On the last day of 2012 my husband and I visited one of our favorite gardens and a local treasure, the ten-acre JC Raulston Arboretum in nearby Raleigh.
After many gray and rainy days we were ready to be outside. Though blue sky is visible in this picture, the day was mostly overcast and the temperature around 47F made for a chilly walk. Initially the garden seemed more stark than I had expected, yet there were many interesting discoveries as we strolled along.
Founded in 1976 by the late J. C. Raulston, Ph.D., the garden is part of the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. As described on its website “the Arboretum is primarily a working research and teaching garden that focuses on the evaluation, selection and display of plant material gathered from around the world. Plants especially adapted to Piedmont North Carolina conditions are identified in an effort to find better plants for southern landscapes.”
One benefit of walking through this arboretum is that plants are usually well-labelled. On our way toward the Winter Garden we encountered an interesting specimen. A plaque indicated this Quercus robur f. fastigiata (Columnar English Oak) was the first tree Dr. Raulston planted at the arboretum and it is now over 50 feet tall. The layout of the arboretum has been redesigned over the years, but the tree stands at what was the original entrance to the garden.
The oak is still holding its brown autumn leaves. “Unlike many fastigiate (upright) tree selections, this form of English oak was found growing wild in a forest in Germany and was propagated by grafting in 1783. Most acorns from the tree will form columnar trees.”
Just to the right of the English oak is a Platanus x hispanica ‘Suttneri’ (variegated London planetree) with its showy white bark.
A closeup look at a lower branch of the London planetree reveals the patchy greenish-gray variations and interesting bark texture.
Among the many blooming plants we encountered were Edgeworthia, many different kinds of Camellia and Japanese Flowering Apricot, Quince, Snow drops and Hellebores. A special delight was the Iris unguicularis (winter flowering iris) tucked underneath a shrub. (The Edgeworthia nor any of the plants looked as unfocused in real life as some of these images suggest! Click on an image for larger images in a gallery view.)
The Winter Garden was brightened by the use of yellow in the form of Mahonia flowers, berries (yellow-berry Chinese holly) and the variegated leaves of Golden Spangles camellia.
Click on an image for larger images in a gallery view.
We saw just a fraction of the Arboretum on this trip, but having visited there many times we knew the Winter Garden was an appropriate section to explore that day. Heading toward the exit we passed again the weeping forms that greeted us upon our arrival near the new entrance. The trees here are marvelous in other seasons but winter highlights their framework.