Five Good Things from the Gardens

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Five Good Things from the Gardens

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

At Morning Break I asked all of Powell Gardens’ Senior Gardeners and Horticulturists for 5 good things in each of their areas. We are all tired of bad news and appreciate hearing about good things! Look and read through the following 30 good things to visit at Powell Gardens: we guarantee it will be a “road trip for your soul.”

Here are the five good things in the Perennial Garden: Jennifer Bolyard (Senior Gardener in the Perennial Garden) poses with the magnificent Lord Baltimore Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos x H. coccinea hybrid). This magnificent perennial begins to bloom in mid-summer but has a marvelous “second wind” now and into fall.

Lord Baltimore’s flowers close up reveal exquisite detail — I know of no other hardy hibiscus that has withstood the test of time so well at Powell Gardens.

Crape Myrtles shine with their vivacious blooms! Despite last winter’s cold, they have come back and are currently in full bloom. This is the red-flowering Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit II’) bred in Oklahoma.

The late summer and fall blooming Japanese Anemones (Anemone x hybrida) are beginning to add their welcome flowers. This is the rosy-pink and vigorous cultivar ‘Robustissima.’

Jennifer had to include the Big Bug Dragonfly which floats poised for takeoff in good view from the Perennial Garden Arbor. Duckweed (Lemna minor) almost covers this end of the lake on this breeze-less mild day — duckweed is one of our smallest flowering plants and is not an indicator of bad water quality. Normally a breeze or wind pushes it to the edges of the lake.

Gateway Joe Pye-weed (Eupatorium maculatum) still has billowing flower heads that are still showy as they go from flower to seed.

Janet Heter (Senior Gardener in the Rock & Waterfall Garden) began her 5 good things with her nice masses of Pink Turtleheads (Chelone obliqua) in the Rock & Waterfall “shade and stream” garden. This Missouri native wildflowers thrives in moist shade.

Yes, there is a perennial begonia and its flowering season is upon us! Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis) blooms in late summer and into fall with nice masses between the bridges in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Janet mentioned not to forget a look at the Big Bug Spider that overlooks the north stream and bridge of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

Janet has to garden with squirrels and mentioned the abundant Shagbark Hickory nut crop (Carya ovata) as one of her five good things! She chided that the squirrels almost seem to be bombing her with nuts — you might as well have a sense of humor with this most delicious of our wild mast crops.

Janet wants to make sure you experience the Big Bug Ants that appear to march from the Rock and Waterfall Garden above the meadow and towards the chapel! If you haven’t visited these remarkably huge sculptures you still have 5 more weeks to do so!!!

Caitlin Bailey (Senior Gardener on the Island Garden) began her five good things with the coneflowers. She has many species of coneflowers and this is the Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) — a local wildflower that makes quite a show of bloom now. The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are going to seed now and have been discovered by American Goldfinches as lunch! Some of the goldfinches on the Island Garden have been very tame and allowed visitors to come quite close while they dine on coneflower seeds.

Caitlin mentioned the airy blooms of the Pink Cascade Tamarix (Tamarix ramosissima) which offer these feathery pink blooms rich in nectar for butterflies like the Red-spotted Purple in this image. Tamarix is safe to plant in our area but not in Central Kansas and westward where it can become a major invasive exotic weed to riparian habitats. We have never even seen a single seedling from our plants.

The water plants in general create a unique scene in the Island Garden’s water garden pools. I designed this garden and am so pleased how it has grown over the past 9 seasons. The walkway between the pools appears to float on the water and the lower pool in the background melds with the lake beyond — all things that were part of the design.

The tropical waterlilies are at peak flowering and quite magnificent in colors from white to pink and even blues! I only wish visitors could get their noses close to the blossoms and imbibe their incredible fragrances.

Caitlin likes the aging flower heads on the Pink Diamond Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) which began white, aged to pink and now are drying to a peachy beige. These seed heads will hold well into winter and provide interest in the garden in our dormant season too.

Horticulturist Richard Heter (Horticulturist Grounds and Natural Resources) mentioned our “sacred” Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) as first in his 5 good things. This magnificently wide-spreading oak can be seen below the Visitor Center trolley circle and lost its eastern half in the catastrophic ice storm of January 2002. It has since flourished and we planted a pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) in the void of the old trunk. Why not? I say garden outside the box and the shade-loving, understory and well-drained-soil loving little dogwood has so far prospered beneath its father oak.

I tried to capture the wide-spreading trunks of our sacred Swamp White Oak but you will have to walk down and visit this magnificent living thing yourself. It’s the closest thing to a live oak that we will ever have and is still a relatively young tree that could live for 3 more centuries!

Richard and his crew take care of the Fountain Garden and he mentioned it as one of his five good things! School is on so the fountain is bereft of children but a glorious spot ensconced in foliage and the sights and sounds of water.

Richard mentioned the young trees for the future as another of his 5 good things: shown here are the row of native oaks planted along the walk from the Visitor Center to the Fountain Garden. We all should be planting some trees that take time to grow that we will never witness but some future visitor will appreciate and enjoy. I have to repeat the old saying: the best time to plant a tree was a long time ago, the next best time is today! The trees along the walk are a Swamp White Oak followed by a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), then repeat of a Swamp White Oak and finally a Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria). These mimic the native trees that were found on the ridge below the visitor center.
Richard finally mentioned the Conifer Garden north of the Visitor Center that he and his crew also maintain. We must thank Marvin Snyder (past President of the American Conifer Society) for his generosity on this garden rich in an inspiring array of dwarf, intermediate and full-sized conifers and we will be adding a few more treasures including a couple Tanyosho Pines (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’) soon. Almost all the unique conifers in this garden were donated to us by Marvin.

Anne Wildeboor (Horticulturist Seasonal Displays and Events) maintains the colorful seasonal display beds surrounding the Visitor Center and her five good things started with this exuberant mass of Silverberry Vista Petunias! I think there is no finer series of petunias for our climate and they made a billowing mass along the edge of this pink-themed bed. The small trees at the back of this border are tropical hibiscus that spend the winter in our greenhouses.

Anne also really likes these Glow Pink Celosias that are also in the same pink border with the Silverberry Vista Petunias. Yes, these are glowing pink candles of flowers!

The Daturas (Datura meteloides) that are often called moonflowers are another of Anne’s picks and they are in the White “Moth” themed bed north of the Conservatory. These evening-opening flowers remained photographable to almost noon today and are hard to “capture” in this bright light. These flowers performed beautifully with an array of magnificent sphinx or hawk moths the night of our “Magical Moths and Milkshakes” event back on the first evening of the Festival of Butterflies.

I totally agree with Anne’s pick of White Wing Caladiums which is a first SUN TOLERANT caladium! My are these beautiful with Silver Falls Dichondra beneath them and a white-flowering vinca as color echo.

Anne’s pick of the Cappucino Rudbeckia (a.k.a. black-eyed-susans — Rudbeckia hirta) have been all the rage of visitors and can be seen in the sunset color themed beds in front of the Visitor Center.

Matt Bunch (Horticulturist Heartland Harvest Garden) picked the tomatoes that grow on the wattle fence of the Kitchen Garden (just south of the barn’s Cafe Fresh) as the first of his 5 good things. There are actually several wonderful tomato varieties on this staff made fence but ‘Mexico Midget’ is in this image.

Matt also mentioned the Moon & Stars watermelon which can be seen on the south edge of the Villandry Quilt Garden. This melon is both beautiful and tasty! I think you can figure out how it got it’s name and when I looked at my image I had to laugh because it reminded me of an old Gary Larson cartoon where a couple folks with binoculars were looking into a field with a big similar-looking “fruit” holding their Field Guide to Squashes books in their hands!

Along with the Moon & Stars melon along the south side of the Villandry Quilt Garden a beautiful tapestry of summer savory and basils has self-sown! What a marvelous pick as all of us gardeners often let nature take its course when good, unplanned things come along. I agree that this is a magnificent border to the garden and only wish I could send its aroma and the flock of accompanying butterflies along too.

Oh my another melon — well this is the Banana Cantaloupe — one of which is almost ripe so you can figure out how it gets its name. Look for these on the east edge of the Missouri Star Quilt Garden. I can’t wait to taste one so look for them at the tasting stations over the next few weeks.

Matt’s final mention was the Overleese Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) which looks like an oversized egg! This pawpaw was selected for its large rounded size and yellow-orange sweet flesh from a wild pawpaw patch in Michigan. Pawpaws are found wild throughout Greater Kansas City and it is time to visit the pawpaw patch to beat the racoons and opossums to the fruit. These “Missouri bananas” are really almost a tropical treat but don’t keep or ship so are never available at grocery stores. Look for various cultivars of pawpaws from ‘Sunflower’ selected in Kansas to ‘Pennsylvania Golden’ and more than a dozen others throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden.
Plan a visit to Powell Garden this late summer or Labor Day weekend and enjoy all the beauty and experiences of our inherently Midwestern garden. A botanical and natural wonder awaits to inspire many good things.