Friday, October 29, 2010

Reflections of a Grand Growing Season

The 2010 Growing Season finally came to an end this morning with temperatures dropping to 27.5F at our official weather station. It had not been below freezing since March 24, 2010. Our 219 day growing season with more than 46 inches of rain is almost unprecedented -- certainly the wettest in the 14 years I have been with Powell Gardens.

This Pink Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida f. rubra) was decked out in fine fall color on October 25th. Many trees did not develop great fall color this year because the fall was so warm and dry!

A Nikko Maple (Acer maximowiczianum) also turned brilliant colors in the courtyard on the north side of the Visitor Center. This small tree was planted as a Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) but never developed that orange, papery bark so I took a sample of the leaf and yes, it was not a Paperbark Maple but a Nikko Maple. Mix ups like this happen in the nursery trade.

I looked back through unutilized images from the 2010 growing season and decided to share them as a reflection of this great growing season:

Hard to believe there was still snow on the ground on March 22nd when I took this picture from the terrace of the Visitor Center. Just two days later the growing season began! We all know the Kansas City climate has wild mood swings...

Within two weeks the Daffodils were in full bloom: this is Cum Laude Daffodil (Narcissus split corona division) blooming on the Island Garden in early April.

Though winter was long and dragged on, Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) were in full bloom right on schedule in mid-April. This shot was taken in the Perennial Garden and note the floriferous drifts of daffodils beneath them.

The Apples (Malus pumila) in the Heartland Harvest Garden were in full bloom on April 16th. The trees have since grown 2 to 4 more feet!

Our last Kwanzan Flowering Cherry (Prunus serrulata) also bloomed this spring but this would prove its last -- the incredible rainfall actually drowned this 15 year old established tree. We will have to try again in a site that will drain better.

Indian Paintbrushes (Castilleja coccinea) bloomed in the prairie planting in the Heartland Harvest Garden and were screaming scarlet. These plants originated from seed collected off our friend Ona Gieschen's native hay prairie outside Sedalia.

The Whitaker sculptures were fun in the spring winds and this piece on the Island Garden was a favorite. The Tea Flowering Crabapples (Malus hupehensis) on either side were in full bloom (as were all the crabapples on the Island Garden) and echoed beautifully the white puffy clouds overhead.

By late April the gardens were already green and the trees nearly leafed out! This shot of the Heartland Harvest Garden was taken on April 24th from the silo overlook. If you've not had a chance to view the garden from the silo you are missing a great experience of Powell Gardens.

The greens of May in the prairie meadow show a large clump of Gama Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides) right of the path already with its turkey-foot-shaped blooms. This inspires me to take this shot now with billowing grasses in rich fall attire.

Our large Golden Barrel Cactus and American Agave loved the warm growing season, nearly being swallowed by a wayward morning glory towards the end of the growing season. These frost hardy cacti can stay out late but spend the winter in our cool greenhouse for safe keeping and use in 2011.

June 18th the Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) decorated the rows of grapes as their companion. There blossoms are backlit by the morning light of the Vineyard.

Native Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera) always shines with its pink flowers around the summer solstice. It's a challenge to photograph in the intense light of its season. We have it planted around the outer edge of the Apple Celebration Court as a companion planting to the Apple trees.

The greens of mid-summer are contrasted with white variegated leaves in this planting near the Chapel's trolley stop. The variegated foliage is from the Floating Clouds Redbud and it contrasts nicely with the bold foliage of Oakleaf Hydrangeas on either side.

At Booms and Blooms time the Perennial Garden is exuberant with daylilies, hardy hibiscus, purple coneflowers and other vivacious perennials in bloom. The tapestry hedge also is really filling in and got a good trim this June to keep its height maintained around 8 feet.

The lush wet season allowed the Butterburs (Petasites japonica) in the Rock & Waterfall Garden to reach huge proportions. Here they are wet with rain while Incrediball Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo') bloom behind them. This is only the second year for our Incrediball Hydrangeas and once they are fully established they will have immense flower heads on sturdy stems.

The intensely fragrant flowers of Ruby Spice Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) caught the attention of many visitors to the Island Garden. This Plant of Merit makes a great summer blooming shrub and thrives with extra moisture.

This July shot of the Island Garden pools almost looks laughable because shortly after all these plants mushroomed in size and abundant flowers! The upright plant left is a Red-stemmed Thalia, the right one is Papyrus while a tropical waterlily and the saucer leaves of Victorias float behind them.

Hibiscus Lord Baltimore reigned over the Perennial Garden again in August with its rich red flowers. This flower steals the show every year in the Perennial Garden.

Frothy bluish-purple Verbena bonariensis creates a meadowy look to the north side of the Visitor Center. Yes, Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor let them self-sow to create this butterfly heaven and easy care border.

The Butterfly Bonanza Bed really lived up to its name on the south side of the Visitor Center's conservatory. It was painful to remove this bed and install the fall plantings which are already full and lush in this space (and frost and freeze tolerant too).

Here's another shot of the Missouri Mountain thunderstorms that made for a spectacular sky on any one's September 18th Powell Gardens visit. We already miss the Big Bugs ants that spent the summer on the hill beyond the Meadow Pavilion.

The newer end of the Conifer Garden added several new specialty plants to give it a finished look. The donations by Marvin Snyder and Skinner's Nursery in Topeka really made the last bit of this garden look full. This garden will only get better over time and has been immensely popular to our visitors.

Wild Willow-leaved Asters (Aster praealtus -- pinkish here) and New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae--purple) kept nature's floral display going in the natural plantings of the parking lot. What a fine finale to a magnificently long, lush and colorful growing season.
Horticulture Staff is working on growing the plants for spring displays in 2011 and the plant orders for next summer's flower beds are due in mid November! There is never a dull moment in the gardens -- the greenhouse Poinsettias are starting to show their colors too. We hope you visited Powell Gardens many times this past season and plan to do so again next year too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Placid Waters of a Benevolent Autumn

Since the last week of September we have enjoyed an exceptionally benevolent fall of mild, dry weather. The colors of autumn plants reflect beautifully in the placid waters of our lake with crystal blue skies overhead.

The views of our chapel never get old and are glorious in every season.

The Island Garden is a study of fall's finest colors when viewed from the Perennial Garden on the opposite shore. An image from our Island Garden will grace Fine Gardening magazine's 2012 national calendar!

The Visitor Center's flower beds are now all in fall attire and the plants are lush and full responding to the marvelous weather. Here mums, cabbage and lettuce create a gorgeous ornamental composition.

All the plants on display are tolerant of frosts and light freezes. This calendula is one of those tough flowers we all should grow in our gardens in spring and fall to extend our floral season. No frost blankets required!

All Purple Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara') blooms only in the short days of autumn but is tender to a freeze. The flowers are soft and fuzzy to the touch and actually freeze dry on the plant quite nicely after Jack Frost does visit.

Butterflies and honeybees are in almost unprecedented abundance at the remaining flowers of the season. This Honeycomb Butterflybush (Buddleia x weyriana) is hosting a Common Buckeye (the eyed butterfly) and several Honeybees. Yes the buckeye butterfly often lands upside-down on flowers -- probably so its ornamental eyes look scary to a potential butterfly-eating predator.

A late Monarch drinks nectar from another Honeycomb Butterflybush. Fatten up on nectar and hurry off on your migration to Mexico. We wish you a safe journey and hope to see you back again next spring! The insectaries gardens around the Fountain Garden are a great place to observe many late season butterflies.

Unharvested Okra provides ornament in the color scheme of the entrance area of the Heartland Harvest Garden. This Millstone Fountain and Fountain Garden overlook area has a color scheme of blue and yellow in case you didn't notice.

The fall vegetable "greens" are lush and colorful throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden. Who says edible landscapes can't be beautiful! The mustard greens and kale in this image are delicious too.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) and naturally drying Mardis Gras Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena haageana) make beautiful companions in Rosalind Creasy's Author's Garden in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Rosalind's 1980's groundbreaking book The Complete Guide to Edible Landscaping comes out completely revised for the times on November 1 (8 short days!). I have a preview copy and it is awesome so go out and get yourself a copy or put it on your holiday wish list. Powell Gardens is sited in the books several times for the Heartland Harvest Garden and the Island Garden's living wall of many herbs.

More good news: the Perennial Garden has added interpretive signage describing all its themes and borders. Next year will be the 20th Anniversary of this beginning garden of Powell Gardens. Stay tuned for further updates and stories about our oldest, 3-1/2 acre garden gem.

The Perennial Garden is a great study in perennials but also holistic garden design as it has such great "bones" of paths, walls, arbors, and perennial woody plants from deciduous shrubs and trees to evergreens. It is a garden truly designed for all seasons and glorious in each. Everyone can learn good garden tips by a visit to this garden. Here crabapples decked in fall fruit provide a great backdrop of seasonal color.

Tatarian Aster (Aster tataricus) is one of our majestic late autumn bloomers but don't be deceived by the picture -- the plant is easily 6 feet tall! It provides great nectar for the season's last bees and butterflies. Native to Japan, Korea, Northern China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia, this is one hardy plant.

Flamingo Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Flamingo') shows its pink seed heads above the plant like its namesake bird. This cultivar of Miscanthus is still virtually unknown in Kansas City Gardens but is a great one you can see in the New Millennium border of the garden (and now you can locate that border of plants with our new signage!). The New Millennium border showcases new cultivars or underutilized varieties like this.

The fall-blooming Japanese Anemones are in bloom still too. This is the very large and lovely cultivar 'Party Dress' you can see in the Woodland Garden section of the Perennial Garden.

Don't forget to stop at the Perennial Garden's lakeside arbor for your final reflection of the garden in our placid waters. From its colorful containers to its comforting cloak of wisteria greenery, it is always a great place to end your visit to Powell Gardens.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Visions in the Garden

Mid Autumn is already here and the weather has been simply spectacular. The colors of the season are starting to charm the visitor and speak to the spirit of this Midwestern Garden.

A Cherokee Sunset Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) shade a patch of vibrant impatiens for some striking color combinations. Look for this composition near the Hummingbird Garden outside the Visitor Center.

Purple Dahlia Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) continues to thrive and bloom in the Hummingbird Garden even though our hummingbirds have all migrated southward. This is one of two seed strain Zinnias we love for nectaring butterflies and hummingbirds as well as for disease resistant foliage. Most zinnias would be rubble mired in mildew after this past wet season.

Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) continue to sport their velvety orange blossoms so apropos for the season. I like the background of burgundy Flowering Dogwood fall foliage in this shot from the Hummingbird Garden.
As long as Jack Frost stays away, our overhead arbor of Purple Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab) in flower and fruit will greet visitors on their way from the Visitor Center to the Dogwood Walk.

A walk down the Dogwood Walk to the Island Garden is well worth the exercise! The views from the Island Garden to the chapel are stunning when framed by Maximillian's Sunflower and prairie grasses at the peak of their fall colors.

The Aromatic Asters (Aster oblongifolius) in the Island Garden's living wall's eastern end are awash in bloom. Make sure to look at all the butterflies and beneficial insects visiting the flowers as you walk past.

The meadow is in full autumn attire with blooming asters (New England Aster Aster novae-angliae depicted) with various seedheads (Illinois Bundle Flower Desmodium illinoiense) and grass seed heads (Giant Foxtail Setaria italica) set off by billowing masses of local prairie grasses.

Many of our oak trees are just starting to turn colors like this stalwart Post Oak (Quercus stellata) growing on the edge of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This is one of our toughest native trees and should be planted more often but doesn't conform to nursery production. It is a tree that withstands everything that Mother Nature can throw at it from heavy ice load to extreme heat and drought.

Shagbark Hickories (Carya ovata) are also turning shades of yellow and are another tried and true native tree here. They also don't conform to nursery production so are never available for homeowners to plant. Look for many of these trees with classic shaggy bark in the Rock and Waterfall Garden.

The Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are also turning their characteristic shades of pale yellow in the understory of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This tree is becoming more popular in gardens as edible landscaping themes gain mainstream acceptance. If you've never eaten a pawpaw fruit before, be sure and visit Powell Gardens next early to mid-September next year to sample a pawpaw at the tasting stations in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Grasses are a mainstay of local autumn gardens and here huge 'Guilded Tower' Giant Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) stands left of lovely 'Autumn Red' Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis) near the Perennial Garden trolley stop. Note the heavily fruited 'Centurion' Crabapple in the background which adds to the autumn colors of this composition.

Tall Tails Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale) always is a fun blast of seedheads in this season. Look for this mass with complimentary crabapple and chrysanthemums also near the Perennial Garden trolley stop.

'Hameln' Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) also acquires some nice fall hues and looks great with various chrysanthemums in the Perennial Garden.

Many shrubs throughout the gardens are studded in autumn fruit. This is a rare cultivar of Missouri native Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) called 'Firework' because the stems of the blue berries are bright red.

Another Viburnum with striking fruit now is the Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum): this is the heavy fruiting cultivar 'Asian Beauty.'
The weekend is supposed to continue our spectacular streak of gorgeous fall weather so be sure and consider a visit to Powell Gardens and experience its gorgeous autumn visions.