July 2018

This July the garden felt like a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s start with the good.


Annual flowers at the entrance of the Kauffman Memorial Garden.

July is the time when annual flowers have grown enough to crowd out weeds and really start to look like the pictures in the seed catalog. This summer’s hot-hued garden beauties are aflame in pinks, reds and magenta.

A favored plant by garden guests has been the ‘Celebrities’ mixed miniature hollyhock found at the Kauffman Garden’s front entrance. We put them front and center, surrounded by ‘Butterfly’ pentas, golden melampodium and a mixed variety of annual vinca.


Swaths of summer annual flowers

Another eye-catching plant that the gardeners and volunteers were asked about daily was the ‘Carnival’ Amaranth. This plant is also known to old-school gardeners as the “summer”poinsettia” because they have very bright leaves that mimic a bold poinsettia. They are not actually poinsettias or related to them in any way. These amaranth just happen to have striking-colored, wide leaves.

The summer poinsettia amaranth would have a better following in gardening circles, but their habit can be a little unpredictable. Every plant will be a different height or have a different shape. We chose to plant them in dots throughout the planting bed and hope for the best. Most of these amaranth were so tall that we needed to affix them to garden stakes.


‘Carnival’ Amaranth

Now for the bad and the ugly.

Unfortunately, the dreaded Japanese beetles are also attracted to hollyhocks and amaranth. They are also very difficult to control whether you rely on organic or non-organic techniques.

We have inoculated the soil with Milky Spore which controls the Japanese beetle grubs that emerge from the soil in late spring/early summer. We knock the beetles into soapy water in the morning when they are groggy and throughout the day when there is a spare moment.


Picking Japanese beetles every day!

There are oil-based spray products like Neem oil and horticultural oil with pyrethrin which will kill these pests, but when temperatures are above 90F, the product will burn the plants. This makes it very difficult to use anything with an oil base, as our July temperatures were closer to 100 most days.

There are also non-organic products like Sevin and Malathion that will harm the butterflies and pollinating insects. When we are forced to use these we cut all of the flowers off of the Canna or roses, then spray the plant down. That way the munching beetles are harmed, and the pollinators just go to a different plant.

Using beetle traps are fine for people that have a lot of land, as they are recommended to be used about 1/8-1/4 mile away from your garden. Most normal gardeners and homeowners don’t have that kind of space.

I even experimented with literal snake oil. When looking at the hardware store for a concentrated cedar oil (which Japanese beetles are supposed to hate) the only product I could find with this ingredient was a snake deterrent. To make a long story short, it didn’t work


This has prompted me to invent something called “garden blinders.” This is when you walk past all of the beetles and try not to notice their damage until their adult stage is completed at the end of July. Then you cut off damaged plant parts when the beetles are gone for the season.

The Japanese beetles are going to be back next year, so we have the whole winter to think up new schemes to battle them. Gardening in Kansas City is not for the faint of heart. There are droughts, floods, insects and diseases to keep us busy. In the end, it is important to not sweat the small stuff and enjoy the triumphs when you can.





May and June 2018


Giant tulips and Tom Corbin’s Jazz I and Jazz II sculptures

This May, the tulips sprang from the ground after much anticipation. Our weather was extreme, to say the least, and seeing brightly-colored blooms after the bitterly cold winter was a joyful sight to the gardeners and volunteers at the Kauffman Memorial Garden.

We chose bulb blends like “Big Ups” to line the main walkway areas of the garden and accented other spaces with bulbs donning variegated foliage and unique petal structures.


Tulip ‘Big Ups’



Just after the tulips finished their big show, the garden’s iris collection started to bloom. Most of the varieties found in the Kauffman Garden were bred by a local professor and Iris breeder named Dr. Norlan Henderson, or just “Doc” to his many friends.

One of Doc Henderson’s iris varieties, ‘Kansas City’, had five minutes of fame when it was featured on our city’s 1984 car inspection sticker. I consider this dark and sultry purple flower to be the highlight of the collection due to its reputation and locally-inspired name.


Dr. Norlan Henderson’s ‘Kansas City’ Bearded Iris

The best way to get your hands on many of the Henderson iris varieties is to call or visit Gower Missouri’s Commanche Acres. The owners of this iris farm thought so highly of “Doc” and the Kansas City area that they named some of their own breeds of iris after him and the local area.


‘Doctor Norlan Henderson’ Tall Bearded Iris


Iris ‘Plaza Lights’

As May drew to a close, the birds of the garden started their nesting. The same female duck has returned to the garden for at least three years. Each season she gets just a little bit smarter and wiser about dealing with our cat.

I don’t know who is more excited for the ducklings, the mama duck or the gardeners.


A Mallard duck nestled on her nest

When they finally hatched, this mama duck taught the ducklings to swim within the first day. She showed them all of the good hiding spots for when the cat is on the prowl, and then they waddled out of the garden when she felt like they had enough education for the outside world.


Mama Duck showing the ducklings how to hop into the fountain.

Once June began, even with the ducks gone for the season, there was still a lot of animal activity in the garden.

A newcomer to the Kauffman Memorial Garden is a turtle named “Chip.” I don’t know if it is a lady turtle or a gentleman turtle, but there is a chip missing from the back part of its shell.

Every time we encounter a new animal in the garden it is fascinating what we can learn about them. For example, Chip is an “Ornate Box Turtle” (Terrapene ornata ornata) which happens to be the state reptile of Kansas. They are commonly found throughout the state of Kansas and most of the western edge of Missouri.

FYI: The official state reptile of Missouri is the three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis). If you ever find one of these you can distinguish their sex by their eye color. The males have red eyes where the females eyes are brown.

The garden can be so many things to so many people. It can be a classroom, a place of mediation or a place of toil and work. My mother always said, “you reap what you sow.” So for now, I’m going to care for the plants, pull the weeds, be nice to the wildlife and try to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the garden while the weather is nice.


March and April 2018

After a very cold winter the gardeners and volunteers at the Kauffman Memorial Garden were ready to see some spring.

Just when the Rustica rubra magnolias and iris reticulata started to bloom, and everyone was packing their winter coats into the attic, the weather turned uncomfortably cold. We saw snowflakes on more than one day and temperatures were cold enough to break records. Delicate perennials like bleeding hearts (Dicentra) were burned by the drastic fluctuations.

On the occasional warm day we were able to get out into the garden and cut back perennials that had been beaten down by the winter weather. It is important to allow most of the foliage to remain on garden plants over the cold months because many helpful, beneficial insect overwinter in leaf debris, hollow perennial stems and close to the soil surface.

Even with wacky weather, the insects, birds  and other animals of the garden are starting to emerge from their winter hibernation.

A mantis pod and a green lacewing in the March garden.

The ducks have made their return to the Kauffman Memorial Garden. Every spring these feathery friends make morning visits and sometimes even make their nests in the perennial beds.


A male Mallard doing laps

After spending time with the ducks in Kansas City, this Kauffman gardener went to Portland, Oregon to see what their ducks were up to.

Mallard ducks in the Portland Chinese Garden

Koi in the Chinese Garden

The city of Portland Oregon is about one planting zone warmer and quite a bit more moist than Kansas City. While hiking in the city’s Forest Park I saw some interesting slimy creatures that really like the weather there.

Snails and slugs in Portland’s Forest Park

Portland being Portland; I peered into the stump of an evergreen tree to look for moss and I came upon a Triceratops. They were thought to be extinct in the area but recent efforts by the residents have increased the number of dinosaur sightings in the city.


Afraid that I may encounter more dinosaurs, we headed back to Kansas City straight away.

Back in the Kauffman Garden there was quite a buzz going on around the Haven hive by local artist and beekeeper Jarrett Mellenbruch. When the project was originally erected we were instructed to look for swarming behaviors. This is when bees start to leave the hive. They will form a huge cluster around the queen to protect her.


The reason why the queen and her drones have left the protection of the hive is that a new queen was born, so the old one hits the road. The old queen also releases a lot of pheromone, so her most loyal drones follow her and protect her until a new home is found.


Artist/beekeeper Mellenbruch is explaining bee behavior to the gardeners

The bee swarm was removed and taken to another site where they can be helpful in the Haven hive project. These wild bees are studied to look for clues to save the domestic bee population from colony collapse.

The bees that remain at the Kauffman Garden are busy gathering pollen and nectar to present to their new queen. The early spring flowering quince ‘Toyo-Nishiki’ has been a popular spot for pollen gathering.

This Kansas City spring has been the usual ups and downs. Snow, sleet, rain or shine, spring is here and as the garden awakens lets enjoy all of the fun and unusual creatures that emerge in the landscape.


February 2018

This February in the garden many small bulbs felt that it was safe enough to come out of hibernation and enjoy some unusually warm and sunny days.


Iris reticulata


The first of the Snowdrops (Galanthus)

When the bulbs start to emerge, it is time for the gardeners and volunteers at the Kauffman Memorial Garden to do perennial bed cleanup. We do this so that the bulbs have extra sunshine and we can spread fresh compost over any low spots.


Cleaning leaves from the hydrangea

Many guests at the Kauffman Memorial Garden ask how much they should prune their ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea. Luckily, this plant is very forgiving. In the picture above, you can see that this year we chose to cut the winter branches to a height of about 2 feet tall. The ‘Endless Summer’ variety is an unusual macrophylla, because it blooms on both old and new wood. This means that you can either prune it to any height, or not touch it at all, and you will probably get some kind of bloom. Our only issue is that some years the spring blooms are damaged by frosts. Kansas City is land of wild weather fluctuations, so there isn’t much we can change about that.

During the cleanup process we try to be gentle to protect hibernating beneficial insects. This includes leaving some areas alone until the weather breaks. It also may involve waiting to prune plants that have praying mantis egg cases on them. I found this mantis pod while cutting back some anemone. It looks like one that already hatched last spring, but it is still fun to see them.


An old mantis egg case on a cotoneaster

The cleanup process continued to the hellebore patch. Once the old leaves were cut off, we saw that the bloom stalks and leaves were already starting to emerge.


Hellebore are one of the first things that we cut back in early spring.

As gardeners we try to make the most out of every sunny day in February. The winter is not over yet, and anything is possible in Kansas City. Here are some pictures from this month’s snowy and icy weather. Have a fabulous rest of your winter and we will see you in the garden!


Japanese Flowering Crabapple in the snowy morning.


The Kauffman Memorial Garden on a snowy February morning.





January 2018

It’s a new year and time for a change. The gardeners at the Kauffman Memorial Garden have taken down the holiday decorations and are getting ready for the late winter Orangery display.

This year we are putting together a tropical, Victorian orchid display with plants on loan from the Powell Gardens permanent collections.


Picking out orchids at Powell Gardens for the Orangery display 

While we were at the Powell Gardens greenhouse I had a pretty good visit with their cat, “Hazel.” She does a great job of greeting volunteers and scaring away field mice.


January is also when the Western Nursery and Landscape Association holds their annual conference. This has all of the benefits of a green industry trade show, mixed with roundtable discussions and educational lectures on current horticultural topics.

This is a two-day event that hosts professionals from all over the country with an emphasis on the midwest. One of my favorite writers from the Kansas City Gardener Magazine, Scott Woodbury, gave a lecture about stewardship of native plants on the second day of the “Western.”


Scott Woodbury of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden

The Western isn’t solely for industry professionals. Members of the public are always invited to attend and experience speaking to garden authors and checking out the latest gardening technologies.

While we were picking up plants and attending conferences winter decided to give us a little dusting of snow. The garden always seems so much more special when the plants have a sparkly, white backdrop.


Violas and dianthus poking through the snow


Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick – Corylus avellana ‘Contorta‘ in the snow


The entry allee, freshly shoveled

Clear sunny days are a fabulous time to get out and enjoy the birds and wildlife of the winter garden. The outdoor world is filled with January surprises around every corner, waiting for you to discover them. Happy 2018!


Spanish Flag – Ipomea lobata

December 2017

This is the time of year when volunteers and gardeners at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden transform the Orangery into a winter wonderland.


Hanging up snowflakes in the Kauffman Garden Orangery

While Duane was up high hanging decorations, I made trips to the greenhouses at Powell Gardens to pick up hundreds of poinsettias of different varieties and colorful florist accent plants.


So many plants, I had to put some on the dashboard!

Once all of the trees were lit and the plants were in place, the room transformed into a polar bear’s woodland fishing retreat. The fur on this bear is made out of painted and crushed hydrangea blossoms that we collected in the garden this August.


We used poinsettia varieties that always please the garden guests as well as paperwhite narcissus and delicate, white Euphorbia for texture.


Poinsettias ‘Ice Punch’, ‘Polly’s Pink’ and ‘Princettia Light Pink’

The whole time that we were decorating inside, we were also watering the cold-hardy annual flowers and evergreens outside. This December was extremely dry, windy and warm. This was preventing the plants from going dormant and the ground was getting quite dry.


Watering annuals and broadleaf evergreens

Sometimes it feels like a gardener’s work is never done and this December that statement really hit home with us. There was rarely a day this month where the sprinklers were not running somewhere in the garden. The plants were grateful for the moisture and the robins were especially enjoying the puddles and fresh water to splash around in.

Then it rained!!! It was only about 1/2″, but it was glorious. That made it possible to get out and see some of the other festive holiday offerings in Kansas City. One stop was to Farrand Farms. Keith Farrand gave an informative tour to the Western Landscape and Nursery Association (WLNA) Emerging Leaders group.

We got to go behind-the scenes into the headhouse and hear some of the trials and accomplishments that Farrand Farms has seen over the years with special emphasis on the poinsettia growing side of things. People in the green industry are notoriously busy during the summer months, so it is always a treat to get one-on-one time with them to talk a little shop.


WLNA Emerging Leaders trip to Farrand Farms

I also visited the Powell Gardens Festival of Lights. The Kauffman Gardeners work for Powell, and during my plant pickup trips I saw many gardeners hanging ornaments and lights all over the place, so I wanted to see what it all looked like once the sun went down and the lights came on.


A reflected red indoor tree with a white outdoor topper

When I arrived at Powell Gardens, I grabbed some hot chocolate and started my tour in their conservatory. There was a large red tree made of lights that ran from the floor up to the ceiling where it continued through the glass roof, up to a white light tree topper.


A butterfly in a gourd-flower garden

Even without snow, the crisp air and lights made for a fun holiday night. The trail was lit with differnt types of twinkle lights and there were imaginative plant-themed displays along the way.

One exhibit that I was looking forward to utilized sculptural metal alliums that a local school made for the festival. They were very bright in the clear night along the path.


Illuminated Alliums

One of my favortie stops on the trail was at the chapel. It is a lovely building that sits, nestled between the prairie, the woods and a lake. It is picturesque in the day time and that night it was the perfect warm, serene place to take a break from the winter chill.


The chapel at Powell Gardens

The gardeners at the Kauffman Memorial Garden wish everyone a warm and wonderful holiday season! We will see you next year in the garden!


November 2017

Just because the weather is getting cooler doesn’t mean that the work is slowing down for the volunteers and gardeners at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden.

By now, thousands of tulip bulbs have been planted beneath the ground with thousands of violas and dianthus of many varieties planted above.


A freshly-planted viola and dianthus winter annual display

Every winter we enjoy the joyful faces of multi-colored violas in the garden. We also get many questions from visitors about our crazy reasons why we plant new things at this time of the year. The guests are often surprised when we tell them that these cool-season plants love the winter but hate the summer.

Along with people guests, the garden’s annual flower  beds have also been visited by the midtown rabbit population. Violas and dianthus are a delicious food source for these furry friends and they can be quite destructive to our outdoor annual display.


rabbit-nibbled violas

In the past we have tried using a combination of traps and stinky sprays to deter garden pests. They worked as long as they were maintained and used correctly. This year, we are experimenting with chicken wire fencing to keep rabbits off of the tasty winter blooms. Below is a picture of our resident cat inspecting the anti-rabbit fence.


Princess Crazy aka Rabbit Fence Inspector

Over the years I have found our garden rabbits to be quite smart. It has crossed my mind many times that I am in the Elmer Fudd position and there are a slew of Bugs Bunnies out there, munching on the flowers. I even made little anti-rabbit signs for these smart rabbits, just to send a the message to them what the fence is for.


“No Rabbits” sign in the garden

We will soon see how successful this fence is in detering the bunnies. It was a lot of work in the beginning, laying out fence, staking and stapling. This gardener hopes that it works, as trapping and moving rabbits makes their chance of survival dicey at best.

Last year, I felt so bad about trapping and removing rabbits from the garden. Doing this removes them from their known food sources and safe hiding spots. I resorted to taking them home to my fenced back yard. At least at my house I knew that they had a little protection and some food. There was even one that stuck around all year, living in my native beds and eating from the clover patch in my side yard.

Once most of the garden chores were caught up at the Kauffman Garden, I was able to head out to Powell Gardens and help with their huge bulb display. They are currently planting 44,000 daffodil bulbs to create an enormous sunburst design that will be seen from a scenic overlook next spring 2018.


Volunteers planting bulbs by the lake at Powell Gardens

In the morning I was on the crew that were using the old-fashioned bulb digging tools that we prefer at the Kauffman Memorial Garden. After lunch I got my hands on some high-powered drills that did a great job digging holes into turfgrass and compacted soils.


Using an augar to drill holes for bulbs

I had never planted bulbs with a drill augar before and it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was really cranking along pretty quickly and the drill was quiet enough that I could chit-chat with friends/coworkers while we planted thousands of daffodil bulbs.

When I got back to the Kauffman Garden it was time to start working on our annual indoor holiday display. The end of November is when we start amassing all of the elements needed for each year’s unique showcase of poinsettia varieties and horticultural cheer.

Horticulturist Duane Hoover has already selected the perfect tree, cut the calloused end off and has it soaking in water in our outdoor storage area.


Duane is prepping for the holiday display with his chainsaw

This year’s Kauffman Garden holiday display will be centered around a life-sized polar bear and her fishing trip. She will be in the woods, trying to catch the family a tasty dinner. We used thousands of airy hydrangea blossoms to create this display and every one of them were sourced at the Kauffman Garden.


Volunteers and gardeners preparing for the holiday display.

The Kauffman Memorial Garden Holiday display will be ready for the first weekend in December and will remain up until just after the new year. Come visit us and celebrate the beauty of the winter garden and the joy of the holiday season.


Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) at the front gate of the Kauffman Garden