Editor's note: We're following the Sedgwick County master gardeners on a tour of six homegrown garden centers in Wichita this spring. This week we visit Brady Nursery.
What a rare April to tour a Wichita nursery that specializes in blooming trees.
"Isn't that spectacular? Wow!" master gardener Sharon Pedroja exclaimed as the wide arms of a flowering Purple Prince crabapple greeted us at the entrance to Brady Nursery.
If you've been thinking that this spring is more floriferous than usual, you're right.
Early bloomers bloomed late because of a cool early spring, extension agent Bob Neier says. Then the temperatures spiked from the 50s to the 80s, causing the late bloomers to flower early. The result: a cacophony of flowers usually not seen together in the Wichita area.
"The plants were confused, but we were rewarded __ except for more pollen and allergies than normal," Bob said. Achoo! to that.
The rewards were apparent at Brady Nursery, where yellow Knock Out roses snuggle up to honeysuckle vines and azaleas. The nursery, particularly known for its trees, grows 17 varieties of crabapples along with another splendid spring bloomer, the redbud.
"We have the most beautiful redbud we bought from here," Pedroja told me. "It looks like a vase, so it's multiple trunked, a deep solid color _ rose. It blooms all the way up the trunk, and it is spectacular."
Turns out that Sharon's tree is the Avondale redbud, a tree that is coming on strong at the nursery that was started by the late Joe Brady in 1952.
"He thought if he was going to have the best trees, he was going to have to grow them himself," Pat Brady told the master gardeners about his dad. Pat is one of Joe and Catherine Brady's seven children and head of the landscaping division of the nursery. He was joined by his sister Cathy, head of the retail division, and his brother Mike, head of field production, on the tour of the nursery. Another sister, Maureen, handles the accounting at Brady Nursery, and even Mom still works there at age 85.
It's no wonder that kids who grew up being quizzed about the pros and cons of various landscapes as Dad drove them around town would carry on the work of their father.
Joe Brady started out at Tyler and Kellogg with 2 1/2 acres. He moved his nursery to its current location at 111th and West Kellogg in 1959 — the year Cathy was born — and the Bradys now have 60 acres of growing fields.
Today, the nursery carries 150 tree varieties, including many types of crabapples, oaks, redbuds, maples and lacebark elms.
Cathy tells of the time a Kansas City architect called asking for what he considered unusual trees. Brady had all nine trees on the man's list _ in three sizes.
One of the most common requests the Bradys hear: "I want a tree that turns red in the fall." Autumn Blaze often is the tree to fit the bill. It's easy to grow, grows fast, and can take heat and wind well as long as it gets enough moisture in the summer.
Brandywine is a newer red maple that is more refined, with a smaller leaf and a denser habit, not as open as Autumn Blaze because it grows more slowly, Mike said.
Some of the tree palette has changed over the years. Brady used to sell hundreds of Lombardy poplars, narrow upright trees whose rows served as defining lines in the yard.
Today, Brady offers instead Crimson Spire oak, a columnar oak that turns bright red in fall and holds its leaves through the fall and most of winter.
"It's really good for screening," Mike Brady says, reaching 30 to 40 feet tall eventually, and about 10 feet wide.
As a substitute for troubled pine trees, Emerald Arrow leucodermis pine is a Brady suggestion. The dark green of its needles stands out in the winter. It gets 15 feet high and 6 feet wide.
Back to the beautiful spring we've been having, if you've been dazzled by a white snowstorm of a crabapple, you may want to sample one of Brady's selections:
* The aforementioned Purple Prince crabapple. It grows quickly, has no disease and has persistent fruit in the winter.
* Candymint Sargent. It is a dwarf crabapple that sells out every year. It's a pink flowering crab with horizontally spreading branches that gets about 8 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide eventually. "We sell out of the dwarfs every year. People like them for the entryway or a courtyard."
* Royal Raindrops. This crabapple has purplish-red foliage in the summer, pink flowers in the spring and red fruit in the winter.
* David. It is a rounded, white-blooming tree that has a heavy crop of red fruit that persists in winter.
* Louisa. It is a weeping pink-flowering tree that has yellow fruit in winter and shiny foliage in summer. Gets 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide.
Cathy Brady had wanted to move us out of the trees and into the new perennials, but we ran out of time. That's OK — the master gardeners and I found them on our own just fine, along with resident cats Bombay and Kaleigh. Shoppers can also find shrubs grouped according to growing conditions and annuals including many (along with perennials) grown at Arnold's Greenhouse in LeRoy.
Two weeks from today: We meet to tour Tree Top Nursery.
Now you know
Address: 11200 W. Kellogg
Web site: www.bradynursery.com
Specialties include: Kansas-grown trees, especially redbuds, crabapples, oaks, maples and lacebark elms.