Friday, May 28, 2010

While Visiting Big Bugs...

When Visiting Powell Gardens this Memorial Day Weekend for the Opening of Big Bugs be sure and meet one of the largest flowers in the botanical world "Big Bird" our Octopus Agave in the Visitor Center Conservatory. Late spring flowers are also at peak bloom around the gardens so be sure to stop and smell the roses too! The taste of Strawberries also awaits anyone who stops in the tasting station at the Heartland Harvest Garden.

The Big Bug Damselfly commands the view of the Island Gardens' middle pool. Luckily this carnivorous insect isn't for real or we might be on the menu!

Here's our 15 foot tall flower in the Conservatory! It's an Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana) and they bloom only once about every decade. Gardener's named this super succulent "Big Bird" as its flower spike first looked like a large bird beak. When it is done blooming the plant will die but little plantlets will form on the dying flower stalk and these will be potted up so we can repeat the performance around 2020. Come visit and take a picture with our "Big Bird."

Powell Gardens has no rose garden BUT you can see roses in all parts of the Gardens' landscapes. This Oso Easy Peachy Cream Rose (Rosa 'Horcoherent') in the Perennial Garden is a new kid on the block but has performed as well as its name. The rose flowers are simply stunning companion planted here with well named, blue-flowered Blue Ice Dragonhead (Dracocephalum argunense 'Blue Ice') -- a perennial that is still virtually unknown and rarely used in Kansas City.

Hot Cocoa Rose has chocolaty-scarlet flowers and another stellar garden performer for many years at Powell Gardens. Look for this rose along the Dogwood Walk outside the Visitor Center.
Don't forget roses in the Heartland Harvest Garden: These Damask Roses (Rosa damascina 'Ispahan' left and 'Kazanlik' right) are intensely fragrant and the source of commercial rose attar. Look for these roses around the bench at the entrance to the Vineyard where roses are companion plants to grapes and celebrate the original "paradise garden" theme of the Vineyard.

The bumper crop from over two dozen varieties of strawberries (Tribute Everbearing Strawberry in the picture) continues in the Heartland Harvest Garden so be sure to stop there and TASTE them at the tasting station and observe the various varieties throughout that garden.

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!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Harvest Garden Promises a Productive Season

The season of color and full foliage is upon us! The Heartland Harvest Garden shows promise with flowers, foliage and fruit galore. Here Purple-leaved 'Grandpa Gourley's' heirloom peach sets off blue-flowering Walker's Low Catmint at the top of the water stairs where the Insectaries Garden begins. The blue container of edible flowers and foliage deliniates the Millstone Entrance Plaza to the Heartland Harvest Garden.

The Menu Garden is the appetizer for the Heartland Harvest Garden (pun intended as our Director would say) and shows an abundance of edible flowers from pansies to calendula, many greens and peas on their way.

The Apple Celebration Court is cloaked in blooming chives -- their strong aroma permeates this sunny day. The chives are doing their job too: attracting loads of honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators as well as deterring the apple tree borers to perfection. Chives are apple tree companion plantings -- learn more by a visit and read our interpretive signs.

Chives are quite a beautiful sight in full bloom and vary in color between various plants. The flowers are edible as well as the chopped leaves so well known in "sour cream and chives." We will have to deadhead our entire mass so that we prevent billions of seedlings. Thank you volunteers!

Roses are an apple and grape companion plant as well and are really putting on a show now. This is 'Mary' a David Austin Rose that is currently in exquisite full bloom in the Vineyard. Don't miss the roses in the Vineyard and be sure and smell the Damask Roses; the commercial source of rose attar. FRAGRANT is an understatement.

The Vineyard Arbor is starting to get its Mediterranean design feel, the new Morning Light roses on either side have been more beautiful than expected and are a climbing rose developed by Knockout Rose breeder so sure are disease resistant. The other climbing roses are well budded but not yet in full bloom. Roses are the canary in the mineshaft when it comes to grapes.
Have you ever seen the beautiful blossom of a blackberry? This Apache Thornless Blackberry is in the vineyard --their stunning white flowers will be adorned with delicious berries later in the summer.

Most of our berry bushes in the Harvest Garden are very berry laden! Here 'Crandall' Clove Currant is straining under the weight of maturing currants. This is a selection of a native shrub and produces a delicious black currant in mid-summer.

The Blueberries are also bursting with berries: this Northland Blueberry shows the developing fruit that should start ripening in a month. The blueberry crop will be very good this year.

The apples have been thinned and are showing very promising fruit. This is the Stark Galaxy Gala Apple in the Apple Celebration Court. Barbara Fetchenhier has thinned the fruit so that each has six to eight inches of space on all sides.

The pears are full of fruit too: young 'Kieffer' pears appear to be aiming at the sun.

Fuzzy baby peaches are growing well on the trees whose flower buds shrugged off our long winter. This Contender Peach is living up to its name, flowering heavily this spring and showing an abundant crop of fruit in the Peach Court.

This glossy, red baby fruit is a Stark SunGlo Nectarine. Many of the nectarines are faring well too; good news for those who don't like peach fuzz. Nectarines are mixed with peaches in the Peach Court as they are just a variety of peach (Prunus persica var. nectarina).

Put Powell Gardens on your plans for this predicted warm sunny weekend. Roses, Peonies, Iris, Columbines and many other plants are currently in full bloom. Cool season flower displays are luxuriant and the Heartland Harvest Garden is bursting with Strawberries to sample at the Tasting Station (as well as all depicted above!).