Visitor Center and Surrounding Gardens
The Visitor Center is located at the heart of Powell Gardens’ 970 acres and is home to the Powell Gardens Conservatory which offers seasonal rotating installations and serves as the centerpiece for the surrounding gardens. Designed by architect E. Fay Jones, the Visitor Center offers an inspirational setting for educational classes, events, wedding receptions, and the Perennial Lounge, the garden gift shop.
The crown jewel of Powell Gardens’ Visitor Center, the glass-domed conservatory, offers a climate-controlled setting to be inspired by a variety of plants in every season and offers rotating displays in support of seasonal festivals.
In 2022, Orchid Delirium (March 9-27) kicks off our spring display highlighting Powell Gardens’ extensive orchid collection. Painted Garden (April 21-May 15) explores the connection between the visual arts and the natural world. The conservatory will feature the work of a Midwest artist alongside a stunning horticulture display.
Seating areas are added in late May among the tropical plants and fountain, creating a lovely setting for a grab and go lunch. In late-summer this space is transformed into an exotic butterfly habitat for the annual Festival of Butterflies. In fall, the conservatory is a welcoming lunch spot featuring mums and tropical plants with fall colors.
During the annual Festival of Lights, the conservatory transforms into a tiki bar with orange and yellow poinsettias and colorful tropical plants and twinkling lights. Live music, seating areas, and bar make the conservatory a popular gathering place.
Just off the main path that leads to the Dogwood walk is the Hummingbird Garden where bird watchers can catch the quick actions of hummingbirds darting to all their favorite nectar sources. Along with nectar feeders, gardeners have planted azalea, honeysuckle, giant anise hyssop, pentas, lantana, and others that provide nectar rich blossoms for the hummingbirds to feed. Bees and butterflies enjoy this area too and often in the spring Orioles can be found in the garden feeding as they journey northward for summer.
The gardens surrounding the Visitor Center display a variety of annuals, perennials, and tropical plants. A recent garden sustainability initiative was implemented and promotes the use of native plant species and cultivars. These plantings will allow visitors to see how to integrate native species and cultivars into their own landscapes which will allow for water conservation and native habitats for area pollinators.
Annual bed designs change three times a year. Spring installation begins in mid-March and is fully installed mid-April. Summer favorites appear in mid to late-May and focus on plants that thrive in Missouri heat. Fall plantings shine in September and October and, similar to spring installations, include flowers that are frost and cold-tolerant.
Located on the northeast side of the Conservatory is Sharing, a 2017 powder coated steel sculpture designed by artist Robert Anderson. This working kaleidoscope, generously donated by Dennis & Annette Young, features two rotating eyepieces focused on a center bowl installed with seasonal plantings and changing objects which ensures the same design is never seen twice.
Adjacent to the Hummingbird Garden this lovely spot just off the Visitor Center Terrace is replete with ferns, coral bells, lungwort, and other shade loving perennials planted among stumps and logs. Visitors are welcome to enjoy lunch on the picnic table under the shade of the high tree canopy where the sights and sounds of nature can really be appreciated.
Marvin Snyder, an avid gardener and past president of the American Conifer Society, donated a unique collection of specialty and dwarf conifers to be installed in the landscape directly adjacent to the Visitor Center’s east terrace. Almost all hardy Genera of conifers from around the world are represented including firs, plum-yews, false cypresses, ginkgo, junipers, spruces, pines, arborvitae, Doug-firs, bald cypresses, yews and hemlocks. The sandstone rubble and subsoil excavated from the construction of the Fountain Garden was repurposed for this garden and provided the perfect base for well-drained soil preferred by conifers.
This garden is a certified Reference Garden by the American Conifer Society and offers visitors beautiful foliage textures and colors in all seasons and also encourages their use in home landscape as an alternative to the ubiquitous sheared foundation yews and junipers so often planted around homes in Greater Kansas City and the surrounding suburban areas.
The Visitor Center Landscape is a pastoral space offering a mix of lawn and groves of the site’s original native trees. Naturalistic beds of small understory trees, shrubs and flowers connect these groves of trees and provide a healthy landscape for their roots and a more beautiful landscape for the visitor. Two paved walks transverse this landscape, connecting the Visitor Center with the Island Garden. The champion smoketree at the center of the trolley circle is transformed with colorful lights during Festival of Lights.
This shaded pathway winding south from the Visitor Center to the Marlese Lowe Gourley Island Garden. It displays flowering trees with an emphasis on dogwoods (Cornus spp.) adaptable to our region.
Powell Gardens’ magnolia collection named in honor of past Director of Horticulture, Alan Branhagen, is nationally recognized by the American Public Gardens Association, and certified by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC). The Magnolia Walk features many of the collection including cultivars such as ‘Holland Rose’, ‘Simple Pleasures’ and ‘Emma Cook’. And species/varieties such as Magnolia kobus var. borealis, Magnolia tripetala, and Magnolia x soulangeana (Saucer magnolias) ‘Amabilis’,’Grace Mcdade’, and ‘Alexandrina’.