Peak Fall Color 2009!

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Peak Fall Color 2009!

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Fall colors have been “the best ever” as described by gardeners and locals alike. We attribute this to a wonderful growing season with only a small dry spell in September followed by unprecedented cool weather and over 6 inches of rain already in October at the Powell Gardens’ weather station.

Here’s an overview of the fall attire of the Powell Landscape. Prairie grasses tawny and oak-hickory woods in russets and browns while the baldcypress (right side of image) is already its classic rust — not coloring up before November here in more than 10 years.

Powell Gardens does not have many maples but this ‘Red Sunset’ Red Maple (Acer rubrum) east of the Visitor Center was blazing red. This tree is over planted in Kansas City but its fall color explains why. All maples have dense surface roots making them difficult to garden (or grow lawn) under.

Osage-Oranges (Maclura pomifera) show good yellow fall color this year and this female tree east of the Visitor Center has dropped a nice collection of her chartreuse green “hedge ball” fruit. The tree is simply called “Hedge” by the locals. If you hike the Powell Gardens nature trail you will experience wonderful old hedgerows of this tree. If your tree has never born fruit, it is most likely a MALE tree.

Dogwoods are Powell Gardens’ finest trees for fall color and the colorful tree in this picture is the hybrid cultivar ‘Ruth Ellen’ (Cornus x rutgersensis) Look for all types of dogwoods along the “Dogwood Walk” between the Visitor Center and the Island Garden.

Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida) are studded with bright red berries though robins have been busy gobbling them up to fuel their southward migration.

Oriental Kousa Dogwoods (Cornus kousa) grace the lower part of the dogwood walk and display some of the finest blends of warm colors now.

Hillside Sheffield Pink Mum (Chrysanthemum coreanum hybrid ‘Single Apricot’) foreground sets the stage for the bridge to the Island Garden with a rusty fall Baldcypress in the background.

There are still lots of flowers in the gardens because there has been no severe freeze yet. Champlain Rose, one of our favorite red landscape roses is a hybrid from the Morden Experiment Station in Manitoba, Canada. All of the “Morden” roses are some of the best performing roses at Powell Gardens.

The Conifer Garden at the north end of the Visitor Center looks at its best now while the tapestry of groundcover sedums are in fall color. The glowing yellow-needled Chief Joseph Pine (Pinus contorta) is a beacon of yellow in the fall and winter landscape — it turns green in the summer.

A closeup of the Conifer Gardens’ tapestry of sedums show coral fall colored Weinstephaner Gold’, red ‘Voodoo’ and yellow-green ‘Angelina’ Sedums.

Barbara Fetchenhier, Gardener in the Heartland Harvest Garden stands next to our Flying Dragon Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata). You can see a few small “oranges” on the tree (mainly lower left). This hardy citrus has musky-lemon scented fruit that can be made into a “Kansas City Orange Pie” according to our former Gardener Chris Conatser who now works at culinarily renowned Justus Drugstore in Smithville. More on this unique shrub / small tree in a future blog.

Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia ‘New Century’) have turned some nice shades of yellow in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Who says edible plants aren’t ornamental!

My favorite fall tree in the Heartland Harvest Garden remains the Nikita’s Gift Persimmon from the Ukraine. A hybrid between our wild persimmon and the unhardy Oriental one in the grocery store, it combines the attributes of both and is simply gorgeous on the tree in late fall. It’s delicious when tomato red ripe too!

While exploring the Heartland Harvest Garden seek out the Medlars (Mespilus germanica) in the Missouri Star Orchard. This weird fruit related to our hawthorns is only edible after it has fallen and rotted a bit — then it has a apple sauce-like flavor.

Wow, another vivacious fall flower: Alpha Calendula (Calendula officinalis) can be seen in the Heartland Harvest Garden’s Kitchen Garden south of the barn (it’s an edible flower!). All of the fall seasonal flowers are planted out in the Heartland Harvest Garden and around the Visitor Center. YES there are many wonderful cool-loving, frost tolerant flowers for local gardens that easily last through Thanksgiving.

A fall-blooming species crocus got mixed in with a purchase of saffron crocus bulbs.

We planted 1,000 Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) in the Kitchen Garden’s “tapestry of thyme” — and a couple did bloom this fall but most should not bloom until the following fall. The beautiful red-orange stigmas in the center of the flower are what true saffron is made of: the most expensive spice in the world. Matt Bunch describes the flavor as “sweet buttery green tea.” Spice up YOUR life with a visit to Powell Gardens in full fall attire!