August 22, 2012 – Sarah P. Duke Gardens, NC
(written by Sara Levin Stevenson, photographs by Abby Johnson)
The Fellows spent Wednesday morning visiting the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, located on 55 acres in the center of the Duke University campus.
Upon our arrival, the Director of the Gardens and LGP alumnus, Bill LeFevre, met us. Bill and part of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens team took time to help us get to know the gardens and its various programs and events. Our meeting took place in the Doris Duke Center, a focal point in the grand entryway experience. We then toured the grounds with some of the knowledgeable staff.
A few of the tour highlights included the Terrace Garden, H.L. Blomquist Garden, and the Discovery Garden. The Terrace Garden is located in the heart of the historic area. It is a vibrant collection of perennials that sit in large rock walls made of a rich blue Duke stone, from a local quarry. The historic area is a popular spot for weddings and events, especially among Duke University alumni.
The H. L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants focuses on conservation and is the most heavily interpreted area of the gardens. Its design and messaging encourage visitors to embrace native plantings and learn conservation techniques. Stephan Bloodworth, the curator of this garden, describes it as an education tool for applied plant conservation and he aims to create an interpretive experience that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
The newest garden is the Discovery Garden, a farm education area. This garden is packed with interesting details, including a vegetable garden, tobacco barn-turned education center, beehives, chickens, fruit orchard, bio-swale, rain garden, herb garden, composting station, and storytelling area. It was designed for with the public, children, and families in mind with an emphasis on presenting ideas that would be easy for a visitor to replicate at home. The Discovery Garden is a prototype site for the Sustainable Sites Initiative so various techniques were incorporated in the building process that promoted sustainability, such as using salvaged materials.
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens has over 300,000 visitors every year and is a well-loved and often visited institution on the Duke University campus. It attracts student groups and classes and the local community through programs such as an annual film and concert series.
We enjoyed our visit to this vibrant garden and are grateful to our hosts for their hospitality!