Peak of Spring in Flowers

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Peak of Spring in Flowers

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Native redbuds and plums paint the landscape of Powell Gardens expressing that our spirit of place is at the peak of spring.

This composition of our native Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and Wildgoose Plum (Prunus munsoniana — one of 5 species of local wild plums) welcomes visitors to Powell Gardens just before the gatehouse. Often times we gardeners embrace exotics at the expense of those that originally decorated this land in a new term I am seeing called “contempt for the familiar.” The splashes of raspberry sherbet pink-flowering redbuds and fragrant sparkling white-flowering wild plums coloring our landscape make this my hands-down favorite time of year.

In the Heartland Harvest Garden’s edible landscape the gorgeous flowering fruit trees have advanced to the pears taking center stage. We have the biggest variety of pears in public display anywhere around. Kikisui Asian Pear, shown above, has the most beautiful flowers of them all this spring. The ornamental callery (Bradford, Aristocrat, Chanticleer, etc…) pears (Pyrus calleryana) are popular in local landscapes but Powell Gardens has none because they are becoming the next invasive exotic to damage our wild lands. Consider the beautiful Asian edible pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) as an alternate and feed yourself instead of the starlings with the bounty of crisp, juicy pears following their bloom.


Pears are known for their upright form and here’s a mug shot of Honsui Asian Pear in bloom. You do need two varieties of Asian pears to set fruit and their narrow crowns do not take up much air space and offer unique uses in edible landscape where space is limited.

Some of our varieties like this ’20th Century’ Asian Pear have coppery leaves while they bloom adding a color echo to the centers of the flowers and thus adding to the ornamental appeal of the plant. I am busy trying to keep track of all these details on our premier collection of fruit trees because edible landscaping implies you know the ornamental beauty of a edible plant along with its productivity and garden performance.

The Daisui Li Asian Pear may have the most coppery leaves of them all at bloom time. I only had time at mid-day to capture the image so it looks better to the eye than the camera in the now August-like mid-day sun of April. Heartland Harvest Garden Horticulturist Matt Bunch ranked ‘New Century’ Asian Pear as the best for productivity, flavor and right size fruit in our collection; but noted that for the most part they all were good!

This heirloom purple-leaf plum (Prunus unknown hybrid) is a pass along plant from near Liberty, MO, and has delicious plums according to Matt Bunch. Its tiny pinkish-white flowers cover every stem and twig making it a bit dazzling looking and a great color with the redbuds on the edge of the Vineyard seen in the background. Remember redbud flowers and young pea pods are edible and a nice addition to a spring salad.

I had to include a picture of the arbor at the center of the Heartland Harvest Garden ‘Quilt’ Gardens because the Clove Currants (Ribes odoratum) continue to grab attention with their phenomenal scent and the Akebia vines (Akebia spp.) growing up the arbors are beginning to bloom. Make sure to take a closer look and the unique flowers of the akebias varying in color from white to purple. (My close up lens is still not fixed so I can’t share that with you — you’ll have to see it in person!)

The Flowering-Quinces (Chaenomeles spp.) are in full bloom around the gardens and they are not the trash collecting shrubs they were once thought of anymore. New varieties have flowers in double petals and colors from white to blush pink to almost orange and vivid reds. This is the peachy ‘Cameo’ Flowering-Quince along the dogwood walk. Remember to grow quinces for their fruit as well (if you have at least 2 varieties to pollinate) which make delicious spicy preserves or natural air fresheners if you are not into the culinary experience. The double white ‘O Yashima’ Flowering Quince that buds greenish and whitens as it opens may be my favorite and look for it near the entrance to the Heartland Harvest Garden. New varieties for the spring plant sale have flowers almost as large as camellias!


The late season daffodils are now at peak but other unique bulbs can be observed around the gardens. The interesting Guinea Hen Flower or Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris) blooming in the Rock & Waterfall Garden is a great bulb that does best in a site that is wet in spring.

The ground flora of the Rock & Waterfall Garden is really kicking into bloom with gorgeous Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum), various Epimediums (Epimedium rubrum shown) and the hat-like new leaves of native Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) interspersed. Now through early May is the peak color of the Rock & Waterfall Garden but it will be another week or so before the azaleas are in full bloom — and they are looking great for a superior display this year.

 The sunny weekend forecast sounds marvelous for a springtime visit to Powell Gardens with temperatures in the low 60s on Saturday and 70F for Sunday. If you’ve never been here in spring before, you are in for a real floral treat!