By Marty Ross
A sure sign of spring in Kansas City is a full parking lot at Kauffman Memorial Garden, a 2-acre public garden in the heart of the city. This pretty garden is a worthwhile destination year-round, but as the daffodils come into bloom and the tulip buds push up through their green cloaks of leaves, visitors from all over town flock to the garden to experience the bright colors and promise of a new season. This garden never disappoints them.
Every year Duane Hoover, horticulturist at Kauffman Garden, designs an eye-popping display of spring-flowering bulbs and cool-season annuals. Thousands of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and smaller bulbs—crocuses, chionodoxa, scilla and puschkinia—tuck into the flowerbeds in October and November along with hundreds of flats of winter-hardy violas, dianthus and snapdragons.
The flowers of violas are tiny but tough, Hoover says, and they are among the first flowers to bloom after a challenging Midwestern winter. They’re planted in sweeping ribbons of color, on a scale beyond the scope of backyard gardeners. But you don’t need 1,000 violas to chase the winter away; a few six-packs of plants will do the trick.
Clusters of small bulb flowers help bring the perennial beds to life. Hoover’s plantings sparkle in the formal garden amid splashing fountains, clipped boxwoods and magnificent spring-blooming magnolia trees. The fragrance of hyacinths perfumes the paths, and pots full of spring bulbs frame the entrance to the sheltered patio. In the warmth of the garden’s conservatory, spring is a good two weeks ahead of the reality in the garden outdoors.
Just as in a home garden, the plantings at Kauffman Garden change every year, taking advantage of the endless possibilities in the kaleidoscope of spring.
Take a quick spring tour of the Kauffman Garden with Duane Hoover: check out my video.