After earning a degree in horticulture and plant pathology at Kansas State University, Duane Hoover worked at Soil Service Nursery in Kansas City for 16 years. In 1999, he became the director of Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden. Established by Julia Irene Kauffman in honor of her parents, the garden opened on Memorial Day 2000 at 4800 Rockhill Road.
By ALICE THORSON
The Kansas City Star
Admission is free, and the garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. For casual visitors, it’s a respite of scent and color; for gardeners, it’s a place of inspiration and a chance to see what plants do well in this area. Below, Hoover shares some details about what goes into making such a magical place.
What have you been planting lately?
We’ve taken out the violas and dianthus and other spring-flowering annuals and put in the summer annuals at the entrance along the driveway. We have Sizzler Purple salvias, Fairway Ruby coleus, yellow bracteantha (straw flower), and pennisetum Jade Princess, an ornamental grass with lime green leaves.
What’s the design scheme of this area?
In the entrance bed we’re planting everything in a Greek key design — it looks like interlocking tabs. This year’s theme is the knot garden, so we’ve designed it to have the plants weave through each other. We were inspired by turn-of-the-century Victorian gardens.
How often do you change out the annual beds?
Four times a year. We’ve just done the second change, and in the fall we’ll put in chrysanthemums and asters. In early November, we’ll put in violas, pansies, dianthus, snapdragons, kale and cabbages. Before that we’ll plant 6,000 tulips in the same beds.
Do you do anything special to the soil?
It’s a mix of topsoil and compost from Missouri Organic.
And the plants?
They come from the greenhouse at Powell Gardens, which manages the Kauffman Memorial Garden.
What’s the ratio of annuals to perennials?
The garden is one-quarter annuals and three-quarters perennials. We replace the perennials as needed.
What’s in bloom now?
Endless Summer hydrangea. We add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make them blue; otherwise they’d be pink from the alkaline soil. After the hydrangeas, the crepe myrtles will bloom.
Tell me about what you’ve planted in this long entrance.
The little white flowers are lobularia Snow Princess. It’s new. It looks like alyssum, but it’s more heat tolerant. We’ve also mixed Diamond Frost euphorbia with pink begonias and Big Ears lamb’s ears.
And you’ve repeated this combination down the length of the walkway.
A good rule of design is to repeat color, pattern and texture.
What about these beds leading to the hexagonal fountain?
We’re working with shades of purple: eucalyptus, nicotiana, angelonia, lisianthus, ageratum and osteospermum (African daisies). The scheme is repeated at the other end leading to the canal fountain. In the surrounding beds, the Oriental lilies — Stargazer, Casablanca — are in bloom and the daylilies should last for a while.
One of your assistants told me the list of annuals you’ve planted this year runs four pages. These long beds bordering the canal fountain are a real showplace.
We’ve continued the knot garden idea and used serpentine lines in these beds. We’ve planted them with begonias, pentas, Joseph’s coat, coleus, cannas and torenia, sometimes called clown flower. We also have Evolvulus Blue My Mind and lantana Bandanna Gold, as well as salvias and zinnias in these beds.
Do you have any tips for zinnias?
Zinnias need good air circulation, and you should keep them pruned and deadheaded.
And I know the garden has a new artwork?
Jarrett Mellenbruch’s bee “Haven” was installed last fall, and we had a new hive put in this spring. It’s good for the garden. There’s a plaque on the supporting post that tells about it. It’s one of a series of working honeybee hive sculptures by Mellenbruch and was conceived to help address the colony collapse crisis. The plaque has a QR code or you can find out more at deepecologyproject.com.