Winter Horticulture Notes

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Winter Horticulture Notes

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

I thought I would share a few of the horticultural happenings at Powell Gardens.  What a cold January it has been with a low of -10F at Powell Gardens’s weather station.  This was the coldest reading in 3 years here, not decades.  This is the 4th time we have gotten to -10F in the past 20 years (1997, 2001, 2011, 2014).

Despite the snow and cold outside, the greenhouses have been sheltering some of our collections.  This is a picture of ‘Frank’s Masterpiece’ Magnolia a new complex hybrid of HARDY magnolia.  The flower is about 9″ across but can reach 11″ and was hybridized by the late Dr. Frank Galyon of Knoxville, TN who just happened to be a horticultural friend of our very own Dr. Henderson responsible for our iris collection.  Doc is 98 years old by the way.  This magnolia is in the greenhouses as we acquired it late and we will often not plant a small tree in the gardens until it gains some size.

Here’s a side view of ‘Frank’s Masterpiece’ — when blooming outside in the March or April sun it will be lighter on the inside.  Hard to believe magnolias like this are now in bloom in California outside!

And why not one more image to show the full flower from above!  It makes me have spring fever. It nice to think that the first blooms of magnolias outside may be as soon as only 5-6 weeks away…

We have other rarities in our collections that are also in bloom but not even close to being showy.  Above depicts our Vietnam Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis) in FULL BLOOM.  Wind pollinated conifers do not need showy flowers to attract insects to cross-pollinate them.  This is one of the world’s rarest conifers with the distinction of being the most recently discovered conifer in the world.  It was discovered in 1999 in a remote area of Vietnam near the Chinese border where it grows on ridges and summits.  It is endangered by local logging.  The above image shows the more golden pollen cones but if you look close you can see the more blue-green female cones (look like little buds).  Vietnam Cypress is proven hardy to zone 7 but we will probably keep our plant in a container and bring it indoors into a cool greenhouse for the winter.

We have started many of our seeds for spring and summer displays and this is a batch of our saved seed from the Edible Cannas (Canna edulis) in the Heartland Harvest Garden.  Notice something unique?  YES, a purple-leaved one!  The hummingbirds must have cross-pollinated it with a purple-leaved ornamental variety or it is a plant that is producing more anthrocyanin pigments in its foliage giving it the purple look.  We always keep a keen eye out for new plants that show up — it’s precisely how many new varieties are discovered.

Here are seedlings of new papaya varieties we acquired for the Heartland Harvest Garden.  Our long hot summers are enough for papayas to ripen fruit but they need lots of time to grow before blooming and are not cold hardy whatsoever.  We overwinter plants the best plants in the greenhouses and currently have some over 8 feet tall.  Papayas are usually male or female which complicates their pollination and production. They are always beautiful foliage plants for the summer landscape if not grown for fruit.

Orchids like this Cattleya in our orchid collection are being prepped for their debut in our Living Room conservatory display that opens on March 15th.

We continue on with the Legacy tree project, above is a huge Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa) in historic Mount Washington Cemetery. Mockernut Hickory was never on the champion tree list of Greater Kansas City but this tree will be measured and added to the new list.

Here are trays of some of our propagated Legacy trees: Japanese Flowering Crabapple (Malus floribunda) on the left and its diminutive cousin Sargent Crabapple (Malus sargentii) on the right.  Sargent Crabapple grows only about 8 feet tall but more than twice as wide as tall and these are from a mature tree at Linda Hall Library.  The Japanese Crabapple is from the Kauffman Memorial Gardens’ trees — unfortunately that species is rarely cultivated anymore even though it can become a magnificent, long-lived small tree of beautiful character.  Thank you to all who donated to our legacy tree year end appeal.

Don’t forget to come out and enjoy the current Conservatory display “Romance in Bloom” that provides the fresh scents of spring and wonderful views out to the terrace gardens and wild birds visiting our bird feeders.  The display remains into March 9.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a few notes of what’s going on in Horticulture at the gardens; believe me there is much, MUCH more but these are a few highlights of the season.