line. Oakleaf Hydrangeas are in full bloom around the gardens and are one of the most ornamental of shrubs at every season.
Asiatic Lilies (Lilium Asiatic hybrids) are also in full bloom throughout the gardens. This vivacious red-flowering cultivar is of an unknown variety but can be seen on your way from the Visitor Center to the Fountain Garden in our "Drop Dead Red" border.
Pink-flowering Figleaf Hollyhocks (Alcea ficifolia) grace the northeast walk around the Visitor Center. This old fashioned flower is always a delight when growing well -- this species (or variety? -- botanists can't agree) is more disease resistant than others so a good choice for most local gardens.
Karley Rose Fountain Grass (Pennisetum 'Karley Rose') in the Perennial Garden and other locations is one of the loveliest of early season ornamental grasses. It's plumes are really a lovely rose tint.
Native Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) steals the show when it comes to orange flowers! From wild locations on our 3-mile Byron Shutz Nature Trail to beds in the Island Garden (shown here) and in the Insectaries and Perennial Garden, this perennial is a winner for color and insect drama.
The Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia 'The Rocket') also screams orange and is one of our few hardy African plants. It is pollinated by sunbirds in Africa but orioles and hummingbirds visit its nectar rich flowers in the Perennial Garden.
The intensely reflective Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) is difficult to photograph in the intense sunlight of the season. These large, gorgeous flowers can't be beat for shocking yellow in the landscape. They are a tough as nails native perennial that can thrive in poor, rocky soil as well as average garden soil. These were photographed on the Island Garden.
Green flowers get no respect but I cherish this time when the native Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) blooms. The fragrant, nectar-rich greenish flowers are visited by many insects and small butterflies. Male plants flowers will fade away while female flowers produce the fuzzy red fruit that become a staple for birds in winter weather extremes. Look for sumac blooming along the nature trail, near the gatehouse and this running clump near the Perennial Garden.
Veronica (Veronica spicata) has spires of blue on the Island Garden. These are seedlings though there are many selections with various colored flowers from deep blue to pink.
Jackman Clematis (Clematis x jackmanii or 'Jackmanii') has one of the largest and most striking purple flowers. An heirloom plant, it always reminds me of my grandparents and their farm in Iowa which had a magnificent vine gracing their home. Powell Gardens' relatively young plants are on the east or meadow bridge to the Island Garden.
Though there are currently no black flowers (the Visitor Centers "black" themed bed is outside the north doors), this pack of black Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars will soon be black "flying flowers" of exceptional bluish iridescence. This toxic caterpillar has red spikes on it as warning to would be predators that it is not a tasty treat like some caterpillars. Remember to put the Festival of Butterflies on your August calendar (Aug. 6-8, 13-15) and come back for a visit then.
Don't forget that Big Bugs grace the garden as well and I wouldn't want to cross paths with our massive Praying Mantis if it were for real! Look for the mantis sculpture in the strawberry bed in front of the Heartland Harvest Garden's Missouri Barn (photo by our Receptionist, Roland Thibault).