Blessings of the Snow

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Blessings of the Snow

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

With one of the snowiest spells on record in Greater Kansas City and the continual negative spin by most of the media, I thought it was time to talk about and show all the good things about snow in our landscape and gardens.
* Snow is the “great white mulch” that insulates the ground and prevents deep frost penetration. This protection of plants’ roots from severe cold improves plant hardiness.
*Snow moderates the temperature fluctuations of our normally “manic-depressive” climate. So far we will not have to worry about frost heave — a more typical problem from our warm, then cold, snowless winters.
* Snow is simply beautiful and accentuates plants and the landscape.

The conifer garden on the north end of the Visitor Center is blanketed by snow. The yellow-needled conifer in the center is the focal point of this garden. It is the very rare Chief Joseph Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) donated to us by Marvin Snyder of Overland Park — past president of the American Conifer Society http://www.conifersociety.org/. This pine is unique that it turns yellow in the winter and green in the summer!
The evergreen Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) also stand out dramatically in the snowy landscape. Here the cultivar ‘Edith Bogue‘ (left) and our local selection ‘Margarite‘ (right) grace the northeastern wall of the Visitor Center. Southern Magnolias actually prefer a spot not so exposed to the winter sun in our climate. Bright sun on a very cold day can burn the leaves — some at Powell Gardens exposed in such conditions have already suffered severe leaf burn as temperatures fell below zero for nine days in a row!

The view to the Visitor Center from the Island Garden is certainly enhanced by snow. I always admire the masterful placement of the Visitor Center by the late Architect Faye Jones — perfectly sited at the brow of the hill just like a natural rock outcrop.

We designed the east walk of the Island Garden to have the chapel as its focal point. The sunny, exposed living wall (left) is devoid of snow so one can still see all the unique plants that inhabit this largest living wall in the Western Hemisphere.

Its nice to see some evergreen perennials in the Island Garden’s living wall like this Sedum (Sedum album) which is native to the Pyrenees and mountains of North Africa. Remember that central Portugal and Spain are at the same latitude as Kansas City.

Dried flower heads adorn the winter beauty of these large Pink Diamond Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) on the Island Garden. This shrub blooms in late summer with white panicles of flowers that fade to pink. The flowers are rich in pollen and nectar and attract a wide array of beneficial insects. We do not remove the flowers until we prune in early spring.

The view from the Millstone Entrance Arbor of the Heartland Harvest Garden reveals the Meadow Pavilion on the far hill. Again, Faye Jones masterfully sited the prairie style pavilion at the brow of the hill. The sweep of native prairie grasses and wildflowers across the hill provides contrast in the snow and at all seasons and celebrates our spirit of place where sky meets prairie and woodland. Mother Nature planted the two Swamp White Oaks (Quercus bicolor) that frame this view while the Landscape Architecture firm of MTR masterfully lined up the design of the new Heartland Harvest Garden to this view and visually link Powell Gardens together.

The Apple Sculpture in the Heartland Harvest Garden’s Apple Celebration Court really stands out in the snow! Just three more months and the apples will be abloom with pink-budded, white fragrant flowers.

The Quilt Garden Arbors define the center of the Quilt Gardens and punctuate the visitor’s experience with a comfortable spot in this open, very Midwestern style garden. Yes, the overlook at the top of the Silo is open to visitors so come take in the winter view.

The view from the Quilt Arbors to the Villandry “vegetable” Quilt Garden reveals a uniform blanket of snow hiding the intricate pattern of the gardens. Just TWO months until we start planting the frost hardy, cool season vegetables in this garden. I am thankful we have this restful winter season to prepare for the spring, summer and fall gardens of 2010. It will be shocking in just a short while to look at the snowy landscape of January and I hope you all take the time to experience the special blessings of this ephemeral landscape.