Solstice Spectacles in the Heartland Harvest Garden

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Solstice Spectacles in the Heartland Harvest Garden

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru, Newsworthy

Monday was the longest day of the year and the summer solstice occurred yesterday. The intense sunlight and long days sure are one of the joys of summer! Here’s some observations from the Heartland Harvest Garden:

June in the Harvest Garden has a theme of berries and blueberries are ripe and ripening! Come get a taste of them at the tasting station. Depicted is the cultivar ‘Bluecrop’ which is one of the most reliable of the Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum).

These are not red raspberries but ripening fruit of Blackberries. It looks like we will have a bumper crop coming on soon.

Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) are one of our most spectacular wildflowers with almost dinner plate sized clusters of softly fragrant, white flowers. The flowers are edible but the tiny purplish-black fruit won’t be ripe until around Labor Day. This is a popular landscape shrub in Europe but sadly little used in local gardens — what could be more spectacular in this season!

The pink-flowering shrubs in this image from the Apple Celebration Court is another of our most showy wildflowers in bloom now: Prairie or Climbing Rose (Rosa setigera). This is a great natural landscape combination with elderberries but part of our companion planting to our apples. You can see a sea of strawberries as groundcover in this photo and the bluish spikes of Anise-hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) flowers. Anise-hyssop is one of the best nectar plants to attract good bugs to a garden AND the edible flowers taste like licorice.

The Vineyard is at its peak of beauty with Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) in bloom beneath the vines. Hyssop flowers are also edible but very bitter with anti-fungal properties. Make sure you take a walk down the vineyard and take a gander at our 50 varieties of grapes: each row has a different theme of how the varieties on display are utilized.

This ‘Delaware’ grape is indicative that there is going to be a bumper crop of grapes this year. Delaware grape ripens a red, seeded “multi-purpose” use grape. You can make a fine jam or jelly from it, a red juice or eat it fresh with its healthy and crunchy grape seeds inside.

Here’s the row of purple multi-purpose grapes: the most vigorous are the 5 closest vines which are all Concord Grapes. Concord grapes were the first hybrid American grape from Concord, MA and are the prime grape for juice and jelly rich in anti-oxidants. At the end of the row are two other grape varieties: ‘Alden’ and ‘Buffalo.’

The grapes in this row (right) are Niagara Grapes which are white, multi-purpose grapes. They make the white grape juice which doesn’t stain.

Here’s a look down the west row of the Red Wine Grapes. The first vine is ‘De Chaunac’ but the bulk of this row are Missouri’s official state grape: ‘Cynthiana’ a.k.a. ‘Norton.’ Cynthiana/Norton Grape is a vigorous and disease-resistant grape derived from the native Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis) which grows wild throughout Powell Gardens and is currently in bloom and perfuming the solstice air.

Here’s the east row of our white wine grapes: 2) Traminette, 3) Cayuga White, 3) Seyval Blanc, 2) Vignoles, and 1) Melody on the end of the row. The recent couple of colder winters have not been kind to some of our French hybrid grapes and we have learned over the past 3 years which varieties are better suited to our climate.

The grapes have attracted the “hornworm” caterpillar of the Hog Sphinx. We moved this guy from our vineyard to grapes we have growing specifically for the Festival of Butterflies in early August. This year the Festival of Butterflies will feature caterpillars and showcase the incredible array of these fascinating creatures that are part of the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths.

This plant may look like a weed but it is Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) a gluten-free grain that is a complete protein. Look for this plant along with some other interesting crops including peanuts, cotton and rice in the Old Missouri Quilt Garden.

The little yellowish “nubbens” along the branches of this small tree are the flowers of Jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) a very popular fruit tree in China and whose candied fruit inspired the candy jujubes! Be sure and stop in this fall to sample the crisp, honey-pear flavored fruit of this up-and-coming fruit tree for Greater Kansas City gardens. You never see it in the grocery stores because it has NO shelf life as a ripe fruit but it can be dried or candied for long term use.
Come see for yourself the great bounty of edible plants now lush and full of ripe and ripening fruit in the Heartland Harvest Garden. You will be amazed at all the varieties at hand. Be sure to stop for lunch at Cafe Fresh and visit the tasting station to sample first hand the flavors of the garden.