Late Summer Garden’s Bounty

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Late Summer Garden’s Bounty

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Powell Gardens is alive with plants in every size and hue despite the vicious heat and lack of rain of July. The gardens are designed in our prairie meets woodland “spirit of place” and this natural style holds up well through the routine rigors of our climate.

Petunias are flowers that usually quit flowering in summer’s heat but Vista Bubblegum Petunia sure shrugged it off and looks great next to frothy white Diamond Frost Euphorbia.

 The theme of summer’s annuals and tropicals around the Visitor Center was “texture” this year and this study of 3 container plants shows that off to a tee: bold Alocasia “Elephant Ears” surrounded by fine textured ferns; all in a rich green hue.

 I found this planting of gold French Marigolds a delight with self-sown yellow Helenium amarum (a Missouri native annual) on the border edge and self-sown purple Verbena bonariensis sprinkled throughout. Annual flowers in a prairie-esque planting.

The groundcover Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) has really come into full bloom with its rich blue flowers. We still feel this plant is underutilized as a groundcover in full sun to light shade.

 The Conifer Garden north of the Visitor Center is a wonderful study of textures: here with blue-needled ‘Candicans’ Concolor Fir (Abies concolor ‘Candicans’) and golden-needled Golden Ghost Pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Golden Ghost’) with a backdrop of a Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum). Only a very few of the golden conifers suffered a bit of foliage burn from the extreme heat.


 The Perennial Garden is going into its late summer prime time with splashes of gold, white and purple so typical of a prairie’s primary colors.

There are botanical treasures in every nook of the Perennial Garden like our collection of rare Chinese hardy amarylis (Lycoris spp.) — the common form called “naked ladies” because it blooms on bare stems with no foliage. There are many other species and hybrids like this rare Lycoris radiata var. pumila x Lycoris longituba with NO common name but is a hybrid between red and white species.

White “blooming” Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia corollata) is a self-sowing annual native to the Great Plains and combines well here with perennial, golden-yellow Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) and self-sown Verbena bonariensis. This wonderful verbena also has no common name though bonariensis translates to Buenos Aires as this plant is native to Argentina.
The Encore Azaleas continue to bloom in between the Perennial Garden and the Rock & Waterfall Garden. Autumn Lavender is currently in full encore bloom! As a reminder our planting is of the 10 hardiest selections for reliability in a zone 6 climate. Check them out!

The Rock & Waterfall Garden is as lush as ever and the some of the dinosaurs have not yet been sent on their way… Here is the north stream with a bold whorl of foliage of an Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) left and the dinosaur-ish Butterbur (Petasites japonicus) in the background.

Check out the containers of succulents around the chapel — succulents are a hot commodity for containers as they are far less demanding of every day watering!

The Island Garden’s middle pool is at its peak with gorgeous waterlilies in every hue surrounded by billowing masses of Gaura, Verbena bonariensis and feathery Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).

The Island Garden’s large lower pool is a unique study of giant Victoria Waterlilies which are now blooming along with Papyrus (foreground) and Red-stemmed Thalia soon to display its towering sprays of tiny purple flowers.

All the Butterflybushes (Buddleia davidii) are loaded with the butterflies throughout the garden. Here a “flock” of Viceroys drinks from this ‘Three-in-One’ Butterflybush that is currently blooming almost solely white but can set out sprays of lavender, pink or even dark purple flowers at random!

The Fountain Garden is lush with pink Vinca, yellow ‘Carefree Sunshine’ roses and Limelight Hydrangeas in the background. It’s still a great place to cool off and get wet on a warm late summer visit to the gardens.

The Menu Garden at the entrance to the Heartland Harvest Garden is at peak late summer productiveness. Be sure to check out this amazing edible landscape and how many of its trees and shrubs have grown over the summer.

Thanks to the generous donation of a volunteer, the fence long-specified to go around Fun Food Farm’s Seed to Plate garden is almost completed as of today. It really delineates this “children’s” garden where student visitors can sow, tend, harvest, prepare and compost seasonal edible plants.

Clemson Spineless Okra caught my attention with its lovely flowers that show its close relation to Hibiscus. These can be seen in Author Barbara Damrosch’s demonstration garden.

Nothing denotes the season finer than the glowing velvety orange flowers of the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). This annual is very nectar rich and attracts numerous butterflies and hummingbirds wherever planted.

It is also the season for the beautiful native thistles to bloom like this one next to the Chapel in the prairie. This is the native thistle (Cirsium discolor) with true lavender blooms that are very nectar-rich and provide food for many beneficial pollinating insects like the iridescent green Sweat Bee. It is the imported Bull, Musk and Canadian thistles that are the noxious weeds.
Powell Gardens is a great place to visit at the end of summer and weathered the wild summer well. Come see some of its beautiful and bountiful treasures and relax in its natural landscapes under our fantastic skies. All photos taken August 26, 2011 by Alan Branhagen at Powell Gardens.