Mark your calendar for May 2nd & 3rd (May 1st if you are a Powell Gardens Friends Member!) for Powell Gardens’ annual Spring Plant Sale. We have over 2 greenhouses of stock preparing for the sale including premier perennials, shrubs, annuals, herbs and vegetables. This year the plants are organized into groups of a dozen garden use related plants. The list of plants and their categories can be downloaded from our website http://www.powellgardens.org/.
Eric Perrette (Senior Gardener – Grower) trains some clematis–he has been in charge of the plant sale production. With around 500 varieties planned for the sale, several staff from Horticulturist Donna Covell and Senior Gardener Marie Frye to many volunteers have aided in the plant sale production process.
Here is a preview look at some of the sale plants in the greenhouse. I am very pleased with the high quality of plants grown this year. Conscientious and talented staff got help with an inordinate amount of sunny days so far this year.
Freda Clematis will be one of our specialty clematis for the sale. It has spring bronze leaves and pink dogwood-like flowers. It blooms only once per season but is so memorable it is better than many “everblooming” varieties. Its flowers are much softer in our climate when compared to the deep cherry pink flowers it has in the low light of England where it originated. (Remember Kansas City is at the same latitude as Lisbon, Portugal!)
Emerald Mist Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) is a new cultivar of this tried and true, shade loving perennial. Its foliage is the best I’ve seen! Brunnera have blue, forget-me-not-like flowers in spring but are now grown for their beautiful foliage as well! We will have several other Brunnera varieties at the sale.
Orion Geranium is one we grow most years because it is such a great performer (my personal favorite cultivated hardy Geranium) and it is difficult to find. Not new but tried and true with great garden performance here. The flowers are large, and produced in a great mass over the foliage, in mid summer it can be cut back to produce a real nice tuft of foliage that turns nice shades of red in fall.
Sun Parsol Giant Crimson Mandevilla is brand new for us and has created lots of oohs and aahs in the greenhouses. This tropical vine will bloom for you all summer until frost. It can easily be overwintered dormant in a frost free location. This is quite a breakthrough in hybridizing to get such velvety brilliant red flowers of large size on a Mandevilla.
Indian Dunes Brocade-leaf Geranium is another shockingly colorful unhardy plant that does great for us. Unbeknownst to many is how easy these are to overwinter dormant in a basement. Just hang them upside down through the winter in a dark, dry place. Of course they also do well in a sunny window through the winter.
Marie Bleu Ceanothus (Ceanothus x pallidus ‘Minmari‘) is another breakthrough in hybridization. If you have ever seen the blue-flowering “California Lilacs” Ceanothus out West you know they are not Midwestern hardy. We do have two native Midwestern Ceanothus including the New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus). Cross the two and finally they have one as hardy as New Jersey Tea but with the blue flowers of the western species! I was shocked when our small starts began to bud — see above! Marie Bleu will be a small shrub only 2-3 feet tall like our New Jersey Tea.
Yes we have well growing plants of the new Incrediball Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo‘). This new cultivar of the Missouri native Hydrangea will have massive blooms atop “beefy” stems. It is supposed to have four times as many blooms as the next largest and well known cultivar ‘Annabelle.’ It looks just like Annabelle (which will also be in the sale) but has a much more interesting whitish, leaf underside. You can see the flower buds are already forming!
The huge white and fragrant flowers of the Snow Velvet Mockorange make this my favorite of the mockoranges. These are cuttings from our own shrub on the south side of the Visitor Center. Mockoranges are out of fashion but so wonderful for attracting butterflies and for blooming in the green “blah” period between spring and summer.
Figs (Ficus carica) in several of our select varieties will also be available. With the opening of our new Heartland Harvest Garden on June 14, interest in food plants is gaining momentum (more like a tidal wave?). We will have 4 dozen varieties of unique vegetables and over 100 varieties of culinary herbs at the sale. All the figs are cuttings from our specialty varieties proven outside in the nursery for our Heartland Harvest Garden. They are all named varieties from ‘Mission’ to ‘Vern’s Brown Turkey.’
Please join the Friends of Powell Gardens (you can do so on our website http://www.powellgardens.org/) and you can partake in the Friends preview sale from 5-7p.m on Friday, May 1, 2009. Attending the preview sale insures the best selection (quantities are limited), your membership helps support Powell Gardens and its world class gardens and architecture!