Exquisite White Flowers Exclusively at Powell Gardens

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Exquisite White Flowers Exclusively at Powell Gardens

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Some of our most exquisite flowers are currently in bloom and many of them are in elegant pure whites and from plants rarely seen in this region. White flowers are a favorite to use near outdoor seating and entertainment areas as they literally glow at dusk. Most are also very fragrant too — a very important aspect to consider in good garden design. Here are some to search for at Powell Gardens and for use in your own garden.

The magnificent Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) flowers are almost 8 inches long in bud and open out on their second day. This small tree is found wild only in the Florida Panhandle but is hardy as far north as Chicago! Look for Powell Gardens’ tree below the south bridge in the Rock & Waterfall Garden where the wonderfully scented flowers can be easily viewed. Its huge tropicalesque leaves have a silvery underside and are simply stunning in a breeze, but this tree always needs a sheltered, wooded site so it will not get too wind whipped! It’s one of the finest trees for a secluded patio space and available by mail order from places like Pine Ridge Gardens or Fairweather Gardens.

The wonderfully true white flowers of the Charles Coates Magnolia (Umbrella Magnolia M. tripetala x Oyama Magnolia M. sieboldii) is another rarity in bloom in the Rock & Waterfall Garden with luscious tropical looking leaves adorning each flower. This tree is also hard to find — we got ours from Fairweather Gardens about a decade ago.

The graceful downward facing Oyama Magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii) is the epitome of style. It is native to Eastern Asia and the Japanese place the cut flowers in high vases so you can look up into the fragrant flowers. The Oyama Magnolia demands shade in our climate and remains a large shrub. Look for plants in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. I would love a garden where it grew above a retaining wall alongside an outdoor seating area where it would canopy over to create a wonderful space.
The Chinese Allspice (Sinocalycanthus chinensis) has waxy downward facing flowers. This is a heat tolerant large shrub. Our oldest plant bowers over the path to the lower deck in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. It is beautiful but emits no scent. Seedlings from this large shrub are already quite large along the upper walk in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This rare Chinese plant has been hybridized with the American native Carolina Allspice “Sweetshrub” (Calycanthus floridus) to produce the new cultivar ‘Venus’ with the beautiful white flowers of the Chinese plant and the awesome fragrance of the American sweetshrub. Its new botanical name is a mouth full: X Calycalycanthus raulstonii. The X before the Genus name means it is a hybrid between two Genera.
The China Snow Peking Tree Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘China Snow’) is in full bloom at the entrance to the Perennial Garden in the fragrance beds. This tree has fragrant white flowers but nearly so nice as an old fashioned lilac (more privety if you know what that means). It is a great small tree with some of the most beautiful of all exfoliating bark so looks great in the winter landscape (see January blog with Jay Priddy).
In our nursery beds we have our finest tree lilac blooming! It is a Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) grown from cuttings from an old tree in my old Rockford, Illinois, neighborhood. It is the best tree lilac I have ever seen and we may need to give it a cultivar name and introduce it into the nursery trade sometime. It has huge flower clusters every year and larger than normal leaves. The parent tree is about 80 years old in the wonderful Edgewater neighborhood of Rockford, Illinois: that old neighborhood with lots of interesting trees and plantings, sidewalks, some brick streets, porches and garages along an alleyway in the back. It’s what new urbanism is trying to reproduce today! I am happy a dear friend JoAnn Mercer sent cuttings of the tree and our propagator Marie Frye was able to root this plant, which is now 10 years old.
A closeup of the frothy flowers of the “Rockford” Japanese Tree Lilac. You can see the tree if you walk the road to the Chapel: its just east of the Horticulture Building. It always gets comments while in bloom.
The Innocense Mockorange (Philadelphus hybrid)is also finally in bloom and is hands down the most fragrant of our mockoranges.
Innocense Mockorange is not a very vigorous shrub but still produces a fine shrub for a border where you want to cut some flowers or enjoy its fragrance while it is in bloom and then let it blend with other shrubs through the rest of the year. Look for this shrub in the White Border of the Perennial Garden.
What a plethora of beautiful plants to experience at Powell Gardens. And this is only the tip of the iceberg in this time of a million blooms!