Friday, April 13, 2012

Colors & Textures of Spring!

Though the calendar says mid-April the gardens have a decidedly May look to them with mid-spring flowers in full bloom and rich springy foliage bursting forth all around.  This is the season when shade gardens are at their peak and a visit to Powell Gardens' Rock & Waterfall Garden is an annual ritual to see the azaleas and the full cacophony of springtime colors and textures.

Here's a view from the south bridge in the Rock & Waterfall Garden with the large and luxurious leaves of Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) in the foreground with flowering azaleas and colorful foliage beyond.  It is the epitome of a shade garden this time of year.

Fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) are almost in peak bloom (pure white in full bloom) and grace the north entrance to the Rock & Waterfall Garden.  This Missouri native huge shrub/small tree is related to lilacs and a perennial hit of Visitors when it is in bloom.  It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and has an alternate name "Grancy Gray Beard."

Here are the flowers of Chinese Fringetree (Chionanthus retusus) on the east or trolley stop side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.  Chinese Fringetrees are currently a popular tree though they have not lived up to their billing for us with random flowering.  The overall tree is wonderful through the seasons and makes up for the weak bloom.
This is the gorgeous spring foliage of 'Grace' Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus x C. coggygria) found just south of the Chinese Fringetrees near the Rock & Waterfall Trolley Stop. This hybrid of the native Smoketree has simply spectacular spring foliage sure to get attention.  You can see it is also in bloom, not showy now but the feathery seeds give it a smoky appearance later in the season.]

The gorgeous golden new leaves on The Rising Sun (TM) Redbud (Cercis canadensis) also invite a shockingly, springy look to the garden.  This tree is also near Grace Smoketree and the Chinese Fringetrees.

Herbert Azalea provides masses of lavender-purple in several places in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This is one of the toughest and hardiest evergreen azaleas for our climate.

If you need an azalea that stays compact try the VIVID and vivacious flowering Girard Dwarf Lavender Azalea.  We have a nice grouping of this delightful azalea in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Pride's Pink Azalea is one of the finest for pure pink in our zone but very difficult to procure.  We received this azalea from the former Roslyn Azalea Nursery on Long Island.  Our plant can be seen on the walkway to the Upper Deck of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

This lovely pale pink azalea is an unknown cultivar!  Yes, even botanical gardens receive plants that are mis-labeled and this group of azaleas in Verly's Grove seating area along the upper walk in the Rock & Waterfall Garden was bought as Compact Korean Azaleas which they are not.  There are 1,000's of varieties of azaleas and it is sometimes very difficult to tell the various named varieties apart. This may be the cultivar 'Watchet.'

The deciduous "Lights Series" azaleas bred in Minnesota are another good group of azaleas for our zone and come in many warm colors.  This is 'Golden Lights' Azalea near the south bridge of the Rock & Waterfall Garden and it has a wonderful aroma too.

Most flowers of spring are not so showy but are lovely none-the-less like the green yellow puffs of flowers on this Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum) between the Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Garden. These wonderful yellow-greens and chartreuse of spring really make the season and provide a perfect compliment to the many vivid pinks, lavenders and purple flowers of the season.

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum) is a great iris for the shade garden with a very showy blooms.  Look for it around the donor plaque of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Missouri's state flower, the hawthorn is in bloom on the north side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.  This small wild tree blooming between fringetrees is the Frosted Hawthorn (Crataegus pruinosa) with pure white flowers and red fruit that appear "frosted" with a waxy coating.

So walk the paths of the Rock & Waterfall Garden this weekend and make some wonderful floral discoveries of your own and take in the spectacular colors and textures of the season.
Also be sure and visit our rare Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) on display in the Conservatory.  This living fossil was found in 1994 in Australia and the above beautiful specimen tree was donated to Powell Gardens by nationally renowned Iseli Nursery.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Floral Treats at Powell Gardens

Spring has returned to Powell Gardens much to the delight of gardeners who can now play catch up with such a phenomenally early spring (caused by a few weeks that felt like summer!).  Enjoy the predicted seasonal temperatures in the 60's while they last!  It also makes the flowers last much longer and plants at Powell Gardens are showing a glorious array of flowers and fresh green foliage perfect for an Easter-time stroll.

The Visitor Center's terrace garden beds are full of fresh, springtime flowers blooming in colors and patterns worthy of the art world's finest masterpieces.  Here Pansies and 'Ruby Perfection' cabbage create a gorgeous composition of cool colors on the South Ramp that leads toward the trolley stop.

Most of our Kales are in full bloom!  They were planted last fall and survived the winter and have bolted into gorgeous bloom.  The flower buds taste delicious too: like a broccoli with a touch of honey (the flowers own nectar).  This is 'Winterboor' Kale near the entrance to the Heartland Harvest Garden's Menu Garden.

It's hard to believe how early the lilacs are flowering this year!  Here's the lovely cultivar 'Wonderblue' which is a classic lilac (Syringa vulgaris) with a fragrance we all love.  This lilac is part of the blue and yellow color scheme to the Menu Garden -- a lilac in an edible garden?  You bet, edible flowers though they tasted best when they first opened and are now a bit bitter.

Peonies are another "May" classic garden flower already in bloom.  This is a Tree Peony but some of the early herbaceous varieties are also in bloom in the Perennial Garden!

And YES, even roses in bloom already!!!  Here's a Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa) in bloom in Heartland Harvest Garden's Apple Celebration Court.  The scent of these old fashioned roses brings me back to childhood memories in Iowa.

Some of our plants' flowers get no respect!  Look at these -- yes, the gold and pink in this picture are conifer flowers.  This Tanyosho Pine (Pinus desiflora 'Umbraculifera') is in bloom in the Conifer Garden north of the Visitor Center. The golden yellow are the male pollen cones and the pink tips to the new growth "candles" are the female cones which will mature into more familiar pine cones.

Missouri's state tree started blooming in March this year and the beautiful bracts surrounding the tiny flowers should hold through the weekend.  Dogwood blossoms might be the most beloved flower of springtime in Missouri and are putting on a wonderful show at Powell Garden this year.  This is the cultivar 'Cherokee Brave' which is a super pink-flowering selection.

Nope, not Gardenia but the lovely, 'Springtime Double' Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Springtime Double') in bloom.  Look for this gem along the Dogwood Walk just before its hairpin curve around the Swamp White Oaks.

The Weeping Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Pendula') has the oddest, pendant flowers, many of which look like Chinese lanterns.  We do not recommend this dogwood because it just doesn't look right after its leaves emerge (it always looks dry or impacted by herbicides!) but does look nice in the winter landscape.

The Azaleas are starting to set the woodlands ablaze in the Rock & Waterfall Garden (usually the last week of April or first of May).  Here a mass of fiery scarlet 'Stewartsonian' Azaleas light up the garden.

The Yodogawa Azalea (Rhododendron yedoense) is in bloom with its double purple flowers -- this was the favorite of the late Andy Klapis who donated the original masses of azaleas in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.  His spirit lives on with me every time I see these beautiful shrubs in bloom.  The Korean Azalea is the wild form of this azalea but it has a varietal name because the Yodogawa Azalea was described by Western Science before the wild Korean Azalea. Japanese Gardeners have known and grown this beauty for centuries.

We have just a few American native Azaleas but they have an awesome fragrance and delightful and exquisite forms (though are not so overall colorful as the Asian azaleas): here's a selection of the Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens 'Varnadoe's Phlox Pink' growing along the path in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Like a purple snow, the Oriental wisterias currently adorning the Perennial Garden arbor are beginning to fall. This is the Texas Purple Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis 'Texas Purple') which should have some flowers holding through the weekend.  I could run this blog with many, many more images of the current floral display at Powell Gardens -- currently in bloom with mid-late spring flowers throughout the grounds.  Come walk the gardens and enjoy these springtime treasures and experience our benevolent spring.