The exquisite Southern Magnolias are in bud and bloom around the Powell Gardens Visitor Center and I find them a symbol of Powell Gardens’ “new” direction. The Heartland Harvest Garden opens with a formal ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 14, 2009. All the plants in the new Heartland Harvest Garden have some tie back to the food that nourishes our bodies: from groundcovers of strawberries to shade trees like pecans, and from colorful containers of pomegranates in the vineyard to seedling tomatoes in the greenhouse; from seed to plate the garden is all about edibles.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul..” John Muir
John Muir’s quote was to promote preservation of the California Sierras but it applies anywhere. Powell Gardens embodies this quote: existing beautiful gardens, Faye Jones designed Marjory Powell Allen Chapel, 3+ mile nature trail through meadows, woodlands and native prairie remnants; and now Heartland Harvest Garden where all our food plants decorate the garden and are available for tasting in season.
Southern Magnolia’s (Magnolia grandiflora) beauty reflects how horticulture evolved from growing food to growing beauty. Magnolias were one of the first plants cultivated by humans for beauty and not food.
All the very fragrant American magnolias like these Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) are in bloom around the Visitor Center. Be sure and give their blossoms a whiff as they are intensely fragrant.
Porcelain Dove Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana x Magnolia globosa) and its accompanying peppery fragrance can be seen and smelled outside the Visitor Center’s Cafe Thyme.
Louisiana Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana var. louisianica) can be seen on the ramp leading north out of Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center’s beds of summer seasonal plants are all planted and awaiting the summer heat and sunshine. Our collection of cacti and succulents spend the summer outdoors and are always a favorite display of visitors. The Visitor Center beds display plants the way an artist uses paint.
The Dwarf Conifer Garden is a wonderful blend of subtle colors and textures at the north end of the Visitor Center. It is the transition and precursor to the Heartland Harvest Garden.
North of the Visitor Center you will reach the Millstone Fountain, Entrance Plaza to the New Heartland Harvest Garden. Beyond it’s entry arbor is a garden that is a return to where horticulture began — really not a new direction but a return to horticulture’s roots!
Once inside the new Heartland Harvest Garden, be prepared to see the plants that provides almost every food item in the grocery store! The earliest ripening apple ‘Lodi‘ is already looking luscious in the Apple Celebration Court.
Be sure and follow the rules and don’t pick the produce you see: we want to share the experience with you and those after you. Many plants have a definite ripening stage so only staff and volunteers will be allowed to pick the bounty of the garden.
We DO want you to experience a taste of the garden so look for where the garden’s tasting stations will be. The daily items to taste, and where to find these “tasting stations” will be written on the chalk board at the entrance arbor.
On opening day plan on these plants for tastings (as quantities allow): berries & edible flowers.
Over 20 varieties of strawberries are grown in the garden, if you’ve not had a plant ripened, sun warmed berry, you are missing out!
The Finnish (as in Finland!) Gooseberry ‘Hinnomaki Red’ is also ripe now. I first tasted this gooseberry in the Napa Valley and found it to have the best flavor of any. It will be at tasting stations as quantities allow. Remember that our garden is new and the edible producing shrubs and trees will need time to mature and be at full production.
Beautiful strings of bright red berries make the Red Currants (Ribes sativum) look delicious. The berries are beautiful and delightfully tart, best used in preserves.
Edible Flowers will include:
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) has licorice tasting lavender-blue florets. It is also a stellar “insectaries” plant that attracts beneficial pollinators and good bugs to the garden.
Borage (Borago officinalis) also has edible flowers — they taste refreshing like cucumbers.
Nasturtiums also have edible flowers but are more strongly tasting. We will have a few more unique edible flowers on hand for those more daring. Again, only eat the flowers at the tasting stations!
Squash also have edible flowers and I observed the new Cafe Fresh’s chef pick some. Cafe Fresh will serve fresh food in the new Missouri Barn in the Heartland Harvest Garden.
We hope you come experience the newly expanded Powell Gardens; from beauty to bread, it really is an all-day road trip for the soul.
All pictures taken by Alan Branhagen at Powell Gardens on June 12, 2009.