Garden Glory in a Rainy Season

And the rain, rain, rain; came down, down, down … seems I recall that line from a classic Winnie the Pooh episode. Precipitation fell 22 days in May for a total of 8.5 inches of rain at Powell Gardens weather station and  we know we were on the low-end of rainfall amounts in the region. Day five of June and we already have 2.7 inches of rainfall for the month.

Karen Case took this shot from the Heartland Harvest Garden’s silo looking down on the Villandry Quilt Garden on one of our lovely rainy days. Consider bringing an umbrella and walking the gardens in the rain!  It’s a memorable experience. Continue reading

A Sweet Spring

Greater Kansas City’s normally manic-depressive climate has acted more like the Pacific Northwest or England this spring with quite consistent moderate temperatures and rainfall.  Flowers from annuals and bulbs to flowers on shrubs and trees have never lasted so long!

Above are some new perennials in our trial beds: white ‘Snowcap’ Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) surrounded by ‘Cat’s Meow’ Catmint (Nepeta faassenii).  Cat’s Meow is a very compact catmint that virtually blooms all summer and is currently available — Snowcap chives is still under trial but stunning and showing promise. No seedlings for us, which is an issue with most chives.

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Hanami or “flower viewing” is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers — mainly flowering cherry trees that they call “sakura.” It’s a custom I have always admired and have made time to experience the sublime flowering of springtime trees that bloom before they leaf out or are “foliated” in flowers and color. It’s that time of year again in Greater Kansas City and I invite everyone to join in this experience.

These are flowers of the ‘Reliable’ almond which is actually a peach-almond hybrid (Prunus x amygdalo-persica) blooming beside the arbor in the Heartland Harvest Gardens’ vineyard. It does produce an edible nut (peach pits are NOT edible) and it, along with the cultivar ‘Hall’s Hardy’ grace both sides of the arbor and are coming into full bloom this week. Continue reading

Keeping carnivores

Growing carnivorous plants can be a uniquely rewarding horticultural experience. So many shapes, flower sizes and foliage—the options are numerous. And the trap options are numerous, too—like the sticky leaves of butterworts and the closing traps of Venus fly traps.

These plants are not just beautiful but also fun to watch. Like most gardeners, I have watched many of my plants get assailed by insects, so I take great pleasure in keeping a few plants that bite back.


Venus fly traps (above) are probably the best known carnivorous plants and are found in the swamps of North Carolina. Because of their exotic, even alien appearance, many don’t realize that these plants are adapted to a winter dormancy period. In the fall they need lower temperatures and drier conditions so they can die back and take a rest.

Sundews (above) are closely related to the Venus fly trap and can be found all over the world in both temperate and tropical regions. They have sticky trap leaves to catch unwitting insects that try to walk over their leaves.

Butterworts (not pictured) are another sticky carnivore. They have lime green leaves covered in minuscule sticky hairs to catch their prey. However, their most striking feature is the lovely flower they produce.

Pitcher plant (above) is a common name used to refer to several species including the American Pitcher Plant and the tropical Nepenthes. The trapping method for these lethal lovelies is the same; an insect is lured in to drink the fragrant liquid in the pitcher where it becomes trapped, and is digested by enzymes in the liquid.

General care
Carnivorous plants are not the easiest plants to care for but with a little TLC they can thrive as houseplants. Start a well-drained potting mix with lots of peat and sphagnum; some sand won’t hurt either. Make sure plants get plenty of sun, a southern window is ideal but an eastern one will do. In my office here in the Powell Gardens’ basement my carnivorous plants thrive under grow lights.

Special care must be taken with water for carnivorous plants; only distilled, rain or reverse osmosis water should be used. Humidity is also a concern as many of these plants are native to steamy bogs. I like to grow my carnivorous plants in terrariums to insure constant humidity and simulate their habitat.

Don’t be afraid grow a carnivorous plant today. If you want to learn more check out our Monster Terrarium class on April 11. Although registration has closed online, we have room for a few more. Call Linda for late registration options at 816-697-2600 ext. 209.

Out of the Blue, A Spring Butterfly Exhibit

IT’S MARCH! Close friends know that’s my line for this magical month when winter finally let’s go and spring takes hold. Geese, blackbirds and robins migrate in droves and the wetlands come alive with the sounds of spring peepers and chorus frogs. The first flowers come to life from crocus and snowdrops in the garden to the little-noticed blooms of silver maple and elm trees overhead.

In celebration of the season and to entice guests out for a visit, Powell Gardens has added some magic to our conservatory display: Morpho butterflies from the tropical rainforests! This morpho March madness means shipping in 1,200 morpho chrysalises from butterfly farmers like El Bosque Nuevo in Costa Rica.  300 chrysalises arrived last week and have begun to hatch in droves, another 300 chrysalises arrive this Friday. (for comparison, we ship in less than 400 total for the Festival of Butterflies in August).  The display opens on Saturday morning (March 7) at 10 a.m and will run daily through the month of March from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Above is a newly emerged female Blue Morpho — I feel these March Morphos are a bit deeper blue than the summer forms we display during the Festival of Butterflies. Continue reading

A Crop of Spring Gardening Classes

It’s time to start planning for the gardening season. If you are not sure how to get started, sign up for one of our hands-on gardening classes. We’ll get you out in the garden so you can see techniques firsthand and send you home with hand-picked seeds or plants to increase your odds of success!

Starting a home vegetable garden can be fun and rewarding but it also can quickly become overwhelming. Proper planning can eliminate many obstacles and ensure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. This spring start “smart” with our Garden Planning Workshop, where you can learn veggie care basics and design your home garden with expert supervision.

You’ll also receive a tried and true collection of seeds and learn everything you need to know to grow them into a bountiful harvest.

Maybe it’s time to branch out with some perennial edibles. We have got you covered with our perennial favorite Growing Strawberries class, and a brand new class, Growing Asparagus.

In both classes, you’ll learn the fundamentals you need to grow these spring favorites and get hands-on experience in the garden. You get to take home plants selected specifically for our climate and will have what you need to know to plant them at home.

These classes fill up quickly, so register today to save your seat in class. Hope to see you in the garden.

To see a complete listing of upcoming education classes, follow the Learning link.

Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

Sunday, February 15th was the annual Great Backyard Bird Count at Powell Gardens. The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada to gauge bird populations at the peak of winter in February before birds begin their migration northward for spring. This year 17 people participated in observing and counting birds at Powell Garden — the weather was the coldest in all the dozen years we have been conducting the count and many participants cancelled. Visitors who still made the trek to Powell Gardens were treated to good birds at the feeders, observed comfortably from indoors.

The count provided a good opportunity to see up close many of our unique sparrow species, sometimes called LBB’s (little brown birds). This is a White-throated Sparrow, a bird that breeds up north in Canada (I believe it’s their national bird because of its beautiful song). It does have a white throat and always has a bit of “egg on its face” — yellow “lores” (between the bill and eye) in birder’s language.  Continue reading