Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Garden Reflection

Powell Gardens is a place for learning and reflection and it is with a mix of deep sadness that we announce that Andy Klapis, the longtime Raytown educator and nurseryman has passed away a month short of his 90th birthday. Andy was the donor of the original collection of azaleas that grace the Rock & Waterfall Garden. These masses of springtime color have brought much joy to our visitors and make May 1 an annual pilgrimage to that garden. So here's a reflection of 6 of the 7 varieties of azaleas he provided in masses for that garden: may we remember Andy each spring with their glorious bloom.

Andy's selection of a pink Glenn Dale azalea that was a reliable performer in our climate. This is probably my favorite azalea of all and not available in the nursery trade anymore.

Here's Andy's favorite double pink cultivar Azalea 'Lorna' which blooms very late in the season.

For red flowers he provided masses of Azalea 'Stewartstownian' which is still popular and available at local nurseries.

This exquisite white azalea is another unknown white Glenn Dale azalea that performed well for Andy's old Raytown Nursery. I know of no other white azalea so beautiful and this is also not available in the nursery trade anymore.

Vivacious Azalea 'Herbert' topped his "good doer" list and may be one of the most reliable azaleas for Greater Kansas City. It is still available at area nurseries.

The beautiful fragrant lavender blooms of the Korean Azalea (Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense) were also of his donation. This azalea also remains very popular and available. Unfortunately I have no image of his very favorite azalea which is the double form of this azalea: the Yodogawa Azalea (Rhododendron yedoense). I will be sure to capture its image next spring and remember Andy and his knowledge and generosity of plants when the azaleas shine with bloom in the Rock & Waterfall Garden next spring.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Garden Serenity

The Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel set between seasoned prairie grasses, early fall woodland and placid lake epitomizes Powell Gardens' tranquility. There is a reason the gardens are a road trip for the soul. I rarely get a chance to photograph Powell Gardens in the morning but finally got that opportunity today. It was one of Horticulturist Richard Heter's five good things from a previous blog that I never got captured to share.

The Island Garden Arbor looks especially inviting on this rare crisp morning this season. Temperatures have been nearly 10F higher than an average September and rainfall broke 9.5" for the month as of last night! It has created a lush, peaceful garden.

The ants are still marching past the Meadow Pavilion. Only two more weekends to view these marvelous "Big Bugs" sculptures.

I had to show a photo I took last Saturday (Sept. 18) of the spectacular thundershowers that formed that summery afternoon. These "Missouri Mountains" created a spectacular experience as you walked through the gardens. The sky is much of the beauty of Powell Gardens and we are one of only a few major public botanical gardens that have the space to show it off. We think it captures our spirit of place on the edge of America's Great Plains.

The Island Garden's water plants are in prime form and what a play of reds and purples here: purple-rimmed dinner-plate leaved Victoria Waterlilies, robust fountain-like Red-stemmed Thalias (Thalia geniculata) in the pools with purple-leaved Diabolo Ninebark and red-fruited Zumi Crabapples in the background. There are probably only a couple more weeks of a spectacular show of water plants on the Island Garden too.

Native wild sunflowers have set much of the regional landscape full of added sunshine. This Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) in the Powell Gardens meadow has a native praying mantis facing downward on its stem if you look close. I encourage you to SMELL the blooms of these wildflowers: a delightful whiff of cocoa awaits! Be sure and smell the roses so to speak to get the full dose of a Powell Gardens experience.

Wonderful self-sown Gauras (Gaura lindheimeri) have added sparkle to the Island Garden. From standard white to this pink-flowering form, they add a airy bit of serene color to the garden.

Lovely Colchicums have burst forth in bloom through groundcovers of Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). What delightful companions these two plants create in the garden. In early spring the colchicums have huge green leaves which fade by late spring when the plumbago finally wakes up to take over the show. They both send off the season with a duet of beautiful flowers as sweet as any garden pairing.

Here's a different species of Colchicum also paired with Hardy Plumbago: we haven't met a colchicum we didn't like. Make sure you make a date to visit Powell Gardens in the next couple of weeks to enjoy the full bounty of this phenomenal growing season and experience the added bonus of the Big Bugs sculptures. We all can use this place of peace and serenity in our busy lives.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Botanical First at Powell Gardens

This flower is a botanical first! It is the first hybrid between China's Red Lotus Tree (Manglietia insignis -- now lumped with magnolias by taxonomists) and the 'Colossus' cultivar of Oyama Magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii). Dennis Ledvina, renown magnolia hybridizer, made the cross to get the rich color of the unhardy Red Lotus Tree into the superior flower of hardy Colossus Oyama Magnolia. This is only a second season seedling we planted directly in the gardens in a site I thought it would thrive.

Senior Gardener, Janet Heter planted this new magnolia and has cared for it through the season. We planted it not far from some Oyama Magnolias, which absolutely require shade in our hot summers.

The flower has the rich dark stamens in the center typical of the Oyama Magnolia as well as a very nice aroma. Oyama magnolias normally bloom for us in late spring with a sporadic bloom into summer and even fall. This seedling will probably do the same and we will propagate the plant.

A side view of the flower shows that it does have the downward face of the oyama magnolia and the flower has many petals that almost make it look like a sacred lotus flower. We know it will hold its color and substance in the heat as it was 89F when I took the picture! We are thrilled to show this botanical first for those who support Powell Gardens and thank Dennis Ledvina for sending us two seedlings for trial. The sister seedling is quite different with larger leaves and has not bloomed yet. We'll keep you posted!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Floral Treasures after a Lush Season

What an incredibly lush summer season we have had in 2010! Powell Gardens official weather station received 24.00 inches of rain in June-August: 3/4th of our normal ANNUAL rainfall! The gardens' plants have responded with incredibly lush growth and are currently at their peak as we edge closer to the Autumnal Equinox (less than 2 weeks away).

The bananas lined out below the Visitor Center Wall have reached magnificent proportions and look extra striking backlit with a backdrop of dark green moonvine foliage and a sparkling foreground of lush summer annuals.

The Butterfly Bonanza Border south of the Visitor Center is at its prime with an accompanying flock of butterflies and an abundance of caterpillars too.

The Orange Bed is south of the Cafe and the magnificent Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) have flopped a bit but still look vivid against Sedona Coleus. Each of the Visitor Center's front and terrace beds has a color theme (other than the butterfly bonanza): look for purple, red, scarlet & blue, sunset colors, blue, white (moth), green, pink, brown and yes BLACK (see below) as color themes. Each bed has an interpretive sign describing its color theme and how that color impacts you!

The Black Bed north of the Visitor Center isn't true black but of plants with the darkest foliage, flowers and fruit: the Black Pearl Pepper has almost true inky black, glossy fruit before they ripen red.

Beds below the Visitor Center terrace walls are billowing masses and at their peak of exuberance. This image is just off the north corner of the building and is composed of a self-sown Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Polygonum orientale) weaving its strands of pendant pink flowers through Lacebark Pines, Coleus and other flowers. We do utilize some self-sowing annuals in the gardens wherever they are appropriate.

Verbena bonariensis (bonariensis means from Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a classic self-sower but often perennial in our climate. Masses north of the Visitor Center have created a lovely meadowesque and low maintenance scene full of nectaring butterflies.

Missouri and Kansas native Threadleaf Sneezeweed (Helenium amarum) have self sowed in many places around the Visitor Center and provide rugged feathery plants adorned with graceful yellow flowers in late summer through fall.

Looking like a pink "baby's breath," Missouri native Palafoxia (Palafoxia callosa) self-sows along the Island Garden's living wall and provides a breath of fresh flowers along the walk now.

Texas native Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri - airy flowers of white) and Verbena bonariensis have self sown in beds between the Island Garden's water pools. Delightful and airy they create a nice sparkly companionship.

In the Perennial Garden annual Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) makes its perennial self sown appearance and sparkles with its naturally variegated foliage. This is actually a wildflower native to Kansas and northwestern-most Missouri's loess hills. It SHOULD be called Snow-on-the-Prairie!!! It is related to the poinsettia so the colorful leaves are like the red ones of poinsettias that surround the tiny real flowers at the center of each leaf cluster.

Local roadside ditches and moist wild spaces are dazzling with the golden yellow flowers of Bidens polylepis now. This "Beggar Tick" or "Bur Marigold" is the showiest species of Bidens in bloom and is a nice addition to gardens where it self sows in moderation. It does not have the seeds that catch on you like ticks or burs of the other members of its Genus. It also is a good host plant for the tiny Dainty Sulphur butterfly. Look for it along our entrance drive, in the Insectaries Garden, Perennial Garden and here and there elsewhere throughout Powell Gardens wildlands.

Our native Impatiens Spotted Touch-me-not or Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is another self sowing annual that can be too much of a good thing unless planted where it can fill in like in our Shade Native section of the Perennial Garden or in the Rain Garden along the Dogwood Walk. It is called touch-me-not to the delight of children and adults as the ripe seed pods EXPLODE when touched. The seeds are coated in brown with a wintergreen aroma and a robin egg blue center!

The Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is still the most vivacious plant in the Perennial Garden. Wow, still in full bloom with nearly true red, crape paper-like flowers.
The striking blue flowers of Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) have been blooming since midsummer but are currently at their peak. This is one of our best groundcovers but has escaped into the living wall of the Island Garden as shown here. Look for fall-blooming colchicums to begin to flower through masses of this plant as they both make great companions. Hardy Plumbago is slow to start in spring so benefits being co-planted with bulbs that have flowers and foliage early but then are masked as they fade by the plumbago. Colchicums bold spring foliage works too and the flowers are strong enough to push through the plumbago for a great garden hurrah now.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) is still in full bloom and full of insects from honeybees to the Viceroy butterfly in this shot. Look for this great insectaries and fruit tree companion plant in various borders from the Visitor Center to throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden. We do DEADHEAD all of our plants as this can self-sow and become a garden weed otherwise! Gardener beware, but a great edible flower and beneficial insect attractor worth the extra work.

This floral gem is a species of Surprise lily or Hardy Amaryllis called the Red Spider Lily Lycoris radiata var. radiata we planted in 2002 but never bloomed until now. Look for these unique gems in the New Millennium bed of the Perennial Garden.

The White Rain Lilies (Zephranthes candida) are sparkling with white flowers after last week's 3 inches of rainfall. This native of Cuba is supposed to be hardy only into zone 9 but never read that reference and has been fully hardy for us for a decade!
While Tomatoes and Peppers are the stars in the Heartland Harvest Garden this weekend, be sure and take time to see the rest of the gardens and the bounty of this past lush season. Will we ever get 12.46" of rain in July ever again?