A Heartland Harvest Garden Briefing

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A Heartland Harvest Garden Briefing

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

The new 12 acre Heartland Harvest Garden opened to Powell Gardens’ visitors on Sunday, June 14th and I would like to offer a brief overview of this garden. The garden showcases all the plants that provide our food, with over 2,000 varieties on display. Remember, this is a LARGE garden and the walk from the entrance to the Missouri Barn is nearly one quarter mile. The Gift Shop in the barn is air conditioned and a nice respite. I can recommend the Nutty Blue Goose (walnut-blueberry-gooseberry) jelly, Tula hats (for sun protection) and Rogue hoes (the worlds best weeding tool made in Kansas). The spacious garden disperses a crowd of over 500 to the point where it is very comfortable for all to enjoy the garden’s many intimate to grand spaces. Everything in this garden has some connection from seed to plate, but please do not pick the fruit or vegetables, however tempting they may be. You may sample the garden’s produce at two tasting stations on weekends (one tasting station on weekdays) so you will be able to sample something fresh from the garden during any visit. The Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries & Cherry-olives were quite a hit this past week.

You must enter the Heartland Harvest Garden from the Powell Gardens’ Visitor Center. The entrance garden’s Millstone fountain and information panels are short walk out the north end of the building. The chalkboard tells you where and what you can expect at the garden’s tasting stations.

The Menu Garden is the first subgarden you enter and is a Potager or “kitchen” garden. It contains four seasonal produce beds and is surrounded by permanent plantings of thyme, blueberries, hazelnuts, Oregon-grapes and lilacs — all enclosed by a beautiful 6 foot wattle fence.

The main walk passes through the Seed to Plate Greenhouse and you are welcome to slide the doors open and enter either side. The north or right side has seedling plants; the southern half has the non-hardy plants you see on your menu nearly every day. The picture is a planter box with 3 tea plants (Camellia sinensis)and a border of boxwood basil. Tea plants are evergreen shrubs and yes, the leaves are harvested for tea. There are five varieties of tea on display including the Sochi tea which is considered the hardiest and possibly hardy outdoors in a sheltered courtyard in Kansas City. Look for bananas, oranges, pepper and cacao (chocolate) and others too!

You will see the Apple Sculpture through the greenhouse and it is the centerpiece for the Apple Celebration Court. Fifty varieties of apples grow here, in a spiral planting that follows a brick path similar to the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. Narrow pole type apples are in the narrow beds of its center and the apple varieties get larger and larger until standard sized apple trees comprise the outermost bed. Apple varieties will begin ripening in a few short weeks (Lodi) and various varieties will be ripening weekly until Granny Smith (the last to ripen) in early November!

The Vineyard is quite colorful now as the rows of grapes are planted with blooming Hyssop (Hyssopus officianalis). Each row of grapes has a different theme: the first row are seeded grapes for juice and preserves like the classic ‘Concord’ while the last row nearest the arbor is white wine grapes including ‘Chardonnel.’ This is a vineyard to showcase over 50 varieties of grapes for our area, not a production vineyard.

Here is a view down the main walk of the Vineyard to the Wine Cask fountain at its end. Look for containers of pomegranate, olives, and jasmine-orange (flavors jasmine tea) under the arbor which enhance a Mediterranean feel to the garden.

The Authors’ Gardens are both planted and showcase our bi-coastal authors. Author Barbara Damrosch’s (from Maine) and Rosalind Creasy’s (from California) gardens are on either side of the main path and contrast wonderfully in style. Be sure and pick up their books in the Good Earth Gifts: Recipes from the Garden by Ros and The Garden Primer by Barbara. My macro lens does not do these gardens justice so I attached only the image looking at the Cherry Tomato tunnel in Rosalind’s Garden. The mushroom like structure is the “blackberry fountain” that in a season or two will be dripping with long-caned Apache blackberries.

Missouri’s Governor and First Lady, Jay & Georganne Nixon, took a relaxing private tour of the Heartland Harvest garden and posed for this picture. They are quite aware of the local and national significance of the Heartland Harvest Garden and visited Powell Gardens for their 22nd anniversary on Saturday morning.

Peach Plaza is the end of the brick spiral road that begins at the apple sculpture. It is designed with genetic dwarf peach trees in the small beds at the center, semi-dwarfs in the middle and standard sized peach trees on the outer beds. There are 27 varieties on display; some varieties are duplicated on semi-dwarf and standard rootstocks (the rootstock a peach is grafted on determines its eventual mature size). There are not as many hardy peach varieties as there are apples. Peaches are given a hardiness rating and we showcase only those with the two hardiest ratings for our zone. Nectarines are also part of this garden as they are basically a fuzzless variety of peach.

Soybeans in the Missouri Star Orchard are germinating well. The Missouri Star Orchard is close to fully planted with rice and cotton in its small center beds, soybeans in the inner beds, corn, sorghum and milo in outer beds and unique crops like safflower and sesame in its four outer corner beds. We want this garden to be a place for visitors to see crops they routinely whiz by on the highway.

Volunteer RD Wood plants the last of the grasses in the Kansas Star Quilt: a garden that showcases the regions forage plants. Here you will see clovers, alfalfa, pasture and range grasses that ultimately provide us with our dairy and beef.

The Missouri Star Quilt has four arbors that are a good respite from the sun. This quilt garden displays plants that are appropriate for backyard fruit production. Groundcovers of strawberries, rows of raspberries and blackberries, vines of hops and hardy kiwis and many unique fruit trees (to name only a few) give the homeowner ideas for their own backyard.

A view into the fourth quilt garden; Villandry Quilt Garden shows unique beds of vegetables in four themes. At the base of the steps from where the four quilt gardens come together, one enters the plant families theme. At to the right it the heirloom theme, to the left a plant companions theme and at the far corner is the tomato and basil theme. In the background you can see the windmill and mule sculptures in the Fun Food Farm. Fun Food Farm is also open and a good place for children — the mules may be climbed on and have a special soft “flooring” for playground safety.

Potatoes are in bloom and as beautiful as any perennial grown for its bloom.

Apple trees donated by Stephenson’s Apple Orchard adorn the front “lawn” of the Missouri barn. These trees were transplanted from their orchard to Powell Gardens by Colonial Nursery’s large tree spade.

You will see most of the fruit trees with ripening fruit (cherries are past!): here are the “pearlets” of the Seckel pear. Most permanent plantings have a label, see below for an example:
The labels have the English Common Name on top with the botanical name (always in italix) and cultivar name below. There is a sentence about the edible nature of the plant in the middle of each label. The lower left corner contains the Plant family and the lower right corner states the native range of the plant.
The Heartland Harvest Garden takes an easy two hours to explore, longer if you really read all the signage and labels. We are still adding plants daily: the barn’s Kitchen Garden is next to be installed and will showcase culinary herbs in four beautiful borders. Rosalind Creasy has dubbed the garden the largest edible landscape in the country — no other public botanical garden has quite this scope of the displaying the plants that sustain our lives in a beautiful manner. Make a date to come visit!