Anne’s Picks

Anne Wildeboor, Arboretum Horticulturist, shares some of her favorite new – and old – plantings you’ll be enjoying at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens this spring! How will they look in your garden?

The excitement of new & different plants is one of my favorite things about my job. Who doesn’t like new things!?! The industry is constantly grabbing on to what is popular & giving you 20 more options. The trick is to filter through and find the ones that are going to wow our visitors but also survive our climate conditions.
One of the areas where we are going to add a large number of plants is in the upper area of the Erickson Water Garden. A few years ago, we did a major revamp. The Parks department redid the stream ways. In doing this, the landscape was torn up. This gave us an opportunity to focus on the original theme of the garden which was birds and butterflies. We added a large number of butterfly-host & nectar plants. The bed to the northeast of the upper waterfall was cleaned out, but we focused more of our resources on the interior beds. We are now ready to tackle that upper bed. We are going to be adding perennials that give that bed a “meadowy” look with plants like Filipendula, Hesperis, Coreopsis, Liatris, Echinacea and Cosmos.
Ailie’s Glade in the legacy garden will be getting some new additions as well. If you didn’t see Ailie’s this spring, it was beautiful with the redbuds, flowering quince, bluebells & lenten rose blooming. We are going to add Arctic Fire Redtwig Dogwood, Incrediball Hydrangea, Blue Jangles Hydrangea, and Double Take Peach Flowering Quince.
The Stous Promenade is an area where we showcase some trees that you may not always see in our area but actually do well. Last year we planted a lime green Metasequoia. It’s striking chartreuse foliage pops against the lush green grass. It will get around 25 feet tall.
I am very excited that we are continuing to add to our magnolia collection. Magnolia ‘Judy Zuk’ was hybridized by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and named for their famous former director. It has soft yellow vase-shaped blooms that are highlighted with a pink-purple center. It will get 20 to 30 feet tall and about 8 feet wide.
On occasion, I impulse buy. Cornus kousa ‘Summer Gold’ was one of those impulse buys. I was drawn to its bright green & darker green leaves. When the white blooms come out in late May or early June, I think it really is going to shine. It’s going to be a smaller understory tree, only getting about 8 feet tall.
Styrax japonica ‘Marley’s Pink’ is a weeping Japanese Snowbell. This is a new variety of tree for us. I am intrigued to see how it holds up during our summers. It is touted to have soft blush-pink blooms that look a little like fuchsia flowers. It is said to have the light fragrance of cotton candy when in bloom. Yum!
Annuals are always changing, but we always showcase some of our tried & true too. But the key is to put them in different spots & with different companions. We also need to show the public what is new on the market. ‘Coleus Under the Sea Pink Reef’ is going to be planted at the amphitheater. Pink Reef has hot pink scalloped leaves that are edged with a deep burgundy purple. It will be paired with burgundy Alternanthera, hot pink Vinca and lime green millet.