Thursday, October 13, 2011

October's Garden Glory

It is the peak of fall at Powell Gardens and there is still a bounty of flowers, foliage and produce throughout the gardens.

Closed or Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) is one of the true blue flowers we can grow and a must see in person each fall.  Who do you think pollinates such a unique flower?  The answer is big bumblebees that are strong enough to open the twisted shut end of the flower.  The bumblebee climbs into the flower and then there is a whole lot of shak'n going on!  Trick or treat?  Well the flower does reward the bumblebee with some wonderful nectar and gets pollinated in the process.  Look for a nice mass of this native gentian in the New Millennium border of the Perennial Garden.

Prairie Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta) is another locally native gentian but defies captivity.  It must have some relationship with some soil fungus, microfauna or whatever that is lost when a native prairie is plowed up.  Too bad because it would certainly be one of the most popular garden flowers and also a spectacular cut flower.  This one was photographed on a Friends Member's Ona Gieschen's private native prairie during a visit last week.  Trek out to a native prairie near you to see this beauty -- one of so many reasons to cherish, protect and manage our native prairie remnants
The Island Garden pools are still lush with flowers and foliage and surrounded by billowing flowers from Maximilian Sunflowers and Golden Asters in the prairie to Gauras, Verbena bonariensis and Autumn Sages in the garden beds.  This Powell Gardens centerpiece is the most flower and color filled location on the grounds right now (don't miss it!).  It's the last weekend for such a show as temperatures next week may flirt with Jack Frost and we will have to begin to remove the tropical water plants to their winter quarters.

Gorgeous cushions of Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius) grace the east side of the Island Garden's living wall right now.  Watch for hoards of pollinators and butterflies imbibing their last nectar and pollen meals of the season from these flowers.  These particular flowers were grown from wild aromatic asters on the native prairie remnants on the property.

New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae) are also in bloom in wild areas of the garden but especially in the Perennial Garden.  Look for them in shades of purple to pink and some with some ruby-violet tones.  We let them self-sow to within reason and always remember why now, when they put on such a magical hurrah of flowers near the end of our growing season.

Helen's Flower or "Sneezeweed" (Helenium autumnale) is another native wildflower with many colorful selections that self-sows in the Perennial Garden and supplies gold to brick red flowers now.  This seedling is in the New Millennium border and was spared for its gorgeous bi-colored flowers.  Sneezeweed doesn't make you sneeze unless you do what the Native Americans allegedly did: make a snuff out of it to make you sneeze to rid your body of evil spirits.  I don't recommend that.
This colorful border of fall flowers in the Vineyard are a local seed strain of chrysanthemums donated to us by local Gardener Jackie Goetz.  We call them Jackie's Mums (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) and they are self-sow naturally into a myriad of colors from yellow to orange, rust, maroon, pink, and white.  They are companion plants to grapes and attract a myriad of beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden now. The flowers are allegedly edible too, just don't eat the base of the flower which is very bitter.
Here's a couple more images of Jackie's mums in the Vineyard.  We have tried to select some of the colors for propagation but they are relatively short-lived so it is best to let them be free to self-sow and show their true colors!

There is always some unusual plant that grabs my attention in the Heartland Harvest Garden and now it is the Huacatay Marigold (Tagetes minuta).  This is a great companion plant in edible landscapes to help protect plantings from nematodes, slugs and tough perennial weeds like bindweed.  Oil from this plant is used in commercial food flavorings but it also has many herbal uses.  This plant has a host of other names including Muster-John-Henry, Khaki Weed and Stinking Roger!!!!  Hmmmm...

Matt Bunch (Heartland Harvest Garden Horticulturist) has uncovered quite a catch!  A 14 pound 'Beauregard' sweet potato.  It is not even close the world record but quite a feast nonetheless.  There's a lot of sweet potato fries in this plant's tuber.  Come explore Powell Gardens this weekend and uncover your own special garden experiences.  From the Heartland Harvest Garden to the Perennial Garden and the Byron Shutz Nature Trail, there lies a phenomenal bounty of October's glory.

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