Powell Gardens, Kansas City's botanical garden, is a 970-acre (3.9 km2) botanical garden in Kingsville, Missouri, United States, 30 miles (48 km) east of Kansas City. It features 6,000 varieties of plants, with 225,000 plants in seasonal displays, and is open to the public, for a fee, during daylight hours.
The garden dates to 1948, when the land was purchased by George E. Powell, Sr. Since then, the site has been a dairy farm, a Boy Scout camp, an agricultural and natural resource center, and since 1988, a botanical garden.
Powell Gardens' history begins in 1948, when George E. Powell, Sr., a prominent Kansas City businessman, acquired the beautiful tract of land that is now Powell Gardens, Kansas City's botanical garden. Mr. Powell had learned firsthand about the sometimes harsh and unpredictable life of farming during his childhood on the family farm. In 1917, he left to pursue a business career in Kansas City. He, along with his son George Powell Jr., and others, took over ownership of Yellow Transit Freight Lines, now YRC Freight, in 1952. Throughout his successful business career, Mr. Powell never lost interest in the lands of Missouri. He and his family and friends enjoyed many weekends on his Johnson County, Missouri, farm.
In 1969, in keeping with his stewardship philosophy, Mr. Powell donated the 640-acre (2.6 km2) farm to the Kansas City Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, who used it as a regional camp until 1984. In 1984, with the University of Missouri’s School of Agriculture as a catalyst and partner, the Powell Family Foundation began developing a horticultural and natural resource facility called Powell Center.
As a part of this development, Powell Center retained Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Environmental Planning and Design, the leading U.S. consultants for botanical gardens. The firm recognized that the site would be ideal for development as a botanical garden. In 1988, official ties with the University of Missouri ended and Powell Gardens Inc., a not-for-profit organization, was established. A 19-member board of directors, in which several Powell family members serve, governs Powell Gardens. Friends of Powell Gardens, a separate organization, is made up of more than 5,000 members. Staffing at the gardens fluctuates between 35 employees during off-season and close to 70 in peak season. Powell Gardens is supported through private donations and admission, gift shop and rental revenues.
- Entrance drive – seasonal annuals, evergreen weeping white pines, native oak groves, natural meadows and woodlands with native prairie wildflowers and wild grasses.
- Garden Gatehouse – drought tolerant ornamental plants (mainly native). Dogwood, redbuds, and red sumac, ornamental grasses, and annuals.
- Parking lot – arboretum of all shrubs and trees native to Kansas and Missouri, with native grasses, shrubs and trees.
- Conservatory – a 50 by 50 foot (15 by 15 m) glass house with seasonal orchids, tropical plants, chrysanthemums, and poinsettias.
- Terrace beds and wall – annuals and tropicals.
- Dogwood walk – almost every variety of dogwood, including flowering dogwood, hybrid dogwoods, and Kousa dogwoods, with roses and magnolias.
- Island Garden – more than 200 varieties of water plants.
- Meadow – native prairie grasses and flowers, burned each spring.
- Chapel walk and landscape – native oak-hickory woodland with native woodland wildflowers, including a collection of many varieties of redbud tree.
- David T. Beals III Woodland and Stream Garden – azaleas and rhododendrons, ferns, bleeding hearts, hostas, astilbes, giant butterburs and spring bulbs.
- Perennial Garden – more than 1,200 varieties, including daylilies, daffodils, hibiscus, and hardy asters and chrysanthemums, with ornamental grasses, against an evergreen background.
- Byron Shutz Nature Trail – 3 miles (4.8 km) of trail with native and naturalized trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers, including biscuitroot, draba, and prairie-plum.
- Heartland Harvest Garden – Powell Gardens is home to the United States' largest edible landscape. This 12-acre (49,000 m2) garden features many fruits and vegetables - some common, and some unfamiliar - and showcases "the journey of food from seed to plate". This garden features a French country style kitchen garden, greenhouses, a vineyard of native and European grapes, quilt gardens of local farm produce, and a youth education garden called the Fun Foods Farm. Also located in this garden is the open-air Missouri Barn, a beautiful structure that is home to concerts, barn dinners and cooking demos throughout the year.
Attractions and Events
The iconic Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel is a 4,700 sq. ft. nondenominational wedding chapel that first opened in 1996. It was designed by architect E. Fay Jones and is made of mostly wood and glass.
Each year, the conservatory located in the Visitor Education Center is transformed into a tropical rainforest in order to house spring and summer butterfly exhibits. Blue morpho butterflies are featured along with others, including paper kite butterflies.
Powell Gardens hosts Missouri Barn Dinners every year, beginning in late spring. Held in the Missouri Barn, these dinners feature multi-course meals prepared by local chefs who are able to source many of their ingredients from the Heartland Harvest Garden. This series has featured chefs from notable Kansas City restaurants including República, Lidia's Kansas City, and others.
Powell Gardens hosts special exhibits each summer that are supplemented by a schedule of related special events and activities. Notable exhibits include:
- In 2001, BIG BUGS! featured giant, lifelike bug sculptures,100 times their normal size, scattered across the landscape. It included three ants that weighed 700 pounds each and were 25 feet long. The exhibit also featured a 1,200-pound female praying mantis, a 50-pound spider, and a 100-pound damselfly.
- In 2008, Chapungu - The Great African Sculpture Exhibit, featured 54 monumental stone sculptures. Visitors could watch master stone carvers at work in the gardens, and attend stone carving workshops hosted by the master carvers.
- In 2013, Lego: Nature Connects featured incredible nature-themed Lego sculptures throughout the gardens.
- In 2016, Jurassic Garden will feature the life-sized, handcrafted dinosaur sculptures of paleontologist and fossil preparator Guy Darrough, native Missourian and owner of Lost World Studios. Associated events will include family-friendly musical performances, a fossil dig and dino lab for kids, and Dino-Soirée, an evening event featuring drinks, heavy hors d'oeuvres, and a special presentation by renowned University of Kansas paleontologist Dr. David Burnham.
- Austin Alonzo (July 11, 2014). "My Favorite Building: Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel at Powell Gardens". Biz Journals. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Lisa Gutierrez (July 18, 2010). "Monster-sized insects infest Kingsville's Powell Gardens". Columbia Tribune. Retrieved February 2, 2015.