Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Winter Delights in the Kathleen Smith Moss Garden

 Lily seed pods

Acer palmatum 'Emperor 1'
By Flora O'Brien
Duke Gardens Volunteer

It's mid-December in the Kathleen Smith Moss Garden, where I spend many enjoyable hours as a horticulture volunteer. The joyous distractions of summer have passed, leaving a calm and verdant richness. The underlying architecture of the garden becomes more evident. It is a time to walk slowly and notice small things.

Budding tree peony.

The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Emperor 1’) is particularly beautiful.The tree holds its leaves later than many other trees, then sheds them in a flurry of crimson, and they end up in a spectacular array around its feet.

Daphne odora ready to pop! Photo by Sarah Leach Smith.

The lily seed pods (Lilium sp.; photo at top), the buds and blossoms on the tree peonies and Fuji cherry (Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’) have begun to appear, and the Daphne odora has set its buds.

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

Look at the small grove of paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) surrounding the beautiful American cherry wood bench. The  leaves have fallen, revealing a mass of nodding satiny flower buds.

Closer inspection will reward you with ferns, the berries of sacred lily, and of course the subtle shapes and colors of the lush blanket of mosses.

Close-up of paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha). Photo by Sue Lannon.

Located between the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden and the traditional Japanese-style arched bridge (see map here), this space is a surprise to be discovered, a cherished jewel within the larger Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

Now the garden seems to rest, awaiting the evolution of winter. But wonders await those who would spend a quiet moment in this quiet space.

All photos by Flora O'Brien, except where noted.


  1. Very beautifully written, makes me want to go to the gardens and explore! Thanks!

  2. Very beautifully written, makes me want to go to the gardens and explore! Thanks!

  3. We are so glad that you enjoyed it, John! Happy new year!