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A Blooming Adventure

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

Since it opened to the public a little more than a decade ago, Powell Gardens has blossomed into Kansas City's and western Missouri's premier showplace for plants and gardening. It attracts about 135,000 visitors each year, and thanks to its partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Powell Gardens has become a leader in teaching adults and children about nature, gardening and land stewardship.

Here, you can explore the wonders of the botanical world. You can marvel at the amazing variety of more than 2,000 plant species. It's a place where you can find enough gardening ideas to fill volumes.

George E. Powell Sr., the man largely responsible for the botanical garden, was raised in north-central Missouri near the town of Linneus. With his keen eye for business, he didn't take long to become successful as a Kansas City banker. Powell, his son, George E. Powell Jr. and a group of investors bought a faltering trucking firm which they built into what is now Yellow Freight System Inc., one of the nation's largest trucking operations.

Such success allowed the family to buy the Powell Gardens acreage in 1948. The land was a pasture for dairy cows and a place where the family could retreat into the solitude of nature. Later, it was the site of a Boy Scout camp and a field station with ties to the University of Missouri. With the formation of the non-profit Powell Gardens Inc. in 1988, the area became a full-fledged public botanical garden.

"If you think about it, a botanical garden was a major cultural component that Kansas City didn't have," said Eric Tschanz, president and executive director at Powell Gardens. "You've got the ballet, the symphony, the zoo and a great art museum, but we didn't have a botanical garden."

One of the guiding principles of Powell Gardens has been to maintain a Midwestern flavor. That has meant blending plants native to this region with botanical immigrants.

"We have these nice rolling hills and the vistas and views, and we want to use them to the best advantage," Tschanz said. "What we're trying to accomplish is to have the hand of horticulture and the hand of Mother Nature so intertwined that you can't tell where they stop or start."

The arrangement of the gardens and buildings is unassuming and understated. The wildflower meadow, perennial garden and other sections flow naturally with the lay of the land. The buildings seem to blend

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