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




October 2017

Guests love the Kauffman Memorial Garden’s spring bulb display, but personally, October is this gardeners favorite month to enjoy the beauty of nature. The trees turn colors that are out of this world, the annuals are at their maximum size and the wind turns crisp, harkening the holiday season and warm family memories.


October colors in the Kauffman Garden

The summer and early fall annual flower beds were chock full of bright and vibrant colors that included ‘Ruby Siam’ bananas, variegated tapioca, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, ‘Redhead’ coleus, chrysanthemums and many other bold-hued plants.

Then it was time to remove the warm weather plants to get the annual beds ready for the tulip and cool-season flowers. We removed at least 5 truckloads of plant material and sent it off to Missouri Organic for composting.


Volunteers and staff removing the summer plants


mid-removal of the summer annual flowers

It can be quite a stark contrast for our regular visitors to see bountiful flower beds, overflowing with color, and then the next day, an empty plant-less scene.

After every plant is gone, we remove stray leaves and grade the beds smooth. If the soil level is low, then we bring in compost that is rich with macro and micronutrients. By keeping the soil healthy, we are able to meet most of the needs of our plants and flowers.


Fall beds waiting for cool season plants

Once the flower beds are prepped and ready, it is time to pick up our violas, dianthus and pansies from the greenhouses at Powell Gardens. I really try to maximize every trip, so quite often I fill up the back of a box truck many times and I even pack the passenger seat in the cab up as full as I can get it. I haven’t resorted to driving with plants on my lap, but I won’t rule that option out for the future.


The truck is literally full

Underneath all of the cool season violas and dianthus the Kauffman gardeners and volunteers will plant thousands of tulip bulbs of every shape and size that we can get our hands on. Every year the design is different and the annual flowers, amazingly will last from October to early June. Even our little Crazy cat likes to get involved in the action.


Princess Crazy Cat is protecting the bulbs.

Of course, nothing is ever easy, and this year there seemed to be a lot of construction going on while we were trying to plant. First, there was a crew hanging holiday lights around the Kauffman Foundation building. Most of us had to wear hard hats while planting that day since we were working directly under a huge lift.


Planting cool season annuals and bulbs at the Kauffman Foundation

Then, before we could plant around Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman, their markers had to be straightened. Over time they had settled and become crooked. Since they are the reason that the garden is even in existence, it was very important to make sure that their corner of the garden is kept in good shape.


Straightening markers before flower planting.

After their markers were straightened we added about 2 yards of fresh compost, 200 tulip bulbs and about 400 light pink violas.

The updates didn’t end there. Days after we completed the winter plantings at our front gate, the crumbling curbs were re-poured. I had to divert my eyes and calm my nerves as workers worked around freshly planted and graded flower beds. It was a necessary construction project, but it is never an easy thing to watch.


Pouring new curbs around the front flower beds

On a more fun note about spooky things in the garden that get my heart racing, most of the calm mornings this October, there was a mist coming from the waters of the main canal fountain. It was a very eerie and fun scene as the fog crept up around the dancing sculptures.


The morning fog on the fountain

I saw another Halloweenie sight when I was dead-heading Canna and I saw a sinister mantis chomping on the head of a large grasshopper. This insect was fat and happy and not bothered by me at all.


A spooky Halloween mantis

As the month of October comes to an end, the gardeners at the Kauffman Garden were very pleased to see that the Endless Summer hydrangeas FINALLY bloomed. Both spring 2016 and 2017 we had late frosts that damaged their blooms, making them flowerless when they should be covered in bountiful bracts. The plants have remained healthy, but we were really missing those large, multi-colored stems in our entry allee.


Everyone have a safe and enjoyable Halloween! We will see you in November.


Endless Summer Hydrangea in the Kauffman Garden





September 2017


Kansas City gardeners have to be able to handle just about any kind of weather. After almost record rainfall and flooding, we now have to drag hoses around the garden because unseasonable heat and sun.

The chrysanthemums have come to the garden. We order hundreds of these colorful fall favorites to fill in holes where tired summer annuals need to be replaced. Warmer than usual temperatures will make the mums flower faster and finish faster, so we will replacing them with bulbs and our winter annuals before too long.

Volunteers removing Sunpatiens from the Kauffman Garden Allee

I was really kicking myself this year because I hadn’t been on any garden tours. There are so many in Kansas City and no matter how big or small, I always find inspiration from seeing what the imaginations of local gardeners have created. Sadly, most of these tours occur in the early summer, so I thought that I was out of luck.

This year the Marais des Cygnes Extension Master Gardeners in Miami County decided to hold a late summer garden tour entitled, ‘A September to Remember.’ I was pretty happy to see a lot of names and gardens on the list of tour stops that I recognized from reading The Kansas City Gardener Magazine.

I made no secret to anybody that I was very excited to visit Long Lips Farm, the garden of Lenora Larson in Paola, Kansas. She too was excited to show how glorious a midwest garden can look in late summer when the painted lady and monarch butterflies are in the garden.

Throughout the Long Lips Farm were outdoor rooms created by “walls” of trees, shrubs and large perennials. Close up, these rooms contained beautiful examples of caterpillar and butterfly host plants. Important specimens were labeled for both the plant’s identity and the butterfly or moth that it will attract.


Fun signage about caterpillar host plants

Ms. Larson uses the color purple, artfully throughout the garden. There were many pieces of whimsical purple sculpture and purple plants. These were accented by colors like pink, red and orange, splashed around the garden to create focal points.


Purple Power

Taking a garden tour is a fabulous way to meet and talk with area gardeners about gardening techniques, favorite plants and anything else that comes to mind.

I was very impressed to see how beautifully all of the gardens on the tour incorporated midwest native plants into an oasis for both man and beast. There is a lot of space in Louisburg and Paola and many of the the gardens were enhanced by animals, prairies for pollinators and luxurious outdoor patio areas.

The Spring Valley farm had a lot of hidden surprises in the back field. From afar it didn’t seem to be any other color than green.


Edge of the prairie at Spring Valley Farm

Then when I walked on the paths mowed through the grasses and goldenrod there were so many butterflies.


This butterfly is in camo in this grass.


A skipper on a purple Kansas native flower


A butterfly enjoying some nectar

After visiting most of the gardens on the tour I saw that every stop had butterfly information and often live caterpillars. It was overall a very beautiful and informative day.


Signage about butterflies and pollinators.

I managed to see 5 out of the 6 gardens on the tour. If I didn’t have to run back to the Kauffman Garden, I could have made it to all of the stops. It was time to feed the cat her dinner and check on our own butterflies and butterfly friendly plants on a busy Saturday afternoon.

The pineapples were a hoot in the summer garden. Now the mums have taken their place. Every plant in the garden seems to be putting on its final performance before the frosts begin.




August 2017


August keeps a Kansas City gardener very busy. This summer we had to deal with the near-record rainfall and unusually cool temperatures.

This was also the time for a much anticipated eclipse on August 21st. The garden was slightly busier than normal for a Monday, and after the event was over, there was a lovely garden to stroll through.


Eclipse watchers on August 21st

Early on, someone told me “look, there are little eclipses in the shadows.” I thought that this person a was pulling my leg. Then when I was walking past the chocolate mimosa tree, the already lacy shadows had thousands of tiny “eclipses” in them. If I would have known this sooner, I could have checked out all of the plants that throw interesting shadows. I guess I will just do it the next time we have an eclipse.


Little eclipse-shaped shadows

When we weren’t looking up at the sky, the gardeners and volunteers were pruning the China Snow tree lilacs in the Kauffman Garden’s entry allee. This is a yearly task where we sculpt the trees into a French-inspired upper hedge. Horticulturist Duane Hoover has always been inspired by the gardens of Europe.


Duane is up in the bucket.

When I had my turn in the pruning bucket, I went up a little higher than the trees to get a birds eye view. There I saw Duane, watering atop the pergola. The pergola was planted with traditional plants like sweet potato vine, trailing vinca and trailing bidens.


This year I chose the plants for the annual flower beds while Duane was in Hawaii on vacation. With his trip as inspiration, I made my plant order with all tropical or Hawaiian plants so that I could have my own tropical vacation every day this summer and not have to leave Kansas City.

It all started with pineapples. I had never seen them in a Kansas City garden, so we set out finding those first.


Pineapple with Portulaca ‘Cupcake Grape Jelly’

Then I chose other bold colors and textures in plants like ‘Ruby Siam’ banana, variegated tapioca, taro root, portulaca ‘cupcake grape jelly’, colorful crotons, majesty palms and many other tropical favorites.

What I found out about pineapple was astounding. They have very specific water requirements and they prefer organic, natural fertilizers over synthetic ones. I also found it curious that most people assumed that pineapples grew on trees. They are indeed bromeliads that grow in the ground. They are also spiky so if you plant them, wear long pants and long sleeves!

August is also when Powell Gardens holds their annual Festival of Butterflies. This year the weather was great and the tropical butterfly room added more floor space to roam around and admire these beautiful insects.


The tropical butterfly room at Powell Gardens

Back at the Kauffman Memorial Garden the monarchs and skippers were really enjoying the butterfly bushes (Buddleia) and milkweed (Asclepias) throughout the perennial beds. We even had one that was attracted to our fountain guy’s brush. He gave me a funny look when he caught me taking a picture of his brush.


A skipper butterfly attracted to a bright brush

Since the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden is a Monarch Watch Weighstation, we allowed hundreds of tropical butterfly weed to grow throughout the perennial beds. Now we are enjoying gardening amongst the flutters of thousands of wings. The more nectar rich plants that you grow, the more butterflies and pollinators you will have visit your garden.

Gardening with butterfly friendly plants will not only enrich your garden, but it is also supposed to enrich your life. I can get behind that because I see these plants bring enjoyment to so many people every day.


A monarch butterfly on a tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)