Powell Gardens’ Heartland Harvest Garden was ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs just like the rest of the grounds but these flowers will reward us this summer with delectable fruit! Please consider these beauties as part of your edible landscaping plans!
Apple blossoms are a springtime favorite and are nicely fragrant. All of our nearly 90 varieties of apples on display in the Heartland Harvest Garden have pink budded flowers that open white. This is the blossom of the Spigold Apple (Malus pumila Northern Spy x Golden Delicious) in the Apple Celebration Court. Look for tasty golden apples on this tree in early fall.
The Zestar Apples trained as a Belgian Fence on the west side of the Missouri Star Orchard have full flowering this year. HHG Gardener Barbara Fetchenhier began training these plants four years ago in our nursery. Our other Belgian Fence on the east side of the MO Star Orchard is of Honeycrisp Apples and they have still not flowered for us and have been a disappointing apple for our climate. Honeycrisps are currently a most popular apple but appear to require a more northerly or cooler climate for production.
Peaches were in full flower into the beginning of the week, many with quite beautiful blooms. This is our heirloom Cherokee Indian Peach (Prunus persica) donated to us by local farmer and Friends member Wilbur Kephart. His family brought this plant from Tennessee where it was already growing wild at the time of settlement. Peaches are native to China but have spread around the world: first down the Silk Road to the west (the botanical name means from Persia), then via the Spanish to the New World and then by the Native Americans into places like what is now Tennessee.
This is the Old Rochester Peach from Rochester, New York and it had stunning flowers this spring. Various varieties of peaches have flowers from peach pink to light pink to even coral pink.
This Contender Peach is in full flower and one of the varieties with not so showy flowers BUT is valuable for its hardiness, frost resistance and delectable peaches! I feel like we are “writing the book” with ornamental observations of our food plants so we can translate that into edible landscaping that rivals ornamental landscaping.
The most beautiful of our flowering peaches is actually a “fuzzless” nectarine: Stark Hardired Giant Nectarine.
Pears were beautiful earlier this week too, but their pristine white petals are not something you want to put your nose up to: pear blossoms are malodorous at best! They are just attracting various beetles and flies as pollinators. Pears must be cross-pollinated by another variety. This is a closeup of the ‘Large Korean’ Asian Pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) which has nicely contrasting coppery leaves at bloom time. Asian pears have been stellar performers for us with those wonderful crisp, round pears in late summer into fall.
The Common or European Pears (Pyrus communis) also bloomed well earlier in the week — this is the variety ‘Stark Honeysweet.’ Common Pears bear the classic pear shaped fruit and look for the classic varieties you see in the supermarket in the Heartland Harvest Garden: ‘Bartlett,’ ‘Bosc,’ and ‘D’Anjou.’
Our Sweet Cherries (Prunus avium) also bloomed heavily and this is the stellar new variety out of Cornell called ‘Black Gold’ which bore dark red cherries for us last June. Look for a pair of this cultivar of Sweet Cherry near the entrance to the Missouri Star Orchard.
We grew wild American Plums (Prunus americana) from the grounds for planting around the Old Missouri and Kansas Star Quilt Gardens so that the borders of these gardens would have the feel of hedgerows in Missouri or Kansas fields. American plums bear very delicious plums in early fall but their springtime bloom of sparkling white, sweetly scented flowers make them a quintessential spring flowering tree throughout the Midwest.
Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are currently in full bloom and have lovely white urn-shaped flowers. We have an inordinate variety on display and many varieties like this Northcountry Blueberry have so far been stellar performers but having been in the garden only two of our mild years we want to see how this Minnesota selection will take a normal HOT Missouri summer.
Missouri & Kansas Native Clove Currants (Ribes odoratum) have been in flower for some time in the HHG and probably pack the most sweetest, clove-like fragrance of any flower in the garden right now. These shrubs will produce delicious black currants in late summer.
The flowers of standard Consort Black Currants (Ribes nigrum hybrid) have much less showy bloom and no fragrance. We have a full array of various currants (black, red, pink & white!) growing in the garden, look for most of them in the Missouri Star Orchard. All currants are small to mediums sized shrubs.
Flowering-Quinces (Chaenomeles spp.) are in full flower and we have many varieties in both the Heartland Harvest Garden and other parts of the grounds. We forget this shrub has good value when two or more varieties are planted they produce aromatic fruit that are perfect for delicious preserves in fall. This is the newly imported ‘Iwai Nishiki’ Flowering-Quince part of a Japanese collection of cultivars with extraordinary flowers — and fruit too! Our true Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) are really small trees and not yet in flower — true quinces bear a more fleshy fruit that can be cooked to create a fantastic pink dessert.
Our Flying Dragon Hardy-Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) was in bloom on the south side of the Visitor Center. The flowers look just like typical orange blossoms but are NOT fragrant. The small oranges are very sour but can be used like key limes. We are giving away seedlings of this plant on April 24th for Earth Day visitors.
Make sure you stroll through the Heartland Harvest Garden on your next visit to Powell Gardens. The first produce is making its way to the cafes and a great suite of cool season vegetables are on display. The spring flowering fruit trees of this garden will soon rival that of the magnolias, redbuds and dogwoods of the rest of the garden. I challenge you to think outside the box and create a beautiful garden of edible plants for your own landscape.