Thursday, April 16, 2015

Plants of Distinction Series

by Erika Zambello

It isn't often that you see a group of people kneeling on the trail, faces full of daffodils. But that's just what we were doing in Duke Gardens' Plants of Distinction class "Scents of Spring."

The Plants of Distinction series provides participants with the opportunity to look at specific plants in the Gardens with more focus, whether those plants provide color, delight, seasonality, or, in our case, fragrance. Spring is an especially fragrant time to be in the gardens, both for pleasing and not-so-pleasing odors. Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, led us on a walk to learn about plants that would charm us with their springtime perfumes.

Cherry trees in the Entry Allée
Though we were focusing on the scents of spring, its colors were hard to ignore. The cherry trees were in full bloom, decorating the Gardens with their pink and white blossoms. We stopped a few times near the Doris Duke Center and in the Perennial Allée, gradually making our way to the Terrace Gardens. There we were greeted with a wealth of flowers to pause over and smell.

Peach blossoms
Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis), which grow in multiple colors throughout the Gardens, have an especially sweet fragrance that I just loved. Directly across from them was a bed full of pansies and daffodils, showing off their yellow and purple colors. Though the Narcissus 'Falconette' variety have smaller petals than others, Jason explained that in his experience, the smaller flowers actually have the better and more powerful fragrance. Directly above the daffodils were the peach blossoms, and though they only had a faint smell the tree was jam-packed with beautiful blossoms that I could not stop photographing.

Mixed bed of pansies and daffodils
We moved down the Terraces and up above the fish pool to take in the delicate aroma of the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), and then up through the Memorial Garden and Butterfly Garden before heading into the Woodland Garden. Throughout the tour we had many opportunities to test the fragrance of each flower that Jason described, as well as learn the best growing conditions for the plant and how we might use them in our own gardens. By the end of our walk, I had a whole new appreciation for the wonders of the spring season.

The final course in the spring and summer Plants of Distinction series is "Early Summer Blossoms," which will be led by Bobby Mottern, director of horticulture. Learn which plants ornament our early summer in this stroll through the Gardens to see fringe trees, late magnolias, peonies, and more. The "Early Summer Blossoms" walk will be on Thursday, June 11, from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

The class fee is $7; $5 for Gardens members and Duke students/staff. Participation is limited to 15 only, so don't miss your chance to learn more about Duke Gardens' Plants of Distinction!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment