By Sarah Leach Smith
Photos by Cecilia Xie
|Horticulturist Jan Watson installs new plants.|
Since 1939, the Terraces have been a widely recognized icon of Duke Gardens. Designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, an American landscape architect, the Terraces have remained largely unchanged since their creation over 75 years ago. Seven levels make up the garden, which was built into a naturally occurring slope. Curator Mike Owens is currently preparing for the twice-a-year display changeover and has offered an inside scoop into what this process is like.
Each June and October, Owens and his team of horticulturists (Jan Watson and Heather Seifert) begin the changeover. The new planting designs, however, are created as many as six months in advance! Each design is based on a theme, and the designs that Owens comes up with have only gotten more complex over time.
|A Terrace bed awaiting new plants.|
October’s changeover is designed to last until after Duke’s spring commencement, which occurs in mid-May. To keep the plants looking happy and healthy until then, Owens has several successful methods. Each bed has its own pop-up irrigation system that ensures the plants stay quenched. The beds are fertilized almost exclusively with feather meal, which is made from poultry feathers and is rich in nitrogen. “I think it has really helped ‘pump up’ the display,” Owens said.
|Horticulturist Heather Seifert hard at work!|