Floral Treasures after a Lush Season

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Floral Treasures after a Lush Season

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

What an incredibly lush summer season we have had in 2010! Powell Gardens official weather station received 24.00 inches of rain in June-August: three-quarters of our normal ANNUAL rainfall! The gardens’ plants have responded with incredibly lush growth and are currently at their peak as we edge closer to the Autumnal Equinox (less than 2 weeks away).

The bananas lined out below the Visitor Center Wall have reached magnificent proportions and look extra striking backlit with a backdrop of dark green moonvine foliage and a sparkling foreground of lush summer annuals.

The Butterfly Bonanza Border south of the Visitor Center is at its prime with an accompanying flock of butterflies and an abundance of caterpillars too.

The Orange Bed is south of the Cafe and the magnificent Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) have flopped a bit but still look vivid against coleus. Each of the Visitor Center’s front and terrace beds has a color theme (other than the butterfly bonanza): look for purple, red, scarlet & blue, sunset colors, blue, white (moth), green, pink, brown and yes BLACK (see below) as color themes. Each bed has an interpretive sign describing its color theme and how that color impacts you!

The Black Bed north of the Visitor Center isn’t true black but of plants with the darkest foliage, flowers and fruit: the Black Pearl Pepper has almost true inky black, glossy fruit before they ripen red.

Beds below the Visitor Center terrace walls are billowing masses and at their peak of exuberance. This image is just off the north corner of the building and is composed of a self-sown Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Polygonum orientale) weaving its strands of pendant pink flowers through Lacebark Pines, Coleus and other flowers. We do utilize some self-sowing annuals in the gardens wherever they are appropriate.

Verbena bonariensis (bonariensis means from Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a classic self-sower but often perennial in our climate. Masses north of the Visitor Center have created a lovely meadowesque and low maintenance scene full of nectaring butterflies.

Missouri and Kansas native Threadleaf Sneezeweed (Helenium amarum) have self sowed in many places around the Visitor Center and provide rugged feathery plants adorned with graceful yellow flowers in late summer through fall.

Looking like a pink “baby’s breath,” Missouri native Palafoxia (Palafoxia callosa) self-sows along the Island Garden’s living wall and provides a breath of fresh flowers along the walk now.

Texas native Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri – airy flowers of white) and Verbena bonariensis have self sown in beds between the Island Garden’s water pools. Delightful and airy they create a nice sparkly companionship.

In the Perennial Garden annual Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) makes its perennial self sown appearance and sparkles with its naturally variegated foliage. This is actually a wildflower native to Kansas and northwestern-most Missouri’s loess hills. It SHOULD be called Snow-on-the-Prairie!!! It is related to the poinsettia so the colorful leaves are like the red ones of poinsettias that surround the tiny real flowers at the center of each leaf cluster.

Local roadside ditches and moist wild spaces are dazzling with the golden yellow flowers of Bidens polylepis now. This “Beggar Tick” or “Bur Marigold” is the showiest species of Bidens in bloom and is a nice addition to gardens where it self sows in moderation. It does not have the seeds that catch on you like ticks or burs of the other members of its Genus. It also is a good host plant for the tiny Dainty Sulphur butterfly. Look for it along our entrance drive, in the Insectaries Garden, Perennial Garden and here and there elsewhere throughout Powell Gardens wildlands.

Our native Impatiens Spotted Touch-me-not or Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is another self sowing annual that can be too much of a good thing unless planted where it can fill in like in our Shade Native section of the Perennial Garden or in the Rain Garden along the Dogwood Walk. It is called touch-me-not to the delight of children and adults as the ripe seed pods EXPLODE when touched. The seeds are coated in brown with a wintergreen aroma and a robin egg blue center!

The Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is still the most vivacious plant in the Perennial Garden. Wow, still in full bloom with nearly true red, crape paper-like flowers.
The striking blue flowers of Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) have been blooming since midsummer but are currently at their peak. This is one of our best groundcovers but has escaped into the living wall of the Island Garden as shown here. Look for fall-blooming colchicums to begin to flower through masses of this plant as they both make great companions. Hardy Plumbago is slow to start in spring so benefits being co-planted with bulbs that have flowers and foliage early but then are masked as they fade by the plumbago. Colchicums bold spring foliage works too and the flowers are strong enough to push through the plumbago for a great garden hurrah now.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) is still in full bloom and full of insects from honeybees to the Viceroy butterfly in this shot. Look for this great insectaries and fruit tree companion plant in various borders from the Visitor Center to throughout the Heartland Harvest Garden. We do DEADHEAD all of our plants as this can self-sow and become a garden weed otherwise! Gardener beware, but a great edible flower and beneficial insect attractor worth the extra work.

This rare gem is a species of Surprise lily or Hardy Amaryllis — I think this is the Lycoris radiata x Clivia miniata we planted in 2002 but never bloomed until now. Look for these unique gems in the New Millennium bed of the Perennial Garden.

The White Rain Lilies (Zephranthes candida) are sparkling with white flowers after last week’s 3 inches of rainfall. This native of Cuba is supposed to be hardy only into zone 9 but never read that reference and has been fully hardy for us for a decade!
While Tomatoes and Peppers are the stars in the Heartland Harvest Garden this weekend, be sure and take time to see the rest of the gardens and the bounty of this past lush season. Will we ever get 12.46″ of rain in July ever again?