Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is next week and the New Year not far behind. In thinking about a timely blog topic, the typical holiday plants come to mind: evergreen Christmas trees, poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe to name a few. These plants sure help make this season bright, especially as we get so close to the shortest day of the year, which is the winter solstice on Saturday.
These cherished seasonal plants illustrate one reason plants are important in our lives. At Powell Gardens, it is our mission to inspire an appreciation for the many ways plants are important in our lives. What better season to reflect on this?
What could be brighter than this ‘Orange Spice’ Poinsettia! Its warm vibrant color sure uplifts the spirit in the dark days of winter. Powell Gardens grows an incredible variety of poinsettias in all colors from white to pink and red and combinations thereof. Visit our conservatory’s Christmas display now through the New Year to see this bounty of poinsettias.
American Holly (Ilex opaca) with its evergreen leaves and vibrant red berries is another seasonal plant cherished for its beauty in the outdoor landscape. It makes a nice cut green for indoor decor too. Look for beautiful hollies both evergreen and deciduous decked out with red berries on the grounds of Powell Gardens now. The beauty of plants and how that makes one feel is certainly an important aspect of plants in our lives.
This season of the year is certainly about gathering together over food with family and friends or sharing with those less fortunate. Where does all our food ultimately come from? PLANTS! The photo above is from our annual Under A Harvest Moon dinner where we celebrate the bounty of food as a fund raiser to support Powell Gardens’ mission. Our Heartland Harvest Garden, America’s largest edible landscape, is surely a great venue for this event.
Looking out from the Missouri Barn’s silo overlook during the growing season one sees not only a lot of edible plants that give us sustenance but also a lot of green. What’s the significance of that green? The green is chlorophyll and where the most important chemical process on Earth occurs: photosynthesis. That is how plants harness the sun’s energy to make food, and their waste product is the oxygen in the air we need for every breath we take. We can’t duplicate this in the lab, it has to come from a living cell in a living plant!
You may recognize this flower as a magnolia and I’ll bet you find it beautiful. This is the rare Medicinal Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis var. biloba), now extinct in its native China as all the wild trees have been debarked. This photo is from Powell Gardens’ renowned magnolia collection, so luckily the tree lives on in gardens. This magnolia’s name says it all when it comes to appreciating its value: the bark contains extracts that reduce our bodies’ stress hormone, a treatment for anxiety and depression. It’s also a source of two antioxidants (magnolol and honokiol) that help with degenerative diseases and inhibit prostate, ovarian and lung cancers. Plants provide medicine or guide medical research on how to produce the same compounds, giving yet another reason why plants are important in our lives.
As you reflect on why plants matter, may one of your New Year’s resolutions be to visit Powell Gardens at least every season. The winter landscape offers a subtle beauty and the gardens and Byron Shutz Nature Trail are a great place for a winter’s walk.
When spring comes, be sure to see our Magnolia Collection at its peak bloom in March or April, depending on when Mother Nature wakes up after her winter nap. (Our earliest spring ever was in 2012, the latest in 2013!)
Summer is the best when our plants rival the beauty of the tropical rain forest! Don’t forget to take a run through the Fountain Garden to cool off.
Make sure to take part in a cooking demo or “Fresh Bites” demonstration for a taste of the bounty of the Heartland Harvest Garden.
The peak of plants’ fall color is at the end of October or first of November, but the gardens are beautiful all through autumn. So mark your calendar for a visit to Powell Gardens at each season in 2014. What better place to experience the importance of plants in our lives?