Friday, December 30, 2011

A Sample of Colorful Evergreens from Powell Gardens

Plants with evergreen foliage are a mainstay of the winter garden.  But how many of these plants are truly green?  The term evergreen means they hold their foliage through the winter but the wintertime foliage can be in almost any hue!  Here's a look at some of the evergreen plants around the Visitor Center which offers an exceptional collection of evergreens as it was designed to be a sort of winter garden for folks who didn't want to walk to far to see the beauty of the gardens on a cold winter's day.

Nandina domestica 'Blush Pink' offers about the wildest color one can have this season on a dwarf or compact shrub.  The winter color of this shrub is fiery fall red -- its pink in the summertime. 
Nandina domestica 'Obsession' also offers a wonderful blend of winter color with red-bronze-purple hued foliage.

 Nandina domestica 'Flirt' is a very compact grower with a more overall purple hue now.  All three of these mini-shrub Nandinas are part of the Southern Living Shrub Collection's zone 6 hardy varieties which were all donated to Powell Gardens for trial.  So far these are tough shrubs surviving last summer's ferocious heat and drought just fine.  These 3 varieties can be seen around the Visitor Center trolley stop.

Here's a grouping of native Eastern Redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) that were dug from the wild and planted as a screen to the Visitor Center's parking lot.  Native male Eastern Redcedars like these three have orange-colored pollen cones on them in winter that will release dusty yellow pollen in spring.  Many gardeners don't care for this color of evergreen in the wintertime but we feel it is part of the natural color scheme to our local landscape -- the "Spirit of Place" we try to capture at Powell Gardens.
These are a grouping of a 'Oxford' Eastern Redcedars which is a cultivar selected in southern Kansas for its greener foliage in winter.  It is a female cultivar so has some of the blue, berry-like cones that are so nice to adorn the plant in wintertime and ofter a major food source to wildlife.  You can eat these cones too, sometimes they have a sweet burst of flavor to begin with but always end with a strong gin aftertaste.  Yep, gin is flavored with juniper "berries."

Cannaertii Eastern Redcedars are another Kansas selection of our only native evergreen.  Canaertii Junipers are also female and have wonderful open branching patterns that are so striking in the winter landscape.  The trees on the right side of this shot are a bit lopsided because of severe deer browse on their leeward side.   
This evergreen (but yellow-leaved at all seasons) is the Golden Japanese Sweetflag (Acorus gramineus 'Ogon').  It is a very underutilized perennial groundcover that really does add a bright spot in the landscape throughout the year.  This mass is just northeast of the Visitor Center right along the main path.
Here's one of the greenest evergreens I could find: a Southern Magnolia (M. grandiflora) grown from a cutting off the Greater Kansas City champion.  This is certainly one of the hardiest Southern Magnolias anywhere and does grow as a sturdy, relatively compact plant despite its unsheltered site south of the Visitor Center.
The wonderful red-purple hues and rugose texture of this Leatherleaf Viburnum (V. x rhitidophylloides) make it one of our favorite huge shrubs for winter interest.  The foliage holds well through mild winters but this shrub can become more deciduous after a harder winter like last year.  Look for these big shrubs below the Visitor Center's Conservatory.
Rhododendron 'PJM' has some of the nicest dark, almost chocolate purple leaves of any hardy shrub that grows well here.  On cold, sub-freezing days the leaves roll up -- rolling up tightly during severe cold and giving the plant an entirely different look.  I think of it as a living thermometer in winter as the leaves unfurl as the temperature returns to above freezing.
This is the fabulous foliage of the Redboor Kale (Brassica oleracea) which holds beautifully down to temperatures around 10F or above.  It is naturally a biennial where completely hardy but since we are usually colder than zone 8, it often dies or the foliage is killed by our winters.  We would love to see this mild winter continue as all the kale look great right now.  We also have blooming pansies and a few spring bulbs already out!

Come out to Powell Gardens for a New Years hike and enjoy some of the beautiful evergreens that adorn the grounds.  The biggest collection is around the Visitor Center but there are marvelous varieties to be seen from the Heartland Harvest Garden to the Perennial Garden and even  a plethora of winter colors along the Byron Shutz Nature Trail.  Consider staying fit by walking outdoors as often as you can this winter, and may our mild winter continue!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Holiday Season's Garden

Powell Gardens is brimming with flowers, foliage and fruit that make this season bright.

The Conservatory and its Victorian-themed palate is full of unique Poinsettias and companion plants in a beautiful design by Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor. Here Poinsettia 'Winter Rose Marble' & 'Premium White' is set off by Diamond Frost Euphorbia and Pink Polka-dot Plant. If you are in the market for unique poinsettias, Perennial Gifts (our gift shop) will have these for sale for you to take home.

Outside the last of the season greens are part of our masterful foliage display playing off their leave's beautiful colors and textures. This marvelous array of edibles was designed by Horticulturist Matt Bunch in the Heartland Harvest Garden's Villandry Quilt Garden in front of the barn. From left to right the mustard greens varieites are: 'Golden Frill', 'Purple Rain', 'Green Wave' and 'Garnet Giant.'

No, the gardening season does not end with a freeze! Many of the "greens" of the fall garden hold well into December with some kale hardy to near 10F. Make sure to walk to the barn on your Powell Gardens visit to see some of these beautiful compositions and be sure and hike (or ride on the elevator) up to the top of the silo for a bird's eye overview of the landscape.

No, this is not a "beached" starfish but a gorgeous bed of greens (purple 'Garnet Giant' mustard and green tops of radishes)

in the Villandry Garden. The unique fringed edge are 'Chinese Ornamental' peppers which, though killed by a freeze, create a gorgeous border in the winter landscape.

The screaming red berries of the Possumhaw or Deciduous Holly (Ilex decidua) always warm the soul on a winter garden walk. All berried hollies are female and require a male pollinator -- when we planted this fruiting plant in the Perennial Garden we forgot to plant a pollinator and it still fruited! I thought we might have the first self-fruitful possumhaw but then we discovered a wild male plant in the woods nearby.

This Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera) in the Apple Celebration Court is also loaded with beautiful deep red hips. It is a companion planting to the apples and makes the garden beautiful all through winter.

Prickly-pears like this wild Bigroot Prickly Pear (Opuntia macrorhiza) draping over the living wall on the Island Garden are great for winter interest in the garden. The companion reddish foliage is from the Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) used as a colorful companion plant.

The Island Garden is choc full of neat foliage plant treats like this Angelina Sedum (Sedum reflexum) which in winter has orange hi-lights.

Angelina Sedum combines well with other evergreen plants like silver Santolina (back left), Candytuft (back right) and fine forest green creeping thyme (front left) and rich green six-sided sedum (front right). All these grow on top of the Island Garden's living wall.

Snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) have already made their appearance on the Island Garden! Perhaps the severe drought of fall followed by copious rains fooled them into thinking it was spring. At any rate we sure enjoy these cold hardy, floral gems whenever they appear.

Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) are also in bloom with their intensely sweet perfume. They are awesome edible flowers with a sweet floral taste that can really make a salad sing in this season.
These were photographed on the east side of the Island Garden but they are also sweetening up the Kitchen Garden south of the barn in the Heartland Harvest Garden and a few other secret locations around the garden--your nose will find them before your eyes.

These flowers, foliage and fruit await your discovery on a holiday walk at Powell Gardens. Take a break from the hustle and bustle and discover the beauties of our winter garden.