Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow Day at Duke Gardens!

View of the Terrace Gardens from the Frances P. Rollins Overlook
 
Photos and text by Micaela Unda

With Durham covered in a powdery layer of snow, and slippery ice coating the roads, Duke students got great news from the university on Thursday: snow day! And where else would students go to see pristine nature in its most wintery form other than Duke Gardens?


Snow trodden zigzag pathway 
I was among them, stepping carefully down the snowy paths leading to the Terrace Gardens, watching fellow students construct their own snowman creations. Although the weather was frigid, students'  worries melted away as they enjoyed the day free from homework and classes. Embracing the inner children within themselves, college students became youngsters once more and what would otherwise have been a typical school day instead became one of fun, foolishness and frolicking.

Duke Gardens' water features provide
opportunities for reflection.
As I passed through the Terrace Gardens and followed the footprint-covered trail to the Asiatic Arboretum, the striking red bridge became a stopping point for impromptu photoshoots as students gathered to pose for classic snow day pictures. Students commented that ever since the “snowpocalypse” of last winter, coming to the Gardens and posing amongst the zig-zagging paths and ubiquitous benches has become a tradition for them. Meandering by the frozen-over pond and Canadian geese, yet more students awed at the beauty of the sculptural, icy fountains and the flora in winter. For some, it was their first time visiting. 
A Duke student explores the Gardens during a snow day
I highly encourage those first-timers to make a return trip. Amongst the hustle and bustle and busyness associated with being a Duke student, I have found a haven in the Gardens. Although I enjoy my fair share of nostalgic snowy games, simply walking among the trees is  reminder enough to take a breath and de-stress. I would at times stop and simply stare up, appreciating the quiet sounds and small moments of privacy. For the Gardens are more than a beautiful winter scene, but rather a true escape. On this snow day, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this. 
Asiatic Arboretum and Japanese-style arched bridge
So a call to all students out there, whether it be for lying on the snowy South Lawn painting snow angels, taking in the beauty of the plants in winter, or spontaneous explorations amongst the 55 acres of snow-covered footpaths, come enjoy Duke Gardens; for they are a place for you!
A peaceful moment of solitude among the trees.

Blogger and photographer Micaela Unda is a freshman at Duke University studying Environmental Science and Policy, and she is a Duke Gardens work-study assistant.


Organic Vegetable Gardening Tips & Classes

The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden,
an organic, sustainable food garden,
provides plenty of spring bounty at Duke Gardens.
Photo by Lindsey Fleetwood.
By Kate Blakely

Gardening tips always take on the perspective of the gardener. What the gardener cares about intimately shapes the information he or she is sharing. Vegetable gardening is no different. Amidst all the wonderful info about growing veggies, it’s the intent that makes each tip unique and special.

Andy Currin, a Duke University campus horticulturist, shares his wealth of organic vegetable gardening knowledge in a Duke Gardens class series designed to help participants get the most out of their gardens all year. Currin cares deeply about sustainable gardening, and that's reflected in his teaching.

Currin's Spring Organic Vegetable Gardening classes, from March 11-25, will teach you how to use the spring as a foundation for year-round organic vegetable gardening. Currin will show you how to maximize yield while planning for a sequence of seasons and minimize maintenance. The classes will also cover specific strategies for dealing with the spring and summer difficulties of heat, soil and water. Growing organic vegetables isn't limited to the plants themselves, though. Currin will also discuss ways to provide habitats for beneficial insects and native pollinators as part of your sustainable practice.

Currin shared some of his tips on growing vegetables in a healthy, sustainable way.

  • Watch when you water. “Of all points of sustainability, the main component is efficient water use,” Currin said. A lot of folks will water their gardens, their lawns and their flowers during the heat of the day, when the sun is working hardest. “You lose more water to evaporation than will actually get to the plants to be useful to them,” said Currin. The best planet-friendly practice is to water in the early morning or after the sun starts going down.
  • If you want to eat organic, start organically. If you want to grow organic vegetables, you must be vigilant about everything involved, from soil to seeds. “Some of the seeds, if they’re not labeled as organic, could contain seed treatments that would be systemic,” Currin noted. This means that chemical compounds in the seeds will be found throughout the plant. “And that would be included in the vegetables that you’ll be eating. You really have to start with the seed, any soil amendments, anything like that. Everything has to be organic approved.”
  • Watch (and help) the right bugs. Pollinators and predatory insects are the most beneficial. Currin has a “good list” and “bad list” of insects. At the top of the good list? Hoverflies. They are both a pollinator and a predatory insect, Currin said. Native bees also help out. The orchard mason bee, the bumblebee and the leaf cutter bee work to pollinate plants. Praying mantis, ladybugs and green lacewings also help. “They eat the bad guys,” said Currin. The bad guys? Aphids, thrips and squash bugs. As part of your organic practices, make sure to complete any pest treatments around dusk, when the beneficial insects are not going to be out and about. That makes the least impact on the beneficial insect population. “Even organic treatments don’t really discriminate; they just take out everything,” Currin said.

Want to learn more? Take Currin’s Organic Vegetable Gardening class on March 11, 18, and 25 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. and March 21 from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. If this is your first Organic Vegetable Gardening class here, we'll provide a textbook. The series costs $110; $90 for Gardens members or Duke staff/students. This class qualifies as a Home Horticulture Certificate elective course (8 hours).

For more information about this class or to register, call 919-668-1707 or email gardenseducation@duke.edu. You can also check our website to find out more about this class and our other events. 

If you can't take the spring class, or if you want to continue learning about year-round sustainable gardening from Currin, keep an eye out for the next Organic Vegetable Gardening class series in the fall.

Blogger Kate Blakely was a graduate student at Duke Divinity School and a work-study assistant at Duke Gardens when this blog preview first appeared preceding a previous class series.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Photo Contest: Winter Scenes

Page-Rollins White Garden. Photo by Wendell Hull.
Winter gives visitors here at Duke Gardens the opportunity to see unique plants, snowy scenes, and unobstructed views of some of our best structures and architectural features. Show us your favorite winter images in our newest photo contest: Winter Scenes.

Please don't be shy. This contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's just a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too. Your photograph can be recent or from past years. 

We are conducting two Duke Gardens photo contests simultaneously, "Winter Scenes" and "Buds and Blossoms." When entering one or both, please let us know in the subject line which photo contest you are entering.  

Here's the scoop:

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post your photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too. 

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted in the Gardens.

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Friday, March 6. Voting will end at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10.

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards, and an extra prize for the best photo featuring a Duke student or students dressed in Duke logo clothing. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons, Duke Gardens note cards or other Duke Gardens-related gifts.
 
SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites.

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.


LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Buds and Blossoms Photo Contest

Photo by Robert Ayers
Spring may feel like a distant dream, what with the frigid weather lately. But some buds have already popped, and many more will follow in the coming weeks and months. We'd like to celebrate this exciting seasonal change with a new photo contest: Buds and Blossoms. Show us your favorite Duke Gardens photos featuring anything from a tiny spring bud to a sea of colorful flowers.

Please don't be shy. This contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's just a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too. Your photograph can be recent or from past years. 

We are conducting two photo contests simultaneously, "Winter Scenes" and "Buds and Blossoms." When entering one or both, please let us know in the subject line which photo contest you are entering.  

Here's the scoop:

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post your photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too. 

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted in the Gardens.

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Tuesday, March 31. Voting will end at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards, and an extra prize for the best photo featuring a Duke student or students dressed in Duke logo clothing. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons, Duke Gardens note cards or other Duke Gardens-related gifts.
 
SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites.

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.


LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.
Photo by Robert Ayers

Friday, February 13, 2015

Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens


Tetrapanax papyrifer in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.
Photo by Paul D. Jones

By Micaela Unda

Duke Gardens can be enjoyed as a whole -- for example, seeing the waves of colors playing off each other in the Terrace Gardens, or the woodsy beauty of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. But visitors may also enjoy the Gardens plant by plant, whether simply to learn more about nature or to seek ideas for how to shape their own gardens at home. 

If you're interested in expanding your knowledge of plants and their attributes and behaviors, consider signing up for the winter session of our Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens series.

This three-session class, beginning Feb. 18, gives you the opportunity to delve into the Gardens in a new way. Winter offers evergreen foliage and hardy blossoms that add color and beauty to our gardens. Taught by Jan Little, Duke Gardens’ director of education and public programs, the class will help you learn a menu of plants that will thrive in your garden, the conditions in which they are best suited to grow, and what ornamental features will make them either a star or supporting cast in your landscape.

Each class begins indoors with a review of plant photos and discussion about each plant. Then it is time to hit the outdoors! Strolling through the winding gravel paths and perusing plants, you will have the opportunity to discuss maintenance and plant combinations that shine in the winter season.

Are you wondering about the water, sun, or soil type a plant prefers? Perhaps you are curious about what other colors, textures and positioning will help this plant shine. Or maybe you have experience with this plant in your own home garden to share with the rest of the class?

The Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens class is offered each season with a fresh list of plants that you will want to know about. Looking at each plant in a garden setting and a mature size gives you a great opportunity to know whether you want to plant them in your home landscape. If you participate in all four seasons you will learn about approximately 300 trees, shrubs, groundcovers and perennials that will help you create the garden of your dreams. 

More information: The class will meet on three Wednesdays, Feb. 18-March 4, from 3-5:30 p.m. The fee is $110; $90 for Gardens members. Registration is required. Please call 919-668-1707 to register or for more information. This course is part of the Gardens' Home Horticulture Certificate program, but participants don't need to be in the certificate program to participate.

Blogger Micaela Unda is a Duke University freshman and work-study student at Duke Gardens.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Winter Walk through Duke Gardens

Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare'  

By Erika Zambello
 
Winter is a beautiful time to stroll through Duke Gardens and see not only the beautiful plants but also the birds and the intricate structures of the gardens that may be overlooked in the warmer months. Think there are no flowers blooming in February? Think again!
Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)

I love walking through the Gardens in all seasons, so this week I set out to tour the different garden sections. Starting in the Page-Rollins White Garden, I enjoyed the dried forms of the hydrangea, the dark berries of the palmettos and various hellebores blooming. Walking through the Spring Woodland Garden, I also saw for the first time an incredibly beautiful new bench set atop a detailed stone swirl pattern, completed by the stone masons just last year. The bench was created in memory of Amanda Johnston, a young Duke alumna (T'04) who passed away in 2014. It is beautiful and, best of all, allows people who rest there in winter to be bathed in sunlight.

A place to relax in the Woodland Garden

From there I traversed across the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden and down the Perennial AllĂ©e, enjoying more hydrangeas before turning in to the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. My favorite part of the Blomquist is the restored prairie, adjacent to one of the many bird feeding stations around the gardens. The grasses were a lovely golden color and were attracting birds of all kinds with their winter seeds. Tufted titmice, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows all called back and forth to each other and constantly flew from perch to perch, the very picture of activity.

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle')

I always head to the Terrace Gardens after the Blomquist, and they did not disappoint.  Pansies of many colors adorned the rows, and the koi in the pond at the base of the Terraces were as colorful as ever, seemingly unperturbed by the cold. Witch hazel - a deep orange variety - grew just where the hill begins to slope upward.

Witch-hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia 'Jelena' )

Finally, I strode through the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Japanese apricots are just beginning to blossom, and their blooms are a gorgeous pink with delicate petals and buds. Though it's still only February, it's hard not to think of spring when I see flowering trees!
Japanese apricot (Prunus mume)
Heading back to the Doris Duke Center, I crossed the bridge to the other side of the pond. There I found some of my favorite flowers of all in bloom: bright and colorful camellias! Best of all, many of the nearby camellias were showing off their buds, which means more will bloom in the near future.

Hybrid holly (Ilex 'Emily Bruner')

Though the air might be chilly, winter is an amazing time to visit the Gardens, check out the unique winter flowers, and enjoy being outside.
Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Train to Be a Docent




Would you like to get more deeply involved at Duke Gardens, and help others appreciate all that the Gardens has to offer the Duke and Triangle community and beyond? Consider becoming a volunteer docent.

The next docent trainings take place over a series of dates in February and March, with separate sessions devoted to leading children's vs. adult programs.

Training for docents to work with children's programming begins Tuesday, Feb. 17 (update: because of expected snow and sleet, the training will now begin Thursday, Feb. 19; please call to register in advance). At Duke Gardens, we strive to create an outdoor classroom experience for students from grades K through 12. 
Education program coordinator Kavanah Anderson says being a children's docent allows you to share what's great about the Gardens with visitors. Children's docents will lead or assist in a variety of programs and activities, including storytimes, nature walks, gardening demonstrations, homeschooling classes, and many other programs.

"It's a great opportunity to practice skills you already have, and discover new ones," Kavanah explained, "and it's a fun community to be a part of." Docents bring their own unique backgrounds to the Gardens and get to learn from each other as a group, as well as share that accumulated knowledge and skills with the children who visit.


For those who would like to work with adult groups, docent training begins March 3. Docents can give tours around the gardens, imparting specialized knowledge to visitors, including important historical and horticultural information about everything the visitors see and hear. Docents may also lead general tours, or be trained to lead one of Duke Gardens' many specialized tours.

After completing the docent training, volunteers can be further trained to give trolley tours. Chuck Hemric, director of volunteer services, says adult docents make visitors' trips to the Gardens even better.

"You hear all the stories from visitors with these enriched experiences," he explained. "As the Gardens continue to increase in popularity, we need more and more volunteers to provide that experience."

Chuck and Kavanah are also seeking bilingual docents to serve the growing and diverse number of visitors. Volunteers who speak both Spanish and English would be especially helpful. 

Both Kavanah and Chuck emphasized how important volunteers are to the Gardens. "We couldn't do this without volunteer docents," Kavanah explained. Chuck agreed: "They're vital."

Schedules for both docent trainings are listed below. You may participate in one or both. For additional questions on the children's programs, please contact  Kavanah Anderson at (919) 668-1708 or kavanah.anderson@duke.edu. For questions on the adult docent training, please contact Chuck Hemric at (919)-668-1705 or chemric@duke.edu.

Children’s Programming Docent Training
Tuesday, Feb. 17, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (basic logistics specifically for new docents)
Thursday, Feb. 19, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (teaching and group management techniques for new and current docents)
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 9:30 a.m.-noon (program demonstration and teaching practice)
Thursday, Feb. 26, 9:30 a.m.-noon (program demonstration and teaching practice)
Tuesday, March 3, 9:30 a.m.-noon (program demonstration and teaching practice)
Thursday, March 5, 9:30 a.m.-noon (program demonstration and teaching practice)
Also, see below for curator-led training tours in March.

Adult Programs Docent Training
March 3, 2-4 p.m.: orientation, overview and history of Duke Gardens
March 10, 2-4 p.m.: curator-led tour
March 17, 2-4 p.m.: curator-led tour
March 24, 2-4 p.m.: curator-led tour
March 31, 2-4 p.m.: curator-led tour