Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Powell Gardens' Poinsettias

Poinsettias remain the premier and most popular Christmas and Holiday Season plant we produce in our greenhouses.  These beautiful plants are a native of Mexico but have been bred and selected by greenhouse growers into colors beyond the traditional red.  They are challenging to produce because they must receive NO extra light as they bloom only in the short days of our winter.
Donna Covell is our Horticulturist in charge of the Poinsettia Crop and this is a picture of her with the poinsettias on October 30th, just as the bracts are beginning to color up nicely.  Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor orders the poinsettias in January of each year, they arrive in late summer as small rooted cuttings and are planted and cared for by Donna and the Greenhouse crew.  Poinsettias are ready for our displays by late November each year.

Freedom Red is our classic and quite spectacular traditional red poinsettia.  Powell Gardens grew 29 varieties this year and here's a sample of some all photographed in our production greenhouses:

Poinsettia 'Shimmer Surprise' is Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor's favorite poinsettia as she is in charge of Powell Gardens' seasonal displays and events. It's her favorite "because it has all of it in there."  I must say it is a festive and phenomenal plant.

Anne also likes 'Winter Rose Dark Red' which is also one of Powell Gardens' visitors favorites.  The bracts are puckered and compact more like its namesake rose blossom.

There are now even more selections with the "Winter Rose" look to them!  This is Poinsettia 'Winter Rose Early Marble' with lovely pink and cream variegated bracts.

Poinsettia 'Winter Rose White' is also a stunner -- seen here in mass in Greenhouse #4.

And how about this variety called 'Peppermint Twist'?

If you like pink poinsettias then our most spectacular in that hue is this one: 'Premium Pink Lipstick.'

Some like it HOT so how about 'Polly's Pink' which is sure vivid and very difficult to photograph and capture its real hue.  Our Polly's Pink Poinsettias were ordered by Duane Hoover, Horticulturist at the Kauffman Memorial Garden so you can see these in person at the Christmas display in the Orangerie there.

If you are more into subdued or pastel colors then Poinsettia 'Premium Apricot' fits the bill.

Poinsettia 'Mars Marble' creates a soft variegation of cream and pink and makes a nice transition between pink and white-bracted poinsettias.

We grow several white-bracted poinsettias and 'Freedom White' is probably our most spectacular but doesn't turn pure white until very late.

Poinsettia 'Premium White' has finished coloring up now and you can clearly see the flowers which are the yellow "nubbins" at the center of the beautifully pillowed white leaf bracts.

Donna and her crew have grown some tremendous "tree" poinsettias that are currently for sale on-line through our website. They are 'Peterstar Red' Poinsettias that do well grown this way.  Actually most of the varieties you have just observed in this blog are available for purchase at our gift shop: Perennial Gifts. They are not the mass produced varieties of the big box stores.

'Tis the season for decorating for the Holiday Season and I hope this showcase of almost half the varieties we grow inspires your own home's decor.  Almost all varieties can be observed at the Visitor Center's conservatory.  Come experience their splendor!  Poinsettias are surely one of the most beautiful and spectacular seasonal plants we grow at Powell Gardens.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Berried Trees Enliven the Late Fall Landscape

Jack Frost's cousin Mr. Deep Freeze hit the gardens Sunday night -- we had a low of 20F at Powell Gardens (22F in the city at the Kauffman Memorial Garden) that ended the season for many of our fall flowers.  Pansies, Violas, ornamental cabbages and kale weathered that well and fruiting plants are just as beautiful as ever so there is still a lot of beauty to see in the gardens.

Deciduous Hollies or Possumhaws (Ilex decidua) are now leafless but the female trees are simply ablaze with red holly berries.  What a warming element to the late fall (and winter) landscape -- a wonderful display of these can be seen along the gatehouse landscape when you enter Powell Gardens.

Flowering Crabapple varieties that produce fruit are simply stunning now too.  This is the 'Donald Wyman' Crabapple in the Perennial Garden simply loaded with small red crabapples right now.  Some would argue that these fruit are messy but the varieties we display at Powell Gardens hang on to their fruit until the birds eat them.  There is minimal mess, an easy price to pay for such an ornamental display that lasts for weeks and even months depending on the weather.  Donald Wyman Crabapple has fleeting red-budded, white flowers in spring but a much more spectacular display of red crabapples in fall and winter.

Here's another view of the Donald Wyman Crabapple (right) showing its neighbor the 'American Masterpiece' Crabapple (left).  There are several varieties of crabapples with more orange fruit like 'Amercan Masterpiece' which unfortunately is no longer available.  American Masterpiece has cranberry red flowers in spring and almost pumpkin orange little crabapples in fall and winter.

Here are the orange crabapples of 'Indian Magic' Crabapple which is widely available.  It's a smaller tree with purplish-red flowers in spring.  Our tree of this is wedged between the much more vigorous Donald Wyman and American Masterpiece Crabapples in the prior image. 

Tea Crabapples (Malus hupehensis) are bronzy orange now too, as they age you can see some are turning redder.  These trees have a beautiful vase shape but grow quite large over time.  Look for these at the west (Visitor Center) entrance to the Island Garden.

Yes, crabapples come in yellow too!  Here are 'Harvest Gold' crabapples which are such a warm yellow at this season.  Their spring flowers are red-budded opening to white, fragrant flowers.  Night lighting is reflected beautifully from these too.  The color of the yellow crabapples holds until eaten by birds or a severe freeze (colder than 10F) makes them turn bronze.  Look for Harvest Gold Crabapples on the east (Meadow) side of the Island Garden.

Here's a 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple on the edge of the Perennial Garden.  It has very nice fruit set too and stays a smaller tree -- what most nurseries are going for now.  When selecting a crabapple I always start with learning if it is a disease resistant variety (all described above are very disease resistant here).  Secondly I look at its mature size (most grow taller than wide).  Thirdly I pick them for their fruit display and I pick them last for their flowers!  Ornamental crabapples are phenomenal plants for wildlife friendly gardens.  Their fruit is a staple of many fall and winter birds.  They are also host to many beneficial insects and unlike most non-native plants, our native insects readily transfer from our disease-prone native crabapples to these more garden ornamental varieties.  Crabapples are also NOT invasive like ornamental pear trees in our region.

The Washington Hawthorns (Crateagus phaenopyrum) are also beautiful at Powell Gardens right now as the leafless trees are completely cloaked in red fruit.  The dry year helped them out as they can be very disfigured by cedar-quince rust disease -- a reason we no longer recommend them.  Look for them by our trial beds near the old visitor center.  Hawthorns are a beautiful and important part of our native flora so we do have them in the wilder parts of the garden including 3 native species along the Nature Trail: Frosted Hawthorn (Crataegus pruinosa), Red or Downy Hawthorn (C. mollis) and Cockspur Hawthorn (C. crus-gallii). 

The blazing red shrubs in the above image are 'Sparkleberry' Hollies (Ilex serrata) in fruit in the Perennial Garden.  Behind them are Shumard Oaks (Quercus shumardii) which are very late in their fall color -- some Shumard Oaks usually have no fall color while others can be a nice red.  So there is still much beauty in the late fall garden, most specifically the brilliant fruit of fall-fruiting plants.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flowers that Defy Jack Frost

It's early November and the weather is still mild.  We've had some short cold snaps and a few hard freezes but Indian Summer is here today and tomorrow and after another brief cold snap early next week it will return again.  YES, there are still many beautiful flowers at Powell Gardens.  The fall floral displays are designed with flowers and foliage that defy Jack Frost.

The planting in front of our entrance sign is a beautiful tapestry of pansies in blue & white, 'Lemon Cream' Calendulas, ornamental "flowering" cabbages, kale and 'Delphi Purple' mums.  All these plants have held beautifully through a hard freeze and should last at least through Thanksgiving.

Here's a closer side view that captures the beautiful flowers and foliage of the entrance planting.

Hardy flowers also come in HOT colors!  I love this planting outside Cafe Thyme with red 'Speedy Sonic Crimson' Snapdragons encircled by 'Orange King' and 'Lemon Cream' Calendulas.

Strawflowers (Bracteantha) 'Sundaze Flame' is a very underutilized fall flower and can be cut used as an "everlasting".  Here there is a bit of a color echo with its orange edged "petals" and the 'Merville des Quatre Saisons' (The Four Seasons) Lettuce, an heirloom variety with gorgeous bronze foliage so lovely at this season.  Look for these in the ramp terrace beds leading to the Dogwood Walk.

Verbena 'Superbena Blue' has been one phenomenal "annual" this year.  It actually survived last winter and has bloomed, and bloomed and bloomed and is STILL in bloom!  The last of the season's butterflies have been all over this flower too.  It is on the south side of the Visitor Center below the Conservatory.

The 'Hillside Sheffield Pink' Mums are still the best of the late season perennial flowers!  Look close and see the butterflies and other pollinators.  I will carefully look over these flowers today and Saturday for unique species of butterflies that may have blown up here from the South or even the tropics.  Fall is the time for stray butterflies and a Tailed-Orange (butterfly) from Texas's Rio Grande Valley showed up in Wichita yesterday!  This picture was taken on the Island Garden.

These are seedling mums (Dendranthema) in the Perennial Garden.  Sometimes mother nature does some really neat plantings for us we must save.  I love the just right highlight of the white with the yellow flowers we could never have created so well.

In the conservatory the "pot" mums are simply stunning.  This is 'Brunswick' Mum with dark 'Sweet Caroline Raven' Sweet Potato and orange 'Sedona' Coleus as companions in the conservatory display.

I love this composition of 'Shanghai Red' Mums with 'Dipped in Wine' Coleus also in the Conservatory.

I like all the fall inspired mum compositions in the conservatory:  here's  'Golden Gate' Mum with 'Honeycrisp' Coleus.

How about 'Pittsburgh Purple' Mum with 'Fishnet Stockings' Coleus' where the mum picks up on the purple veins of the coleus.

Here's a Checkered White butterfly enjoying the last of season's flowers (an Aromatic Aster) at Powell Gardens.  The weather is supposed to be blustery but warm on Saturday so join the butterflies and visit the gardens and see our wealth of fall flowers, and foliage.  Jack Frost has visited but there are still many flowers and the cool season crops in the Heartland Harvest Garden are near peak.  The late fall colors on plants like Japanese Maples are also beautiful right now.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Colors of the Late Fall Garden

November is the final month of fall so considered "late fall" in gardening language.  It is a very beautiful month in our heartland location with the last of the fall foliage colors, last of the season's hardy flowers, and the most berry colorful month of the whole year.  The colors of the tropics are gone with the intense summer sun as now we have the beautiful burnt reds, oranges, yellows and tans so illuminated by the sun's lower position in the sky.

This image from the Perennial Garden epitomizes the season in the Perennial Garden.  The burned yellow of the Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) in fall color as backdrop, dark orange full bloom of a seedling chrysanthemum (Dendranthema hybrids) and the contrasting lavender-purple flower of one of our longest blooming native plants: Rose Verbena (Verbena or Glandularia canadense).  The seedheads of the Purple Coneflowers add even more to the composition as does the far backdrop of still green Miscanthus grasses and their silvery plumes that blend into the sky.

The Mums in the garden are at peak bloom now.  Here Jennifer Barnes (Senior Gardener in the Perennial Garden) is picking up fallen twigs but we were admiring our ever-changing "menagerie" of mums.  The light yellow mums are 'Ryan Gainey' mums given to us when Mr. Gainey (a well-known Atlanta gardener) brought them to us when he spoke at a prior Garden Symposium.  They have hybridized with other mums in the garden to produce the kaleidoscope of colors.

Our hybrid mums are from a group given to us by Jackie Goetz of Overland Park so we simply call them Jackie's Mums.  Here is a picture of a planting of them from the Heartland Harvest Garden's vineyard.  They have been self-sowing in her garden for over 20 years and now for almost a decade here at Powell Gardens.  They are late fall bloomers and range in colors from white to yellow, orange, near red, pink, and lavender!  I told Jackie her mums were promiscuous but she corrected me that the bees are just busy cross pollinating them!

The soft pink mums in this picture are 'Hillside Sheffield Pink' mums which are also in this group and also contribute to our wonderful color array of seedling mums at the garden.  This mass on the Island Garden creates a stunning composition now with the baldcypress in its rusty fall color.

This weird season after such a dry summer has made many plants bloom out of sequence.  Here Jennifer Barnes admires a 'The President' Clematis blooming in the Perennial Garden.  These flowers withstood 27F without any damage!  Is this a subliminal message to get out and VOTE next week?

Ornamental grasses like this 'Desert Plains' Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) in the Perennial Garden clearly express the season with their beautiful seedheads.

Here is stunning 'Sioux Blue' Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) beautifully backlit with 'Raydon's Favorite' Asters (Aster oblongifolius) in the foreground and a dark backdrop of our tapestry hedge.  We usually don't cut down our ornamental grasses until late winter or early spring to allow for their beauty to shine all winter.

Some of the most ornamental fruit now are the crabapples (Malus hybrids).  This is the 'Indian Magic' Flowering Crabapple's fruit in the Perennial Garden.  It makes such a warm and seasonal display in the garden now and will be a feast for songbirds through winter.

We were thrilled to discover a surprise American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) vine climbing in our largest Seven Sons tree in the Perennial Garden.  The birds planted this one and we are lucky it was a girl so it can show this colorful fruit (not yet popped open to reveal scarlet berries inside the orange husk).  Yes, we embrace many of nature's changes in the garden and we will NOT remove this vine.

Here, Jennifer poses with our younger Seven Sons tree (Hepatcodium miconioides) which is in its pink, post bloom stage.  The pink color is the fruit, actually the left over flower calyxes attached to the fruit.  Seven Sons blooms white in September and is one of our best early fall flowering trees, attracting a wealth of pollinators and butterflies.   It will grow 15 to 20 feet tall at maturity and the Greater Kansas City champion is at the Kauffman Memorial Garden.

Most trees are in fall color or past peak.  Trees that are broad-leaved and still green are usually species from Europe or Asia now.  The green tree above is a Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima) from Asia.  The tree on the lake edge in rust is a Baldcypress and the trees holding earthy tan foliage are Swamp White Oaks.  Many of our oaks hang on to their "dead" leaves which are called marcescent foliage.  Baldcypress are one of our few deciduous conifers with needle leaves that turn beautiful rust shades in late fall and drop.  Every year we get comments from visitors that our pine is dying and we have to let them know it is the BALDcypress, aptly named as it is bald in winter.

Evergreens do keep their foliage all season and many are simply stunning now including this image from the Perennial Garden's tapestry hedge.  The center "green" evergreen is an 'Emerald Sentinel" Juniper (Juniperus virginiana) which is just a selection of our native Eastern Redcedar that is columnar in form with foliage that stays truer green in winter.  On either side are "blue" needled selections of the native Eastern Redcedar "Glauca" junipers.  All these are female selections so are studded now with blue "berries" which are actually modified cones.

From late fall flowers, to colorful leaves, and berries; the gardens are sure beautiful right now.  Come out and experience this season while it lasts: the weekend looks to be mild so come enjoy a walk through the gardens in the crisp autumn air.