Early Warm-ups Spark Concern with Some Gardeners

We have been inundated recently with comments and concerns from gardeners and non-gardeners alike, about the early warm-up and resulting plant growth with so much winter remaining.  Powell Gardens has many small bulbs and our earliest variety of daffodil is already in full bloom. The white forsythia is starting to open and in some warm micro-climates (against a south facing wall or building) the magnolia flowers have broken bud.

Virtually all of the bulbs should be hardy and fine unless we experience an extreme cold. Because of the lack of snow cover up north, we are less likely to have extreme cold descend upon the Midwest.  The early opening magnolia buds will be damaged but most are holding on to dormancy because it is so dry.

The unpredictability of Missouri weather creates a fear that gardeners in many other states do not experience – in 2007 an extreme freeze after an early warm-up did irreparable damage to the gardens and in 2012 we had an early warm-up with no freeze that was followed by an extreme drought through the summer.

The predicted lows this weekend will be below freezing but not extreme and the high temperatures will return to normal and help harden things off. That is good news for plants and gardeners and will slow down the blooming process. Hardy pansies and bulbs will be just fine.

Celebrating a Plant with a Remarkable History

Camellia 1

This fall we have enjoyed the beautiful blooms on one very special plant with a remarkable history. It’s a Camellia japonica that was a gift from Hiroshima, Japan, to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in Independence, Mo. Clifton Truman Daniel, Harry S. Truman’s grandson, carried the plant back from Hiroshima. The blooms pictured are the first on the seedling that Powell Gardens is maintaining.

This Camellia grew from a mother tree that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. That particular tree was located on the grounds of the Housho-in Temple, which is less than 1.25 miles from the bomb hypocenter. At one time the mother tree stood nearly 33 feet tall and was a symbol for the area. The bomb blast scorched the tree above ground but the roots produced a new shoot that was transplanted in 1975 and rose with new life.

Prior to World War II, the grounds of Housho-in Temple had many trees, including ginkgo, pine and others, but most were lost to the atomic bomb. Learn more about the surviving trees and more at Green Legacy Hiroshima, an organization established to safeguard and spread the seeds and saplings of Hiroshima’s survivor trees.

We are honored to care for this Camellia japonica and hope many visitors will enjoy its beauty and history for years to come.

Camellia 3

Camellia 4

Camellia 2

Shop the FreshMade Fair at Powell Gardens on Sunday, November 13!

Get a jump on holiday shopping by coming to Powell Gardens’ FreshMade Fair this Sunday, November 13 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. We’re thrilled to have such a talented group of makers participating in our first pop-up market, which features locally handcrafted items ranging from jewelry, accessories, art, specialty food and drinks, soaps, home decor, ceramics, candles and more. See the full list of FreshMade Fair makers.

In honor of Veterans Day, admission is free for all U.S. military veterans, retirees and active-duty members (with ID) from Nov. 11-13, 2016 (including the FreshMade Fair). You can also get in free by donating a garden tool from our Tool Drive wish list! Otherwise, Garden admission applies: $7/adults, $6/seniors 60+, $3/kids 5-12, and free/members and kids under 5.

Sneak Peek at the FreshMade Fair

Here’s just a taste of what you’ll see this Sunday:

FMF Wolfe Brack succulent microgarden

Wolfe Brack succulent microgardens: Cultivate appreciation for tiny details with mini hanging gardens by artist Wolfe Brack—small succulents hanging in colorful clay planters you can hold in the palm of your hand.

FMF Bryan Fyffe butterfly print

Bryan Fyffe: Bold artwork inspired by nature and born of a blend of ink drawings, photography and digital manipulation.

FMF Micael Elrod textiles

Micael Elrod: Fanciful and intricate textile art depicting flowers, plants and animals, lovingly applied to jackets, bags, and other accessories.

FMF BoysGrow agave ketchup

BoysGrow: Delicious sauces and other treats made locally by young men learning the arts of agriculture, sales, culinary creativity and more.

FMF Three Trees toy jeeps

Three Trees Workshop: Beautifully crafted wooden toys, game boards (chess, Chinese checkers and more), cutting boards, jewelry boxes, and decorative items handmade by Nathan and Cynthia Epp of Warrensburg, Mo.

FMF Lucky Elixir kombucha

The Brewkery: Buy bottles of their handcrafted, artisanal Lucky Elixir kombucha in refreshing flavors like Citrus Hops, Ginger Lime, and Aroniaberry.

FMF Lost and Found Designs jewelry

Lost & Found Design: Inventive jewelry designs made using found items, gemstones and intricately cut wood.

FMF Hugo Tea

Hugo Tea Company: Hugo Tea is organic and handcrafted in small batches to create a truly delicious product. Owned and operated by Kansas Citians, they travel to the source of their teas and handpick the best ingredients.

FMF Gigi Moon KC scape necklace

Gigi Moon: Unique handcrafted jewelry featuring gemstones, fossils and other archaic finds.

FMF Wood + Wick Co soy candle

Wood+Wick Co.: Deliciously-scented candles hand-poured in K.C. Three percent of their profits are used to support our national parks!

FMF Roundhouse trowel

Roundhouse Exchange: Roundhouse Exchange is Kansas City’s source for “durable, sustainable goods” made in the Midwest and made to last. Wood, glass, stoneware, metal and more come together at the intersection of beauty and functionality to create timeless tools for your home.

Again, that’s just a sample of what you’ll see! Thank you to Breanne Wasinger for putting this fantastic event together! We hope you will join us.

Powell Gardens 2016 Fall Lecture Series

As we move into the fall season, perhaps you’re busy getting your garden or landscape ready for its winter rest. Just because your plants will be resting doesn’t mean you can’t continue thinking, planning, and learning about your plants and landscape throughout the fall and winter seasons! We are excited to share with you the final programs in our 2016 Fall Lecture Series, to be held at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Library – two excellent presentations that will inform your work with native plants and increase your environmental awareness.


Dr. Peter Raven
On Tuesday, November 1st, join Dr. Peter Raven – Missouri Botanical Gardens’ president emeritus – as he presents “Saving Plants, Saving Ourselves”, a special lecture championing efforts to care for our environment during a time of rapid change, and emphasizing the importance of plants in our own health. Dr. Raven is a longtime champion of research geared toward saving Earth’s endangered plants and is a leading advocate for conservation and environmental sustainability.
RSVP for this free lecture here.


On Tuesday, December 6th, Alan Branhagen, Powell Gardens’ director of horticulture, will delve into his recently published book, Native Plants of the Midwest – A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden. The book serves as the ultimate guide to the best indigenous plants for the Midwest and provides all you need to know to grow them successfully in your own landscape. During his presentation, he’ll introduce you to some of the best selections from the book and will offer ideas on adding them to your landscape for an infusion, of color, texture, and biodiversity.
Alan’s book will be available in stores starting November 30th. Pre-order your copy now through Perennial Gifts, the Powell Gardens gift shop! You may choose to have the book shipped to you (for an extra fee) or pick it up at the lecture! Call 816-697-2600 x309 or stop by the shop to pre-order.
This lecture is also part of Powell Gardens’ new Native Plant School!
Click here to learn more about Alan’s book, the Native Plant School, and to RSVP for this free lecture after November 6th.

Our Society of Perennial Partners will enjoy exclusive perks at both lectures. Join the Society by November 1st and attend a special pre-lecture reception with Dr. Peter Raven at Andre’s Confisurie Suisse, and receive a free copy of Alan Branhagen’s book and attend an exclusive reception after his lecture, hosted by Wendy and George Powell. RSVP required. Contact Andrea Mason at 816-697-2600 x207 with questions or to join.

This Weekend: Harvest Celebration & Antique Tractor, Engine & Equipment Show

9.30 AC


9 a.m.-5 p.m. October 1-2, 2016

Tractors are rolling in for this weekend’s Harvest Celebration & Antique Tractor, Engine & Equipment Show. Join us for this celebration of our agricultural roots. In addition to the tractor display, we’ll have cooking demonstrations, Show-Me Gourd Society exhibit, pumpkin painting ($4/pumpkin), hayrides, kids’ pedal pull, a dulcimer concert and more. See the Harvest Celebration schedule. Festival admission applies: $12/adults, $10/seniors 60+, $5/children 5-12, free/children under 5 and Gold-level and above members.

9.30 JG quetz

This is also the final weekend for Jurassic Garden! See the dinosaurs before they’re extinct. Jurassic Garden is open through Monday, Oct. 3. Don’t miss it!



Native Plant School

This fall, Powell Gardens brings back its popular Native Plant School (last held in 2010). We have three programs scheduled for 2016 and are busy putting together the Native Plant School curriculum for 2017. The ultimate goal is to start a “Sustainable/Native Garden” certificate (exact name is still to be determined).

Wild Plums (Prunus sp.) are a beautiful and delicious small tree for an edible landscape.

Our first program is scheduled for Saturday, October 8th: Native Edible Plants. Edible plants are currently very popular and speaking about them gives me a flashback to the grand opening of the Heartland Harvest Garden. Edible Landscape guru Rosalind Creasy spoke at that event and reminded us of the importance of soil — what places like Israel spend and do to create soil and how we (who are blessed with it) “throw it away” by building over it, or planting lawns and tidy ornamental plants. She devoted her life towards the compromise of creating edible landscapes. The Heartland Harvest Garden she proclaimed as the largest edible landscape in the country.

Rosalind Creasy’s book Edible Landscaping was recently updated and remains a classic book inspiring edible landscaping.

Native plants, being the original inhabitants and creators of our great Midwestern soils, are the building blocks of a sustainable landscape and there are many native edible plants that do just that in the Heartland Harvest Garden. The natives are integrated with the traditional and unique edible plants to act as support for the web of life that we work with in an organic garden. They attract the insects that are pollinators, predators of other insect pests, or food for birds that help keep the balance of nature in the garden. Learn to work with Mother Nature and not against her!

An Olive Juniper Hairstreak nectars on a mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum sp.), a native edible that makes a fine tea but also attracts many pollinator and beneficial insects to a garden.

Our keynote, Dr. Linda Hezel practices this at her organic “Prairie Birthday Farm.” I got to know her many moons ago as I helped with a survey of butterflies on her farm. Dr. Hezel understands the value of native plants and animals and their role creating a healthy environment that produces nutritious, local food. She will share her story that is inspiring as she provides 25 local chefs with unique produce for their menus including many natives: from wild persimmons and plums to native hops’ spears, wild greens, and honey.

Wild persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are both beautiful and tasty (when ripe!).

Our second speaker is Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall of Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Nadia is soon to have a book on native edible plants published and is one of the most knowledgeable about Lower Midwest native edible plants and preparing delicious foods from them. Nadia also practices the whole web of life scenario of native plants from pollinators and other beneficial insects to the value of birds and other wildlife.

Fresh picked pawpaws from the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Powell Gardens’ Horticulture staff will conduct the remainder of the program beginning with Barbara Fetchenhier who will do a dessert demonstration after lunch. (Plan on sampling some pawpaw ice cream!) Harvest Garden Horticulturist Mark Gawron and I will lead a tour of the garden looking at its many native plants and sharing the inside scoop on their maintenance and value in an edible landscape. Barbara will share a few more treats from the plants on the tour, too.

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) used as groundcover in the Peach Court of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Harvest Garden Gardener Eric Wagner will give the final program on Food Forests and Permaculture — designing and creating landscapes that use nature as a model for developing a diverse habitat filled with appropriate edible plants from canopy shade trees of pecans and walnuts to understory trees of mulberries and pawpaws to shrubs and herbaceous perennials.

We hope you come away from these programs inspired to enhance your own landscape to become more sustainable, healthy, delicious and nutritious!

Marc & Mary Robinson have a native grove of pecans and we have grown nuts from their best tree as a legacy tree for our region.

November 5th will be our second class on Native Shade and Evergreen Trees at Powell Gardens. December 6th will be a new “how to” program introducing my book Native Plants of the Midwest — to be held at the Plaza branch of The Kansas City Public Library.

Native Plants by AB 500 tall

There is a fee for the first two programs. Please sign up for those by calling Linda Burton at 816-697-2600 ext. 209. To sign up for the Dec. 6 library program, which is free, please RSVP (starting Nov. 6) at kclibrary.org. That program includes a book signing (you can purchase the book at the event or in advance from Perennial Gifts, Powell Gardens’ gift shop).


Wondrous Waterlilies

As signs of fall’s subtle beauty begin to appear, let’s take a moment to appreciate a few summer showstoppers that are still here! In the Island Garden, you’ll find jewel-like waterlilies in a rainbow of colors for about two more weeks. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, now’s the perfect time!20572906285_fe38e2aef4_zWaterlilies come in a wide variety of colors and shapes – and though we often can’t get close enough to tell, many are wonderfully scented.

28266867040_8e672d1927_zThis Presnell hybrid tropical waterlily seems to glow!

27517538710_73d3ab6737_z“Peaches and Cream” waterlilies

22046104311_d5303bf896_z“Colchicum” waterlilies

20899162029_acd31a4c39_z“Avalanche” Presnell waterlilies

19857036385_5711759709_z“Pink Beauty” waterlilies

We hope you have the chance to enjoy these final blooms of summer!