Sunday, November 19, 2017

Student perspectives: fall’s varied palette

Camellia sasanqua in the Culberson
Asiatic Arboretum.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

One of the pleasures of returning to Duke Gardens time after time is that it is constantly evolving throughout the year. Every week I visit, the scenery gradually changes with the cycle of the seasons, and a new plant that has just started to bloom catches my eye.

More pretty camellias
in the Asiatic Arboretum.
Autumn is a chance for trees to play starring roles, their red, orange and yellow leaves creating brilliant fall vistas. But walk through Duke Gardens and you’ll see a wider palette than you may expect, with berries and blooms offering additional visual delights.

All around the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum are camellias (Camellia sasanqua), whose bright yellow stamen against vibrant pink and white petals are sure to catch your eye. This species of camellia also emits a pleasant fragrance, so keep your eyes and nose open while you walk through this part of the gardens.

American beautyberry
in the Asiatic Arboretum.
Near the edge of the Asiatic Arboretum, as well as in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants and elsewhere in Duke Gardens, is a plant I initially mistook for grapes when I first encountered it. The bold purples of the berries hanging on these small shrubs certainly demand attention. It’s no wonder that this plant is called the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). The berries cluster together along the branches, and it’s almost impossible not to be mesmerized by the deep purple hue.

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) adds visual punctuation throughout Duke Gardens, including in the Asiatic Arboretum and the Historic Gardens. The small, bright red berries of this plant give a festive feeling to its surroundings and are a reminder that winter holidays are almost upon us!

Kohlrabi in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.
The Discovery Garden was not a place I expected to see “showy” plants, but I was pleasantly surprised. I came upon kohlrabi, a vegetable bred from the wild cabbage plant.  A relative of kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and many other vegetables, this wild cabbage is stunningly versatile.

Kohlrabi can come in pale green or deep purple, and the bulbs grow above ground, its many stems appearing to shoot up from the soil. This is definitely not your average vegetable, and it definitely pops right out. It’s edible, too, as with everything in this sustainable, organic food garden, so it has both form and function.

On your next fall visit to Duke Gardens, stay tuned to the palette beyond the palette. Fall’s fiery leaves put on a spectacular show, but you may decide that some of their co-stars also deserve top billing.

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