Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring Flower Walk in the Arboretum

Japanese flowering cherries

By Jennie Carlisle
Photo by Paul Jones

Spring won’t officially begin in the Northern Hemisphere until March 20. But early signs of the season are already emerging at Duke Gardens. Consider taking a walk with a staff horticulturist to see (and smell) them in person and perhaps incorporate some of the same ideas and plants into your own garden.

On Friday, curator Paul Jones and horticulturist Michelle Rawlins will lead a walk through the H.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum that highlights the season’s sensory treats, little known arboretum spaces and unique plants. The color, vibrancy and gaiety of spring emerging make a wonderful respite from the sparseness of winter, Jones notes. The arboretum is a great place to embrace that awakening.

The spectacular sight of cherry trees with dark branches wrapped in sprays of delicate flowers is certainly an example of this. Cherries, whose blooms precede their foliage in early March, are one of the spring trees for which Duke Gardens is well known. The arboretum displays a number of cherry species from China and Japan.

Admire the extravagant beauty of a blossoming ‘Pink Parchment’ magnolia while considering its relationship to our native magnolias. Be amused by the ruffle petticoat-petaled camellia and learn how camellias came to the U.S. from Asia. Take a deep breath of the fragrant cascade of golden flowers on a winter hazel and observe how this shrub contributes to the garden’s design.

Along with botanical information about the flowering plants in the garden, Jones and Rawlins will discuss the history of the arboretum and aspects of its design. This Friday walk also offers an opportunity to see the Japanese Pavilion and its tea house, which are commonly closed on weekends.

Participants need not be avid gardeners to appreciate these informative walks. They’re also a good opportunity to enjoy a breather in beautiful surroundings.

“I like people to stop and hear the bamboo in the breeze,” says Jones, “to listen to the various birds, to make it a contemplative sort of thing.”

INFORMATION: Friday’s Spring Flower Walk will be from 10 a.m. to noon. A second Spring Flower Walk that focuses on the flowering trees and shrubs of later spring will take place on April 13. Other informative walks offered in the coming months include: Historic Gardens Color Walk, April 5 and May 3 from 9 to 11 a.m.; Gardens of the Doris Duke Center, May 25 and June 15 from 10 a.m. to noon; and Walk on the Wild Side, on the first Thursday of each month from 11 a.m. to noon. Participants may leave the walks early if time is tight. Each walk costs $5; they’re free for Gardens members.

TO REGISTER: To register for either, please call 668-1707 or e-mail the Gardens' registrar. For information about other Gardens events, please see the education/events page or the full events brochure (PDF) at

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.

Jennie Carlisle is an events assistant at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.


  1. Do you happen to have any photos of the blooms in the Gardens of Doris Duke Ctr? I took some photos of the gardens at Rough Point here in RI for their web site, and I would love to see Duke Gardens' Doris Duke Ctr photos. Thank you so much,
    Nancy Holt

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for asking. That garden was just redesigned last year, so the plants are still developing. But the 2012 calendar has a nice photo of the new design. And there are a few in this post: .
      Here are a few more blog posts about the garden that you might enjoy:
      and .