Dragonflies & Other Flying Flowers

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Dragonflies & Other Flying Flowers

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Big Bugs sculptures by Dave Rogers are a hit at Powell Gardens and each weekend through the summer we are celebrating the insects that inspired Dave’s masterpieces. Saturday (July 10) is Dragonfly Day at Powell Gardens so plan on learning more about this top predator and beneficial garden insect during your visit.

Halloween Penant (photo by Linda K Williams) is one of many species of wild dragonflies at Powell Gardens and Saturday Betsy Betros (who is working on a dragonfly book for our region) will give a beautiful presentation at 10 a.m. on this marvelous creature. After the program we will head outside on to the grounds and let anyone use our nets to catch dragonflies for identification, see them up close and then release.

Widow Skimmer (photo by Linda K Williams) is another common garden dragonfly right now I will guarantee we will see. Betsy, Linda Williams and myself will be on hand for the catch and release to identify the dragonflies. At 1 p.m. we will take a hike on the short loop of the nature trail (about a one mile hike) to see even more dragonflies — we recommend bringing a camera and binoculars for this dragonfly encounter.

Here is a closeup shot of a male Eastern Pondhawk (photo by Linda K Williams). Male pondhawks are blue while females are green! You will be amazed at the diversity and colors of our local wild dragonflies on Saturday.

The beautiful turquoise eyes of the Blue Dasher (photo by Linda K Williams) hi-light this aptly named dragonfly. A check of my notes from this time in past years reveals we should see quite an array of wild dragonflies now, including the above plus: Slaty Skimmer, Spangled Skimmer, Blue-faced Meadowhawk, Eastern Amberwing, Black Saddlebags, and Common Whitetail. The names are half the fun!

In one month we begin our Festival of Butterflies so mark your calendar. We just installed our native Butterfly Breezeway in front of the Visitor Center to raise local butterflies. Already this native Checkered White entered on his own (this is not the common Cabbage White). If you have any caterpillars you wish to donate and put in our native outdoor display, give us a call.

The first brood of hummingbirds have fledged and are visiting the Hummingbird Garden outside Cafe Thyme in good numbers. Two of the best hummingbird flowers are vines: depicted is the Blanche Sandman Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Trumpet Honeysuckle is NOT fragrant but is a hummingbird favorite. It is readily apparent this flower is designed to be pollinated by hummingbirds and they spot their flowers by sight (not smell). Trumpet Honeysuckle is native in Arkansas and south but has naturalized into Missouri. This cultivar plus the cultivars ‘Major Wheeler’ and yellow ‘John Clayton’ are your best varieties to plant because they rebloom well through the entire year — yes we’ve even had flowers in December! Trumpet Honeysuckle is NOT invasive and doesn’t spread by suckers like the next vine (see below).

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is a Missouri native vine with flowers designed to be pollinated by hummingbirds. This is the cultivar ‘Red Sunset’ which has flowers more red than typical orange-flowered wild types. Trumpet Vine is in our hummingbird garden and hangs over the wall just outside the cafe to the delight of visitors watching the hummingbirds. This vine has some bad habits of spreading by underground rhizomes “suckers” so can be a nuisance in some gardens or near home foundations. I recommend planting it where you mow around it or in a natural setting where you won’t mind the suckers.

The Hardy Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin var. rosea) trees are still in full flower and abuzz with hummingbirds as well as many butterflies and bees.

The purple-leaved cultivar of Mimosa called ‘Summer Chocolate’ is all the gardening rage right now and is stunningly beautiful in foliage. It is from a Japanese strain of mimosa so is less hardy than the heirloom trees which are from colder Korea. Last winter killed one of our Summer Chocolate mimosas while this one not that far away but a bit more established survived (though it has some stem damage). I recommend planting Summer Chocolate mimosa only for sheltered sites in our region. Look for our small tree towards the lake from the Fountain Garden.

Bluebird Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a fine summer blooming large shrub that also attracts hummingbirds. This one is outside the Heartland Harvest Greenhouse where its flowers match the blue and yellow color scheme of that part of the garden. YES, rose-of-sharon flowers are edible! This cultivar does self sow into beds but not beyond. We have just added a new blue-flowering cultivar ‘Azurri Satin’ which is supposed to be seedless.

We have a “first” for the garden that our 10 year old Chinese Wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera) trees flowered and fruited this year. I first saw wingnut trees in Sacramento, California where I admired them dripping with these unique strands of winged nutlets. Our trees are from a special hardy strain from the North Central Experiment Station in Ames, Iowa and have been hardy except for being damaged severely by the surprise 2007 Easter freeze (they more than fully recovered).

Here’s a branch of our Chinese Wingnuts showing the pendant fruit. These trees are towards the lake from the Fountain Garden and are magnificent, drought resistant and very lush. The next step of our purpose as a Botanical Garden is to carefully watch that each of the nutlets off these trees do not germinate and create the next weed tree!
We are working with the USDA on evaluating potential weed trees before they become problems like Amur honeysuckle and European & Dahurian buckthorns. Because of 3 seasons of copious rainfall Asian Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) have produced abundant seedlings in mulched beds below the Visitor Center. Plants that self-sow into garden beds but NOT beyond in wild areas are not a problem but we will carefully monitor this.

The lush season has created another first; the Lemonade Magnolia (Magnolia hybrid) has some summertime blooms! This magnolia has lemony flowers in spring and its summer flowers are more starry and white but add a bit of beauty none-the-less. Look for this Magnolia below the Fountain Garden as well.
Visit Powell Gardens on Saturday to learn more about dragonflies (they eat more mosquitoes than you could imagine). Watch for hummingbirds while you have lunch on the terrace outside Cafe Thyme (or from the comfort of air conditioning indoors). Enjoy the exuberance of summer flowers throughout the gardens and taste midsummer produce in the Heartland Harvest Garden — rose-of-sharon flowers should be at the tasting station along with some plums, peaches and other goodies.