Friday, February 6, 2015

A Winter Walk through Duke Gardens

Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare'  

By Erika Zambello
Winter is a beautiful time to stroll through Duke Gardens and see not only the beautiful plants but also the birds and the intricate structures of the gardens that may be overlooked in the warmer months. Think there are no flowers blooming in February? Think again!
Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)

I love walking through the Gardens in all seasons, so this week I set out to tour the different garden sections. Starting in the Page-Rollins White Garden, I enjoyed the dried forms of the hydrangea, the dark berries of the palmettos and various hellebores blooming. Walking through the Spring Woodland Garden, I also saw for the first time an incredibly beautiful new bench set atop a detailed stone swirl pattern, completed by the stone masons just last year. The bench was created in memory of Amanda Johnston, a young Duke alumna (T'04) who passed away in 2014. It is beautiful and, best of all, allows people who rest there in winter to be bathed in sunlight.

A place to relax in the Woodland Garden

From there I traversed across the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden and down the Perennial Allée, enjoying more hydrangeas before turning in to the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. My favorite part of the Blomquist is the restored prairie, adjacent to one of the many bird feeding stations around the gardens. The grasses were a lovely golden color and were attracting birds of all kinds with their winter seeds. Tufted titmice, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows all called back and forth to each other and constantly flew from perch to perch, the very picture of activity.

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle')

I always head to the Terrace Gardens after the Blomquist, and they did not disappoint.  Pansies of many colors adorned the rows, and the koi in the pond at the base of the Terraces were as colorful as ever, seemingly unperturbed by the cold. Witch hazel - a deep orange variety - grew just where the hill begins to slope upward.

Witch-hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia 'Jelena' )

Finally, I strode through the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Japanese apricots are just beginning to blossom, and their blooms are a gorgeous pink with delicate petals and buds. Though it's still only February, it's hard not to think of spring when I see flowering trees!
Japanese apricot (Prunus mume)
Heading back to the Doris Duke Center, I crossed the bridge to the other side of the pond. There I found some of my favorite flowers of all in bloom: bright and colorful camellias! Best of all, many of the nearby camellias were showing off their buds, which means more will bloom in the near future.

Hybrid holly (Ilex 'Emily Bruner')

Though the air might be chilly, winter is an amazing time to visit the Gardens, check out the unique winter flowers, and enjoy being outside.
Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. 

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