Category Archives: Articles from the Director

Special April Plants for Special Places

By Chuck Gleaves

As of the writing of this blog, spring has been so slow in coming I wonder if the plants I will be mentioning will be out, as they normally would, by the time this blog is posted. If they are not blooming yet they should be coming soon.

Most of our gardens are in regularly mulched and amended soils, high in organic matter, evenly moist, well drained and otherwise carefully crafted for luxurious growth for most of our favorite garden plants. There are, however, many plants that are better suited to specialized soils such as wet, dry, gravely, lean, acidic or alkaline. For mid to late April, four different plants come to mind that will be offering their best floral display and are grown in specialized sites.

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Service Building Addition, A Critical Prelude

By Chuck Gleaves

It is exciting times at Kingwood Center Gardens right now. We are breaking out of our chrysalis to create a vastly enhanced visitor experience with our first ever visitor center accompanied by new gardens and expanded parking in a garden setting. Construction is scheduled to begin in March of 2019. As a prelude to all of that and to make it possible for us to manage our dramatically larger and better public attractions we will first make a large addition to our service building.

The Service Building in 1966 shortly After completion. (The new wing will be about where the cars are parked.)

The Service Building in 1966 shortly After completion. (The new wing will be about where the cars are parked.)

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Catalogs

By Chuck Gleaves

Winter is the time for gardeners to read, study, and plan. Inevitably, interesting planting ideas come up and the question arises, “where can I get the necessary plants”. If you wait to see if your area garden centers will be offering them you may be disappointed at a time that is almost too late to order through the mail. The search for each perennial offers a different challenge. For example, I have long admired the giant red stalks of Angelica atropurpureagrowing in a field along my drive home from work, and I recently decided this is the year I am going to grow them in my own garden. As a native plant that is rarely cultivated I assumed I would have to look at native plant specialists. One of my favorites is Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota. They offer bare root Angelica for only $4.00 each. I’ll take five please. Prairie Moon Nursery is also one of the rare retail nurseries that sells flats of plants. So often in modern planting styles, scores of plants are needed. Conveniently they offer flats of 38 plants at a very reasonable price (for retail). Last year I ordered a flat of the native Geranium maculatum. Booming Designs Nursery in Auburn, Georgia is another retailer who sells perennials by the flat. I just discovered them recently and hope to place my first order with them this year.

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Kingwood Center Gardens First-Ever Capital Campaign Goes Public

On Friday December 1st Kingwood Center Gardens announced the public phase of our first ever capital campaign. We have been quietly soliciting foundations and potential major donors for several months and are now on the cusp of reaching 7 million dollars in pledged and received donations. Our goal is 8.5 million, but, if truth be told, 9 million would more fully achieve our phase one construction goals, especially as it relates to the garden aspects of the project.

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Garden Sculpture at Kingwood

By Chuck Gleaves

By my count Mr. King had eleven garden sculptures on his estate, twelve if you include the bronze “Duck Baby” fountain by Edith Parsons in the foyer of the house. We don’t know where they all came from, but we are privilege to some background information about the two pieces Mr. King commissioned with sculptor Anton Vozech. Years ago, a volunteer interviewed the models giving some unique insight into the creative process, but what I thought was most amusing was how intent each model was on distancing themselves from the impression that they modeled in the nude.

"Lady Of Gaillarida" one of two original pieces sculpted by Anton Vozech for Mr. King.

“Lady Of Gaillarida” one of two original pieces sculpted by Anton Vozech for Mr. King.

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Hardy Fall Blooming Perennials

By Chuck Gleaves

I searched all the pictures I have taken in October over the last six years and found far more blooming perennials than I could mention here. Many of them begin blooming in August or September but carry on well into October such as Japanese anemones. One of my favorites is Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’. There are also lots of different Asters and ornamental grasses that meet this descripton. For example, I particularly enjoy my ground hugging Aster ericoides ‘Snowflurry’ in combination with various upright stonecrops like Hylotelephium x ‘Autumn Joy’. Curiously, despite the name (Autumn Joy) the upright stonecrop is finished blooming by October, but remnants of the flowers still make a nice companion for my Aster.

Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry’ flowering with Hylotelephium x ‘Autumn Joy’ on October 14th.

Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry’ flowering with Hylotelephium x ‘Autumn Joy’ on October 14th.

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We Grow Pumpkins

By Charles Gleaves

We do indeed grow pumpkins and for a specific purpose. Our biggest event of the year is the Great Pumpkin Glow. Thousands of people visit us over two days in October for this event featuring lots and lots of pumpkins. We buy many of them but also grow our own. As a horticultural institution it seems only reasonable that we apply some of our skills for growing things to the task. Last year we displayed 1,833 pumpkins of which 1303 were carved and illuminated and we grew over 700 ourselves.  The biggest challenge for us is not the growing of pumpkins per se, but growing pumpkins on this scale. Gardeners, such as us, don’t typically get into field production.

Daytime picture of The Pumpkin Glow

Daytime picture of The Pumpkin Glow

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Molly the Witch Peony

By Chuck Gleaves

With what must be thousands of varieties of hybrid peonies to chose from, it is fun to go back, sometimes, to actual natural peony species. One peony species of particular fascination also has one of the most unpronouncable of plant names, Paeonia mlokosewitschii.  An effort to pronounce the second name in that binomial will readily explain its nickname, Molly the Witch.

Molly the Witch flower and foliage

Molly the Witch flower and foliage

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The Dark Side of Kingwood’s Tulips

By Chuck Gleaves

Kingwood is widely known for our spring tulip display. Our phones ring constantly in the spring as prospective visitors try to determine the best time to come see the tulips. We have been offering big displays of tulips every year for about sixty-two years. Some of our tulip beds have had tulips in them every year for decades.

Kingwood's tulips with peacock

Kingwood’s tulips with peacock

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