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, the on-site restaurant Cafe Thyme and Perennial Gifts, 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 up to four times a year.
In the early season, visitors can observe the beautiful late-winter landscape outside while ensconced in the beauty of tropical foliage and flowers.
Classic tropical plants set the display beginning in May. In late-summer this space is transformed into a butterfly habitat for the annual Festival of Butterflies.
In fall, the display includes foliage and flowers such as asters and chrysanthemums and during the annual Festival of Lights the holiday display is a poinsettia-lover’s dream.
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.
Marvin Snyder, an avid gardener and past president of the American Conifer Society, donated a special 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, China-fir, 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.
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 ‘Holland Rose’, ‘Rose Marie’, ‘Gold Cup’, and ‘March Till Frost’.