The Incredible Edible Landscape of Powell Gardens
There are some things you just don’t expect to discover right in your own backyard as guest blogger Kimberly Winter Stern (@kimdishes) takes you to the beautiful Powell Gardens showcasing one of the areas best outdoor treasures.
Like 27 larger-than-life, inspired-by-nature sculptures constructed from 500,000 LEGO bricks—including an 8-foot-tall hummingbird, a 5-foot butterfly and a koi jumping from pools. Or hundreds of colorful butterflies and moths, flying freely inside a stunning 2,500-square-foot conservatory.
And certainly you wouldn’t expect to stumble upon a 12-acre garden heralded as America’s largest edible landscape in your own backyard, would you?
But if you live in the Kansas City metropolitan area—or are a visitor to this vibrant Heartland destination—that’s exactly what’s in store at Powell Gardens (powellgardens.org)—an ever-changing canvas that weaves a story of nature and its fascinating seasons and cycles.
I like to think of the sprawling botanical garden that captures the essence of Missouri’s beautiful land, was once home to a Boy Scout camp and is in my “own” backyard as a personal recharge-refresh-rejuvenate outdoor spa.
This summer and fall, through September 29, Powell Gardens hosts the “Nature Connects: LEGO Brick Sculptures” exhibit which offers a thrilling collection of oversized creatures set in 14 scenes. The innovative display takes Powell Gardens guests on a discovery of nature’s intricate and complex network and how it impacts and interconnects with everyday life—right down to a mother bison made from 45,143 LEGO bricks, the exhibit’s largest sculpture.
In August Powell Gardens transforms its conservatory into an encounter of the tropical butterfly kind—it’s magical to stand in the middle of the space as monarchs and other species elegantly fly amongst gorgeous blooms during the annual Festival of Butterflies (August 2 – 4 and 9 – 11).
There’s much more to explore at Powell Gardens—the Perennial Garden, the Rock and Waterfall Garden, the Meadow and Pavilion, the Byron Shutz Nature Trail, the Chapel Walk to the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel. A delicious lunch in Café Thyme? Absolutely. Shopping in Perennial Gifts? I love the abundant selection of garden décor and seasonal treasures at this unique shop.
But it’s the Heartland Harvest Garden at Powell Gardens that is the apple of my eye. Billed as the nation’s largest edible landscape, this plot of Missouri-rich farmland highlights trees, shrubs and flowers and even groundcover that are chapters in the story of where food comes from.
Designed to delight all of the senses, the Heartland Harvest Garden changes with the seasons and invites you to explore fruits and veggies, grains, nuts and much more, including edible varieties like heirloom tomatoes and even futuristic plants.
The Quilt Gardens comprise the centerpiece of the Heartland Harvest Garden—their designs pay homage to the patchwork of Midwest farm fields. There’s the Old Missouri Crops Garden that showcases the major crops of the Midwest; the Missouri Star Orchard Garden ripe with ideas on how to plant fruit trees in a backyard space; the Kansas Star Forage Crops Garden that shows the grasses and legumes on which cattle graze; and the Villandry Quilt Gardens inspired by the Chateau Villandry outside Paris.
Visit the Missouri Barn’s silo observation deck where you can get a spectacular visual of the entire Heartland Harvest Garden and its intricate quilt patterns.
The Tasting Station offers nibbles from the garden’s seasonal produce—my favorite samples are the ruby-red chunks of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes offered at the peak of summer.
If you’re in need some expert garden knowledge, Powell Gardens offers hands-on coaching about edible gardening and cooking from one of their star horticulturists.
Powell Gardens also offers a calendar of culinary adventures in the Missouri Barn throughout the summer and fall, including the Garden Chef Series, the Barn Dinner Series and Wine Tastings. Exceptional Kansas City-based chefs and a unique urban winery and rural Missouri cheesemaker are featured in these popular foodie events.
Want to savor the simplicity of nature in a one-of-a-kind setting? Powell Gardens—and especially the Heartland Harvest Garden—is a must-do if you’re in town for a visit and a must-repeat if you live in Kansas City. Consider it your own backyard garden that someone else tends and allows you to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
And if you’re like me, you’ll love the outdoor spa effect of Powell Gardens. It relaxes, pampers and tastefully inspires.
Kimberly Winter Stern (@kimdishes) is an award-winning food, travel and lifestyle writer who lives in the Kansas City area. She also co-hosts a popular weekly radio food show, LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen, with KC chef Jasper Mirable.