Friday, May 27, 2011

Flowers of Spring: Last Chance to See

Memorial Day weekend will be your last chance to see the flowers of spring around the Visitor Center. Next week we begin the planting of the flowers of summer: those that thrive on our typical heat and humidity. We think of Memorial Day as the kickoff to summer, but in garden terms it is usually the last hurrah of springtime's flowers.

Garden Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) have done phenomenal this year and have loved this most unsettled of springs I've experienced here. Our wonderful 80-something local volunteer Wilbur Kephart when asked about the predicted weather for each season always says "it'll be different" and he was right as usual. It was a mostly cloudy, showery and cool spring with blasts of 90F in between! By the way, pansies like these with a "face" are a favorite that remind me of my grandmother.

Snapdragon lived through the snowy insulated winter and have been unusually marvelous too. This is a variety of "snap-less" Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus). Snapdragons are flowers for spring and fall and languish in our summer heat and humidity.

Colorful plant compositions shine around the Visitor Center like this river of Ruby Perfection Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) surrounded by frothy dwarf white Snapdragons in a sea of Stocks (Matthiola incana).

Is this a purple flower? Yes, the female flowers of the Indigo Eyes Bosnian Pine (Pinus leucodermis) start out a stunning indigo in spring and gradually mature into the brown cones that bear the seeds in autumn. Look for this plant in the conifer garden on the north end of the Visitor Center.

The Blue Spruces (Picea pungens glauca) with their new candles of needles are at their bluest! This is the dwarf cultivar 'St. Mary's Broom.'

This low shrub in the conifer garden is like a blanket of gold: it's the Bangle(TM) Dyers-Greenwood (Genista lydia 'Select'). This shrub has colorful green twigs in the winter and grows no taller than 24" and has profuse flowers now (like an encore of forsythia).

The Weigelas (Weigela florida) are also in bloom around the gardens now. This is the cultivar 'Variegata' with cream edged leaves and soft pink, nectar-rich flowers.

The Asian Kousa Dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are in bloom now and this is the pink-flowering cultivar 'Satomi.' Pink cultivars are never as pink here as depicted in catalogs because our warm spells and bright sun here fade them to just blush pink (they are deeper pink in cooler climates like England, the Pacific Northwest, New England and their native mountainous haunts). Our Kousa Dogwoods suffered severely from the flooding rains of last year (50" in the growing season alone)and at least 4 of our largest trees have died outright from being too wet. Always plant these in well drained soil!

The purple-leaf heirloom 'Wilbur's' Indian Peach (Prunus persica) was given to us by the aforementioned Wilbur Kephart after being a pass along plant from many generations of his family but originating in Tennessee from the Cherokee Indians! Peaches are from China but were brought via the Silk Road westward to Europe, spread to the New World via the Spaniards and brought into North America by the Native Americans (already naturalized by the time Wilbur's ancestors settled Tennessee -- Wilbur's family brought this variety from there to here! If only plants could speak and tell us their journeys. This peach contrasts beautifully with blue-flowering Walker's Low Catmint beneath and the blue container with yellow-blooming Calendulas at the entrance of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are almost ready for harvest in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Yes, it's the flower buds that is the artichoke! These were planted in the garden last year; dug up and forced in the greenhouse for display in the Metropolitan Lawn & Garden show last February then planted back into the garden in March.

These white flowers are delicious! This is the bloom of Arugula (Eruca vesicaria var. sativa) used in salads since since Roman times. The flowers add a sweet nectar burst to the pungent taste typical of arugula. Arugula languishes in the heat of summer.

Cool weather-loving Calendulas (Calendula officinalis) are edible flowers sometimes called "Pot Marigolds" and add color with Kale in this container of edibles in the Peach Court.

Rose Attar is made from flowers of the Damask Roses (Rosa damascena) and this is the cultivar 'Kazanlik' blooming with two other sister cultivars opposite the entrance to the Vineyard. Be sure and give these and other nearby roses a good whiff to enjoy their entrancing fragrances.

This brilliant Calendula bloom leaning into a bed of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) demonstrates precise complimentary colors. This picture was taken in the Villandry Quilt Garden.

The Villandry Garden lies in front of our Missouri Barn and be sure and stop by Cafe Fresh there to purchase lunch and some special strawberry desserts made from fresh from the garden strawberries. Don't forget to go up in the silo for an overview of the quilt gardens and the landscapes beyond.

Make a trip to Powell Gardens this Memorial Day weekend and see the last hurrah of springtime flowers and foliage throughout the grounds' natural gardens. Visit the dinosaurs of Jurassic Garden and the Heartland Harvest Garden and the Marjory Powell Allen Chapel: a good place to reflect on the meaning of this holiday. May you all experience a beautiful holiday weekend.

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