Spring has really sprung at Powell Gardens and the gardens are giddy with flowering flora. The sights and scents of the flowers are especially captivating after a winter without them in the landscape.
We had a freeze Wednesday morning (29F) and I thought our magnolias would be toast but they were just tight enough in bud to endure and burst forth now with glorious flowers. This is the Galaxy Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ x M. sprengeri ‘Diva’). The scents of this and some other magnolias are somewhat musky but remind me of my experience-rich childhood and the neighborhood saucer magnolia.
The path by the Trigg Building is now a tunnel of softly sweet-scented Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata). The star magnolia flowers are a bit disheveled on close inspection but overall wonderful — they endured hot winds (Sunday), cold winds (Monday), hail and torrential rain!
Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ (Magnolia acuminata x M. denudata ‘Sawada’s Cream’) is one of the best yellow-flowering magnolias with small waterlily-esque, delightful and musky scented flowers. This magnolia always draws attention at the Visitor Center trolley stop and should be in full bloom this weekend.
The burgundy goblets of Magnolia ‘March till Frost’ is a complex hybrid ((Magnolia liliiflora x cylindrica) x Magnolia ‘Ruby’) that does repeat flower a bit all season. It did survive the vagaries of this spring and is gaining rank on my list of Magnolia favorites.
This unassuming shrub in the Heartland Harvest Garden grabbed my attention as I walked by with its phenomenal and alluring aroma. The small yellow flowers of Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum) are a sweet and rich with a clove-like scent. I also remember this shrub from childhood when it bloomed in older neighborhoods of my hometown as I walked home from school. It lost favor from gardeners for many years but now is back in popularity as it produces edible black currants great for preserves and pies (and fresh eating too)!
The plum trees are also in bloom in the Heartland Harvest Garden and just starting to open in the natural areas of the grounds. The HHG has a superb collection of plums ( Plum ‘Burbank Red Ace’ shown) and their flowers are wonderfully fragrant. I must admit the plum blossom scents took me back to my childhood visiting my Grandpa and Grandma on the farm in Iowa. They grew on the fencerows perfuming the air in spring and Grandma always made a memorable preserve out of the plums and mixed it with apple.
Two plums in particular stand out in our collection: The Shiro Plum shown here grows on the south side of the Learning Shed and has a beautiful spreading crown. Its plums are yellow when ripe and a favorite of Horticulturist Matt Bunch.
Our other favorite is the Toka Plum shown here just south of the corn crib. It is sometimes called the bubblegum plum because its sweet plums have a remarkable bubblegum-like flavor which Matt described and then read that was another name for this plum! This is the plum whose ripening plums are depicted on our set of note cards available to Friends members. If you have room for just two plums, plant Toka and Shiro and they do pollinate each other. We do have many more varieties, each with their own merit and I captured their images for documentation and future reference (but I don’t want to put you to sleep looking at them all here).
The Perennial Garden’s beds are filled with Daffodils and spring has burst forth throughout Powell Gardens. The weekend sounds like it will be warm and mild and that predicted rains will happen at night! Come explore the fabulous flora now in bloom and may its sights and scents bring back fond memories or create new ones to reflect upon. Springtime is my favorite season with renewal of life in a burst of beautiful optimism for all to enjoy.