18 June 2009

Great Beauty Greets Visitors at Overland Park Arboretum south of Kansas City KS

If you are in the Kansas City area this summer, make time for a detour to the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden. It is a relatively new addition to the area and is not very well known.

The gardens open at 8 a.m. every day of the year except Christmas or when the weather causes closure. There is no admission charge for either the gardens or the Environmental Education Center.

Throughout the year there are special events to attend. For example, on June 27, an annual fundraiser called Stems: A Garden Soiree, is being held. The $75 tickets sell out when they reach 1,000 attendees. Restaurants, musicians, wineries and artists contribute their specialties for the night. (opkansas.org/_Vis/Arboretum/Events/stems_soiree.cfm)The Erickson Water Garden was the first feature built in the Arboretum. As you enter the gardens and walk down the path, plants surround waterfalls and ponds.

When we visited the Arboretum last week, it was obvious that their summer weather is a few weeks ahead of ours. Tall Cosmos and sunflower plantings were already in full bloom, and the Baptesias had already made this season’s fat seedpods.

Because it is an arboretum, many of the plants are identified. The path from the building down to the large pond is lined with both familiar and new plants in pots and flowerbeds. Several plants have detailed information for gardeners to read.

One plant on display from Australia is Ptilotus exaltatus Joey, hardy in zones 9 and 10 (we are zone 7). The flowers look like a pink bottlebrush plant so it is called Pink Mulla Mulla or Lamb’s Tail. (Seeds available at parkseed.com/gardening/PD/51641)

A new Blanket Flower Hybrid, called Fanfare (Gaillardia grandiflora) has petals that resemble coral honeysuckle. (Plants available at highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/53243/)

Sunflower Soraya is an award winning multi-branching selection that reseeds the next year. It grows 5-feet tall and has 5 blooms per stem. (Seeds available at www.territorialseed.com/product/759/147)

Around the ponds and in the gardens, artists are painting at their easels using the beauty of the surroundings to create lasting memories.

The Monet Garden is loaded with color. One side of the path is all pastels and the other side is deeper purples and reds.

The Arboretum was designed with trees selected for their disease and insect resistance to provide guidance for homeowners and landscape professionals.

The Xeriscape gardens are also intended to be teaching gardens in that they demonstrate water-efficient landscaping.

Legacy Garden and Ailie’s Glade are shade gardens in a woodland setting. Regional native plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers are in the Marder Woodland Garden, which was dedicated in 1999.

New in 2000, the Rotary Children’s Discovery Garden has a frog pond, a story tree, vine covered tunnels, a sunflower maze and a grass maze.

The entire 300 acres of the park are not developed So far there are 5 miles of paved, asphalt and wood chip sidewalks, paths and trails.

Eighty-five percent of the land is dedicated to the restoration of natural ecosystems. The front entrance to the Arboretum is designed to represent a prairie ecosystem with Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem and Indian Grass.

The Dry Oak Savanna is an area with widely spaced oak trees and the Dry Oak-Hickory area is filled with Post Oak, Black Oak and Shagbark Hickory.

Other ecosystems represented are: Mesic Oak-Hickory Forest (Ash, Hackberry, Paw Paw), Riparian Woodland floodplain, Woodland Draws (Dogwood, Coneflower, Milkweed), Dry Wooded Swales and an Oil Field.

Wolf Creek flows through the park and there are two 75-foot bridges. Trail maps are free at the visitors’ center.

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden is south of Kansas City KS, one-half mile west of Hwy 69 at 8909 West 179 ST. Information: http://www.opkansas.org/ and 913-685-3604.

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