Thursday, July 15, 2010

Explore other Fun Foods during your Sweet Corn Festival Visit

The Heartland Harvest Garden will host the Sweet Corn Festival on Saturday (July 17) but be sure and spend some time exploring the garden for other great food plants. Kudos to Matt Bunch and his leadership of the team that makes this garden grow!

This tempting apple is a ripening Zestar Apple. Please refrain from picking these beauty so they can be harvested at the proper time.

Step back and you can see our Gardener Barbara Fetchenhier has masterfully trained the Zestar apples into a Belgian fence. Get many great ideas for backyard fruit in the Missouri Star Orchard portion of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

The Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) are also beginning to ripen and offer up delicious crisp fruit. This pear is 'Chojuro' a Japanese selection and the tree has produced abundant fruit this year. Watch for these in a week or so at the tasting stations.

Peaches are ripening on the trees as well, some early varieties are past but many more are yet to ripen. These are ripening Reliance Peaches weighing down the branches. We did thin peaches to allow 6-8" of space around each fruit and prevent trees from breaking under the weight of abundant fruit.

Yum! Don't these plums look wonderful? These are Toka Plums which is a hybrid between our wild plum and the Japanese Plum. None are quite ripe as a fully ripe plum is soft and purplish red on this variety.

Blackberries are starting to ripen: only the black fruit are fully ripe.

Blackberry bushes are best grown trained on trellises. Look for many varieties in the Missouri Star Orchard Quilt Garden. Some blackberries can grow canes 12 feet long.

Watch for these signs in the garden to enter our Giants of the Backyard Contest by guessing how large each of these extraordinary vegetables will grow this season. Ballots are available in Good Earth Gifts in the Missouri Barn. Depicted is the Yard Long Noodle Bean -- how long will it grow?

The corn in this picture is popcorn and the plant in the foreground is a marsh mallow. Hmmm -- these fun foods originate from plants! Let the young (and old?) folk figure this one out.

The salvaged and donated corn crib is at the center of the Fun Foods in Fun Foods Farm south of the barn. Beneath this iconic structure you will see everything that forms and flavors fun foods from bananas to coconut, passionfruit, papaya, spearmint, peppermint, cinnamon and the source of chewing gum. By the way, we've had visitors ask how corn was stored in this open wire structure: corn used to be harvested and stored while still on the cob!

The little yellow pea flowers on this plant are the beginnings of peanuts. How do peanuts end up underground?

The Basil Bed section of Rosalind Creasy's Authors Garden is a great place to smell the wondrous array of basil that grows well in our gardens. We don't want you to pick but we don't mind that you rub the leaves of basils, mints and other herbs to enjoy their aromas.

The companion plants along the Pear Promenade are full of blooms now and an accompanying menagerie of pollinators and other beneficial insects. STOP and take a look at all the activity of insects on the Pennyroyal (foreground), Short-toothed Mountain-Mint (mid) and Pineapple Mint (left). There are countless honeybees, sweat bees, thread-waisted wasps, feather-legged flies, many species of butterflies, bumblebees and more -- I guarantee you won't get stung just taking a look. You will be amazed at the diversity of creatures that help us maintain our Heartland Harvest Garden!

A Black Swallowtail caterpillar consumes some of our dill in Rosalind's Garden. We share many of our plants with such creatures so they will pollinate the flowers when they become a butterfly and otherwise enrich our garden experience. Remember to come back and visit Powell Gardens during the Festival of Butterflies on August 6-8 and 13-15 to see this caterpillar all grown up. Enjoy the sweet corn this weekend, but be sure to visit the rest of the tasty treats in the Heartland Harvest Garden and the beautiful eye candy throughout the rest of Powell Gardens. Waterlilies and Hydrangeas are simply fabulous now on the Island Garden while Hardy Hibiscus and various Black-eyed-Susans steal the show in the Perennial Garden.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dragonflies & other Flying Flowers

Big Bugs sculptures by Dave Rogers are a hit at Powell Gardens and each weekend through the summer we are celebrating the insects that inspired Dave's masterpieces. Saturday (July 10) is Dragonfly Day at Powell Gardens so plan on learning more about this top predator and beneficial garden insect during your visit.

Halloween Penant (photo by Linda K Williams) is one of many species of wild dragonflies at Powell Gardens and Saturday Betsy Betros (who is working on a dragonfly book for our region) will give a beautiful presentation at 10 a.m. on this marvelous creature. After the program we will head outside on to the grounds and let anyone use our nets to catch dragonflies for identification, see them up close and then release.

Widow Skimmer (photo by Linda K Williams) is another common garden dragonfly right now I will guarantee we will see. Betsy, Linda Williams and myself will be on hand for the catch and release to identify the dragonflies. At 1 p.m. we will take a hike on the short loop of the nature trail (about a one mile hike) to see even more dragonflies -- we recommend bringing a camera and binoculars for this dragonfly encounter.

Here is a closeup shot of a male Eastern Pondhawk (photo by Linda K Williams). Male pondhawks are blue while females are green! You will be amazed at the diversity and colors of our local wild dragonflies on Saturday.

The beautiful turquoise eyes of the Blue Dasher (photo by Linda K Williams) hi-light this aptly named dragonfly. A check of my notes from this time in past years reveals we should see quite an array of wild dragonflies now, including the above plus: Slaty Skimmer, Spangled Skimmer, Blue-faced Meadowhawk, Eastern Amberwing, Black Saddlebags, and Common Whitetail. The names are half the fun!

In one month we begin our Festival of Butterflies so mark your calendar. We just installed our native Butterfly Breezeway in front of the Visitor Center to raise local butterflies. Already this native Checkered White entered on his own (this is not the common Cabbage White). If you have any caterpillars you wish to donate and put in our native outdoor display, give us a call.

The first brood of hummingbirds have fledged and are visiting the Hummingbird Garden outside Cafe Thyme in good numbers. Two of the best hummingbird flowers are vines: depicted is the Blanche Sandman Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Trumpet Honeysuckle is NOT fragrant but is a hummingbird favorite. It is readily apparent this flower is designed to be pollinated by hummingbirds and they spot their flowers by sight (not smell). Trumpet Honeysuckle is native in Arkansas and south but has naturalized into Missouri. This cultivar plus the cultivars 'Major Wheeler' and yellow 'John Clayton' are your best varieties to plant because they rebloom well through the entire year -- yes we've even had flowers in December! Trumpet Honeysuckle is NOT invasive and doesn't spread by suckers like the next vine (see below).
Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is a Missouri native vine with flowers designed to be pollinated by hummingbirds. This is the cultivar 'Red Sunset' which has flowers more red than typical orange-flowered wild types. Trumpet Vine is in our hummingbird garden and hangs over the wall just outside the cafe to the delight of visitors watching the hummingbirds. This vine has some bad habits of spreading by underground rhizomes "suckers" so can be a nuisance in some gardens or near home foundations. I recommend planting it where you mow around it or in a natural setting where you won't mind the suckers.

The Hardy Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin var. rosea) trees are still in full flower and abuzz with hummingbirds as well as many butterflies and bees.

The purple-leaved cultivar of Mimosa called 'Summer Chocolate' is all the gardening rage right now and is stunningly beautiful in foliage. It is from a Japanese strain of mimosa so is less hardy than the heirloom trees which are from colder Korea. Last winter killed one of our Summer Chocolate mimosas while this one not that far away but a bit more established survived (though it has some stem damage). I recommend planting Summer Chocolate mimosa only for sheltered sites in our region. Look for our small tree towards the lake from the Fountain Garden.

Bluebird Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a fine summer blooming large shrub that also attracts hummingbirds. This one is outside the Heartland Harvest Greenhouse where its flowers match the blue and yellow color scheme of that part of the garden. YES, rose-of-sharon flowers are edible! This cultivar does self sow into beds but not beyond. We have just added a new blue-flowering cultivar 'Azurri Satin' which is supposed to be seedless.
We have a "first" for the garden that our 10 year old Chinese Wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera) trees flowered and fruited this year. I first saw wingnut trees in Sacramento, California where I admired them dripping with these unique strands of winged nutlets. Our trees are from a special hardy strain from the North Central Experiment Station in Ames, Iowa and have been hardy except for being damaged severely by the surprise 2007 Easter freeze (they more than fully recovered).
Here's a branch of our Chinese Wingnuts showing the pendant fruit. These trees are towards the lake from the Fountain Garden and are magnificent, drought resistant and very lush. The next step of our purpose as a Botanical Garden is to carefully watch that each of the nutlets off these trees do not germinate and create the next weed tree!
We are working with the USDA on evaluating potential weed trees before they become problems like Amur honeysuckle and European & Dahurian buckthorns. Because of 3 seasons of copious rainfall Asian Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) have produced abundant seedlings in mulched beds below the Visitor Center. Plants that self-sow into garden beds but NOT beyond in wild areas are not a problem but we will carefully monitor this.

The lush season has created another first; the Lemonade Magnolia (Magnolia hybrid) has some summertime blooms! This magnolia has lemony flowers in spring and its summer flowers are more starry and white but add a bit of beauty none-the-less. Look for this Magnolia below the Fountain Garden as well.
Visit Powell Gardens on Saturday to learn more about dragonflies (they eat more mosquitoes than you could imagine). Watch for hummingbirds while you have lunch on the terrace outside Cafe Thyme (or from the comfort of air conditioning indoors). Enjoy the exuberance of summer flowers throughout the gardens and taste midsummer produce in the Heartland Harvest Garden -- rose-of-sharon flowers should be at the tasting station along with some plums, peaches and other goodies.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And the Winning Daylily Is:

Mended Heart Daylily was the winner of the Booms & Blooms/daylily visitor favorite poll taken by Jennifer Bolyard (Senior Gardener) in the Perennial Garden on July 3. Runners up were 'Africa', 'Bella Lugosi', 'Malachi' & 'Persian Plum' with 12 others mentioned.
The drizzle and light rain kept the sizzle down and the fireworks were simply spectacular. Thank you to all who attended Saturday evening and hope you all had a great Powell Gardens visit.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Booms & Blooms 2010

Daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids) are the stars of the floral show at Powell Gardens right now and are the featured flower for our Booms & Blooms celebration on Saturday (July 3) of this Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Daring Deception Daylily is a magnificent modern hybrid with ruffled and picoteed edge and a marvelous dark band on the petals and a contrasting green throat (flower center). All these floral attributes make quite a show! Daylily flowers each last only one day but many buds are produced on each scape (flowering stem). Some varieties now have multiple bloom times or are repeat bloomers later in the season.

Daylilies beckon at the entrance to the Perennial Garden from the trolley stop. We have more than 400 varieties on display: from varieties that are nearly 20 years old to new cultivars added last year.

Each day Jennifer Bolyard (Perennial Garden Senior Gardener) and volunteers remove the spent daylily flowers to keep them looking in premier shape for our visitors. Jennifer will be on hand from 3 p.m. until the Perennial Garden closes at 8 p.m. on Saturday for any daylily or gardening questions you may have. She is going to conduct a poll on which variety of daylily in the perennial garden is the visitor's favorite. Be sure to take a gander at all the daylilies, pick your favorite out and seek Jennifer to record your vote! I will report the favorite on the next garden blog.

Daylilies come in a variety of colors from white to nearly black. Ice Carnival Daylily is one of our good "white" daylilies. I took this photo this morning before it was deadheaded to show the older two flowers (left) which are pretty white and waning with the fresh creamier flower on the right. Many daylilies do fade some over the daytime and some even sunburn. We are happy that Bob McConnell owner with his wife Sue of McConnell's Plantland and regional daylily expert will be at Powell Gardens Saturday to sell daylilies and also answer visitor questions in front of the Visitor Center. I always ask Bob for his incredible daylily knowledge of which cultivars of daylilies are really great garden performers for our region.

Yellow Landscape Supreme Daylily has large, light yellow flowers and yes, is a great performer in the landscape.

Barbara Mitchell Daylily has more golden yellow flowers of large size and substance.

Condilla Daylily has vivacious yellow-orange flowers that have double the petals.

Copper Cannonball Daylily has super sized flowers with a coppery orange color that is quite intriguing and stands out among the rest.

Tomato Surprise Daylily is reminiscent of a ripe red tomato's color!

Jolyene Nicole Daylily is a good pink with ruffled petals of heavier substance.

Mokan Rose Daylily is a fine rose and hybridized by local daylily expert Bob Lennington (hence the name Mokan for Missouri and Kansas).

Rasberry Lehi Daylily (yes that's the spelling --not raspberry) is another good rose or raspberry red colored daylily.

Richard Connelly Daylily is a good transition from rose to red.

Scarlet Tanager Daylily is as vibrant as its namesake bird. I like how you can see the flowers are translucent (the light shines through the top middle flower). One really has to see daylilies in the garden in the intense post solstice, early July sun.

Hot Lips Daylily captures my attention in the red border every year. Its close to red flowers are heavily diamond dusted which gives it a sparkly sheen. Diamond dusting in daylily flowers is caused by tiny crystals in the flower's cells that reflect light: another reason to see these in person as the camera can't do it justice.

Satan's Dream Daylily is one of the richest fire red daylilies with a very nice contrasting green throat. With the thousands and thousands of cultivars, the names can be intriguing or bizarre and sometimes quite fun.

Bela Lugosi Daylily is a real dark red bloomer with some violet tones.

Africa Daylily is one of our darkest flowering cultivars. Be especially careful on selecting a dark one for your garden because so many of them really get bleached by our intense sun. Bob McConnell can help you with the best! I believe Jungle Beauty is one of our best dark daylilies. Be sure and look up the American Hemerocallis Society's website for all you need to know about this outstanding perennial flower.

Staff prepare the pontoon for the fireworks display on Saturday night. Come see the daylilies by day -- the Perennial Garden will be open until 8 p.m., then listen to the symphony until dark/9:30 p.m. when the fireworks display will top off your visit with colorful booms to compliment the colorful blooms of the garden. Happy Birthday to this great nation of ours!