Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn's Crescendo

The crescendo of autumn is at hand, a last burst of colors before the more monochromatic winter landscape sets in.

The White Oak (Quercus alba) on the north side of the Visitor Center is at peak of color in burnt reds; and flanked by Sweetbays (Magnolia virginiana) in the best golden attire.

White Oak is a favorite tree and one was planted on either end of the Visitor Center back in the spring of 1997 after the building's opening (this is a picture of the same tree in the above photograph). Both trees are now going on 30 feet tall and showing a strong upright, oval form with great fall colors. It's interesting to imagine what they might look like in 400 years!

Many Viburnums put on quite a show in late fall and this Catskill Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) is no exception.

The fall leaf colors are not as spiffy on its neighboring cultivar 'Asian Beauty' but the berries are sure colorful. The fruit will add winter ornament well past leaf fall into winter.

This Missouri native Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) sports beads of blue berries. Birds somehow have missed this particular one as some of our arrowwoods were de-fruited by migrating Eastern Kingbirds way back in late August. The birds are now at their winter home in Bolivia! Our berries helped fuel their migration which brings to mind Aldo Leopold's great quote: hemisphere solidarity is new among statesman but not the feathered navies of the sky.

The Koreanspice Viburnums (Viburnum carlesii) are burning reds now and a good choice for replacing your invasive Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus). We have spotted and removed many more burning bush from the woodlands around the gardens even though Powell Gardens has removed all the plants from its gardens.

The Flying Dragon Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) has turned some interesting yellow hues and together with its "curlicue" green branching this image reminds me of an impressionist painting.

We have removed many of the tender plants from the Hummingbird Garden outside the Cafe and low and behold our Taylor Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) has returned. This is allegedly one of the hardiest palm selections from North Carolina and we planted one for trial many years back. It died to the ground but keeps coming back from the base, which is very unusual for this species as it normally has ONE growing point and if that is killed, the whole plant is killed. Plants always seem to defy what we write about them and try to make liars out of us whenever they can!

The views of the Heartland Harvest Garden from the silo overlook are quite wonderful as of Monday. Here the Kansas Star Quilt Garden of pasture and forage plants really stands out with autumn hues in the warm season grasses and greens of cool season grasses and legumes. This garden is at its finest now.

The Villandry Quilt Garden is also gorgeous from above with its late fall simplicity of winter cover crops in green mixed with a few summer leftovers and fall vegetable crops.

Blackberries are finally starting to turn their rich shades of red in throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden. Here they are quite nice growing in the fence on the edge of Barbara Damrosch's Author's Garden.

The masses of Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) along the woodland edges near the Chapel's trolley stop are rich shades of red now. This bold American native shrub is the quintessential colorful crescendo to our fall color season.

The hollow base of the old Swamp White Oak in front of the chapel is not yet a crescendo of color but Horticulturist Richard Heter cut the stump a bit lower and planted a natural seedling of Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in the center of the stump! One day the dogwood will grow through the stump and provide a blast of rich fall color too (You can't see it in this shot but the stump is hollow to the top: 115 tree rings from the hollow to the bark!).
I hope everyone takes a moment to take in the last glory of this exceptional fall season and does a little garden planning or planting to create future seasons of glorious autumn colors.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cool Color

It may be Novemberrrr but there are still many colorful, cool weather-loving flowers and foliage to decorate our gardens with!

Though this is a scene from the Powell Gardens Visitor Center Conservatory, it does depict the colors of the season. The red foliage is Sedona Coleus (frost tender) and the Chrysanthemum is 'Carilion.'

Outside, in the terrace beds of the Visitor Center the cool loving, freeze tolerant plants are shining stars this fall. This is a beautiful "specimen" of Kale 'Chidori Red.' Remember that ornamental "flowering" kales and cabbages are delicious to the eyes and the palate too! They are hardy to +10F too.

Tall Kale 'Red Ursa' hugs the wall behind colorful Kale 'Nagoya Red' for a wonderful contrast of form, texture and color.

Gorgeous Kale White Peacock struts its stuff between vivacious 'Racquel' mums for quite a color contrast.

Kale 'Komome White' has the most ruffled edges of any: and stitched in green for marvelous visual effect. The purple in the foreground is a waning aster and the white "daisies" behind are Vanilla Butterfly Argeranthemum.

The camera can't quite capture the subtle blends from blue-green to violet and pink in the intricate leaves of Kale 'Red Peacock.' The contrasting flowers are Stocks 'Hotcakes.'

Cabbage 'Tokyo White' divides 'Mammoth Blue-ti-ful' Pansies (yes that's its name) from more Stocks 'Hotcakes' and the Red Peacock Kale in the far back. The fragrance of this bed is as good as its color from the sweet pansies and the spicy stocks.

Mustard Greens also are not necessarily green: 'Giant Garnet' Mustard is stunning with vivid 'Red Rocket' Snapdragons in the bed south of Cafe Thyme.

Flowers that bloom from early spring, all through summer and all through fall are simply rare or unheard of -- until now. This is stellar 'Snow Princess' Alyssum whose delicate white flowers scented in honey have been blooming since MARCH! Through frost and freeze and heat and humidity, this annual is a winner all year in Kansas City gardens. NO, typical sweet alyssums will fry in our summer heat and need to be replanted for fall, but not this one.

The Encore Azaleas are also putting on their namesake fall bloom. This Encore Azalea is 'Autumn Royalty' which is my favorite of the series. The large, vivid flowers of spring are repeated a bit all season with an encore for the autumn. Autumn Royalty Encore Azalea is not quite fully hardy here though has done well the past few years in sheltered sites outdoors. We still grow ours in containers and put them in our cool greenhouse for the winter. A great container plant.
You may think the gardening season is over in Kansas City but there is a still a beautiful array of colorful plants that thrive in the cool weather and shrug off light freezes. We usually have lively beds around the Visitor Center through Thanksgiving and occasionally into December as Mother Nature allows. Embrace and enjoy this encore of living beauty as a final act of the 2010 outdoor Gardening Season.