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A Blooming Adventure

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

all of those on the grounds," he said. Included are some of what he calls the most underappreciated varieties, such as chinkapin and Shumard oaks, blackhaw viburnum and two wild roses-prairie rose (also known as Illinois rose) and low prairie rose (also called Arkansas rose).

More and more gardeners are turning to plants that require minimal care. The reason is evident at Powell Gardens.

"There's less mowing, less watering, less fertilization and, hopefully, with the diversity of trees, fewer pest problems and less pesticide use," Branhagen explained.

Powell Gardens encourages the thousands of gardeners and others who visit each year and take part in classes to try natural gardening.

"People aren't just peony gardening anymore," Tschanz said. "People have a different understanding of gardening. No longer is your goal to have the greenest lawn, but maybe your goal is to have a more natural looking landscape."

Protecting habitat and long-term ecosystem health are primary considerations throughout the Garden. Visitors learn which plants are best for providing food or habitat for wildlife. For example, including phlox in your garden provides nectar for butterflies and other insects.

The use of fertilizers and pesticides is discouraged to reduce chemical-laden runoff into groundwater and streams.

Land stewardship is central to Powell Gardens' education program. Each year, about 12,000 people participate in adult and youth classes and tours, said Sheila Aaron, director of education. Adults can learn about topics from ornamental grasses and tree pruning to creating gardens that entice birds.

Field trips and tours give children a chance to dig their fingers into the soil or build a birdhouse or feeder.

"The younger you can start the better," Aaron said. "Just walking barefoot on the grass and touching things is important."

Special programs draw huge crowds. More than 15,000 people turned out for the fourth butterfly festival held last summer.

The Conservation Department and Powell Gardens have formed a partnership to improve conservation education. The Conservation Department funded a $1 million education wing in the new visitors' center and has committed $4 million toward the cost of the $9.6 million Discovery Center. It is being built along what was once Brush Creek near the Country Club Plaza shopping district.

The Discovery Center, part of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Legacy Park, will give the Conservation Department and Powell Gardens a major presence in the central city.

Scheduled to open in the summer of 2001, the Discovery Center will feature workshop areas where visitors can learn about various facets of nature. Outside, they will find gardens, natural areas and a lake.

Even with the new buildings and flower exhibits at Powell Gardens, Tschanz and his staff are not finished. Their master plan calls for an island garden, scheduled to open this spring, that will host aquatic or streamside plants, including native lotus, buttonbush and cardinal flower. Also on the drawing board is a demonstration vegetable garden. Other possibilities include a romantic garden and a children's garden.

There's still plenty of space at Powell Gardens for imaginations to run free. And, as anyone who's ever coaxed a seed from the earth knows, a gardener's work is never really done

Visiting Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens is about 30 miles east of Kansas City. Watch for the sign on the north side of U.S. 50 just east of highways W and Z. The gardens are open to the public from 9 a.m. April through October and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. November through March. There is a small admission charge. Call (816) 697-2600 or visit their website, www.powellgardens.org, for more information

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