Though the calendar says mid-April the gardens have a decidedly May look to them with mid-spring flowers in full bloom and rich springy foliage bursting forth all around. This is the season when shade gardens are at their peak and a visit to Powell Gardens' Rock & Waterfall Garden is an annual ritual to see the azaleas and the full cacophony of springtime colors and textures.
Here's a view from the south bridge in the Rock & Waterfall Garden with the large and luxurious leaves of Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) in the foreground with flowering azaleas and colorful foliage beyond. It is the epitome of a shade garden this time of year.
Fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) are almost in peak bloom (pure white in full bloom) and grace the north entrance to the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This Missouri native huge shrub/small tree is related to lilacs and a perennial hit of Visitors when it is in bloom. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and has an alternate name "Grancy Gray Beard."
Here are the flowers of Chinese Fringetree (Chionanthus retusus) on the east or trolley stop side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. Chinese Fringetrees are currently a popular tree though they have not lived up to their billing for us with random flowering. The overall tree is wonderful through the seasons and makes up for the weak bloom.
Pride's Pink Azalea is one of the finest for pure pink in our zone but very difficult to procure. We received this azalea from the former Roslyn Azalea Nursery on Long Island. Our plant can be seen on the walkway to the Upper Deck of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.
The deciduous "Lights Series" azaleas bred in Minnesota are another good group of azaleas for our zone and come in many warm colors. This is 'Golden Lights' Azalea near the south bridge of the Rock & Waterfall Garden and it has a wonderful aroma too.
Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum) is a great iris for the shade garden with a very showy blooms. Look for it around the donor plaque of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.
Missouri's state flower, the hawthorn is in bloom on the north side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This small wild tree blooming between fringetrees is the Frosted Hawthorn (Crataegus pruinosa) with pure white flowers and red fruit that appear "frosted" with a waxy coating.