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Garden Talk

Honeybee on a brassica flower

Horticultural Highlight: End of winter vegetable gardening

Lindsey Luks

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week Doris Duke Center Gardens horticulturist Lindsey Luks talks about the beauty of an expiring vegetable garden.

Every season in the garden is welcomed with open arms, even when that means that we are saying goodbye to some of our garden friends until their season rolls around again. My personal favorite “season” isn’t a season at all, but the transition between winter and spring. That’s when all of the magic happens.

This time of year in the Brody Discovery Garden's vegetable display brings a flurry of golden yellow flowers, luring in honey bees looking to drink their fill in the warming sun after a long winter of living on reserves stored in the hive.

brassica flowers in the Discovery Garden

A handful of vegetables have yet to be harvested. Carrots, leeks, and beets that survived the cold with their stocky roots deep underground near their maturation. The last of the Brussels sprouts that weren’t picked earlier in the season are trying to unfold into flower. Broccoli shoots that matured after the main head was cut show off the beautiful butter yellow flowers hidden in those tightly held buds. This is the vegetable garden that is just for enjoyment— almost.

Here at Duke Gardens, we allow our kale, collards, and other greens to bolt—i.e., to send up long stalks and flower at last. These are some of the earliest blooms that our honey bees will forage on for their first honey flow of the year. If you have a garden of your own, take a closer look and see what little insect friends you are supporting in their early season feeding before you yank those bolted greens and replace them with new plants.

Photo of a honey bee on a brassica flower by Sarah Reuning (above). Brassica flowers in the Discovery Garden (right) and hardy leeks in a raised bed (below) by Lindsey Luks.

leeks in the Discovery Garden