Meet An Instructor: Christine Shuck

Each season, I am excited to work with many of our long-time instructors to offer great learning experiences through our Garden Culture classes. This month, I am happy to introduce a new instructor to our line up—Christine Shuck.

Christine is a writer, artist, community education instructor and homeschool mom who lives in Kansas City. A confirmed auto-didact (self-learner), Christine enjoys a wide range of interests including permaculture and organic gardening, DIY projects, cooking, arts and crafts and keeping chickens and bees.

This month, Christine will be your guide to cooking and preparing dishes and teas with fresh and dried herbs. Reap all of the flavor and health benefits from cooking with herbs as Christine shows you multiple ways to use them. Register now for Cooking with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, on Saturday, July 19—the class includes samples to taste!

When not busy renovating her 1893 Victorian home, you will find Christine in her garden pulling weeds and tending her chickens. In winter you will find her inside writing, decorating, or creating art. Christine has written three books and maintains three blogs.

Christine’s other interests include Zentangle, an art form of creating beautiful images with repetitive patterns that is well suited for both novice artists and seasoned professionals. Christine recently displayed her Zentangle artwork at Maker Faire Kansas City and will offer an introductory course at Powell Gardens this fall.

More Classes this Month:

  • Musical Solutions with the Native Flute, 9:30-11 a.m. Friday, July 18. More information.
  • Learn to Play the Native Flute, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, July 18. More information.
  • Watercolor Workshop: Sketch Technique, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19. More information.
  • Cooking with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, July 19. More information.
  • NABA Butterfly Count, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, July 26. More information.
  • Evening with Moths and More, 8-11 p.m. Saturday, July 26. More information.
  • Astronomy: By the Dark of the Moon, 8:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26. More information.

Fruit Tree Menace 2014: Fire Blight!

The 2014 growing season in the Heartland Harvest Garden will go down as the year of the Fire Blight. This menace has the capability to kill the trees it infects if the blight is not removed and treated. Certain pears are especially susceptible and if the blight is not controlled, it spells most certain death. Powell Gardens is not alone in dealing with this menace; an unprecedented infestation has been reported throughout the Greater Kansas City region and beyond from Kansas to Tennessee.

Not all trees in the Heartland Harvest Garden are infested as shown above in a very healthy pear in the garden. Some naturally resist the disease while others may not have been harmed by our late frost in mid-May. Heartland Harvest Garden staff did spray a pollinator-safe, organic “liquid copper soap” and a “microbial blend” on the trees to deflect space for the blight (which is a bacteria) as a preventative measure. We accomplished that spraying back in April during flower time when pollinators can spread the blight’s bacteria and infect new trees.

All was good until we had the surprise heavy frost in the garden well after bloom time, which caused slight damage to new growth on trees. The frost-damaged tissues were the perfect places for infestations of bacterial fire blight to take hold. Because this disease spreads best in cooler (65F to no more than 85F), damp conditions, trees were even more susceptible. Continue reading

Picture yourself at Powell Gardens during the Amazing Animal Quest!

Powell  Gardens goes wild this summer with an exhibit of amazing animal sculptures by Colorado artist Dan Ostermiller. These monumental works are inspiring for all ages, but kids especially will enjoy taking The Amazing Animal Quest to discover the nine adventure zones in which they are placed.

When you document and share your journey through the tropics, woodlands, wetlands and more, you could win an amazing Kansas City adventure for the entire family with tickets to attractions around the region!

It’s easy to play along! Just pick up your guide in the Visitor Center when you arrive, then follow the photo prompts for each area. Post your photos to Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #gardensgonewild. We’ll pull names for free Garden prizes each month all summer and draw for the grand prize on August 24.

Picture yourself (and your family!) in these locations, which are just a sample of the many fun areas to explore during Gardens Gone Wild:

The Big Backyard

Home to bunnies R.B. (above), Lola, and the permanent Garden residents depicted in “Close Quarters,” the Big Backyard offers a place to rest and consider the habitat humans know best! Photo prompt: See how high you can jump!

The Forest Floor

Flex your muscles with these bears before enjoying the forest floor play area.

Continue reading

Jungle in a Jar: Learn to make terrariums

As summer heats up so do the classes at Powell Gardens. This summer we have some hot, new classes for your home, including Terrarium: Jungle in a Jar on June 14.

Terrariums have been around for years, popularized in 19th century by Dr. Nathaniel Ward’s Wardian case. The invention of the Wardian case allowed exotic plants to be shipped all over the world, and delicate plants to be grown at home by hobbyists. Ornate Wardian case terrariums decorated many Victorian homes.

Terrariums are back in vogue again, with some modern twists. The new terrarium is chic, elegant, and makes a great accent piece for your home or office.

A Peperomia sp. stands alone in a simple wine bottle terrarium. Others embrace whimsy and fun like the popular fairy gardens or my personal favorite, the monster garden for carnivorous plants. Tillandsia bulbosa is right at home with carnivores such as Venus Fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) and Octopus plant (Drosera sp.).

Terrarium keeping can be as simple or complex as one cares to make it. Many plants work great for a simple hassle-free terrarium. Bromeliads like air plants (Tillandsia sp.) can be nestled in rocks in a jar to create an interesting centerpiece for a sunny room that only requires occasional misting. Many ferns like the Heart Fern (Hemionitis arifolia) do well in terrarium culture and work well in small or large displays.

Surprisingly, miniature Phalaenopsis orchids are great for simple elegant terrariums.

Selaginella sp. is often challenging as a house plant but thrives in a humid terrarium with little effort.

Plants like Babies’ Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) and Artillery Plant (Pilia sp.) make lovely groundcover in miniature landscapes.

Plants like begonias, peperomia and polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) make great miniature shrubbery.

Ornamentation adds pizzazz and personality to a terrarium. Shiny rocks and marbles add texture. Natural elements like drift wood and sea shells provide dimension.

For the whimsical terrarium, one might add fairy furniture or perhaps small figurines. Godzilla peeking through orchids and bromeliads is a constant source of amusement at my house.

There is still time to register for the Jungle in a Jar terrarium class this month. Hope to see you there!

Classes this Month:
* Terrarium: Jungle in a Jar, 10 a.m.-noon. Saturday, June 14
* Kids’ Club: Nature Hike, 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 14
* Herbal Home Remedies, 1-4 p.m. Saturday, June 21
* Honeybee Keeping 201, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, June 28
* Geocaching Gone Wild, 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 28
* Astronomy: Eye Spy, 8:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28

Winter’s Wear on Plants

The winter of 2013-2014 was certainly a cold stretch, the longest stretch of cold weather in the 18 winters I have lived here in Kansas City.  At Powell Gardens the lake froze over in late November and didn’t thaw until early March — that was a first! Powell Gardens lowest temperature was -10F (rounded up) with many mornings at or below zero F and little or no snow most of the time.  All this took a toll on plants that had begun creeping into our gardens from the South. We’ve experienced so many mild winters that there was zone creep of plants.  The winter was also exceedingly dry which also hurt plants, especially those normally hardy. I wanted to wait until everything had a chance to grow this spring to see what really survived and what was set back and as usual there were surprises on both extremes!

Blooming Atamasco Lilies (Zephyranthes atamasco) were a complete surprise to have survived the long-frozen ground. This native of the American South’s Gulf Coastal Plain is a personal favorite and often listed as hardy only to zone 7.  Look for these in the New Millennium border of the Perennial Garden. Continue reading

Water Conservation Meets Fun

Recent spring rains have been wonderful, but drier days will inevitably follow. At Powell Gardens we like to tell visitors of all ages about the water cycle and steps we can take–especially in the garden–to conserve water.

Nestled in our Fun Foods Farm youth garden, our Water Conservation Court encourages young visitors to think about the water cycle. Whether they’re visiting with a school class or with family on a weekend, children love to work the water pump. They gather the water in a bucket and fill the trough to water our Missouri mule sculptures. Water flows out of the trough and into a nearby stream and seemingly disappears into the ground. What you don’t see just under the surface is an intricate water recovery system that catches the water runoff and recirculates it back to the pump.

In the conservation court, visitors can trace the path of water from the sky, through the plant and back to the sky again. In the garden, one of the best ways to conserve water is to capture it. On May 17 you can learn how to capture rainwater runoff with a rain barrel for later use. Continue reading