Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Classroom Open Hours teaches children and parents


Classroom Open Hours includes access to our nature museum.
Photo by Sheon Wilson
By Sheon Wilson
Publications Coordinator

A 2-foot-long wasp’s nest, beaver and coyote skulls, brilliant feathers from an Amazonian parrot—it’s not every day that a child encounters such unusual study tools.

But at Duke Gardens’ weekly Classroom Open Hours, homeschool children and parents can gather for unique hands-on scientific adventures in an exciting learning laboratory.

The open-ended sessions—which run from 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays through Nov. 28 and then resume from Jan. 16 to Feb. 27—give parents and children access to nature-related lesson plans, curriculum aids, microscopes, science-themed books, and a wide variety of unusual specimens and artifacts they probably don’t have at home.

“The classroom hours allow us to nurture learning and discovery in a manner that would otherwise be abstract,” says Cheznee Johnson, whose son, Harrison, attended nearly every session last year.

“Harrison has such a curiosity and interest in the world around him and how things work,” she says. “Every Tuesday he gets to see and experiment with all sorts of new and different things in the classroom.”

The sessions are unstructured so children and adults are free to explore the curiosities and find what piques their interest.

“We see it as a great way for families who can’t devote a room to all the things we have collected to have access to our resources, plus our teaching experience,” says Kati Henderson, a staff assistant in children’s education at Duke Gardens.

It's not every day you see a paper wasp nest up close.
Photo by Sheon Wilson
“Some parents have really enjoyed the experiments we do and have said, ‘Thank you for setting this up, because I wouldn’t have done this at home since it’s way too messy.’ ”

Parents struggling to create a lesson or activity for particular topics can ask the session leader for advice.

“We’ve made lesson plans for almost every discipline in our Garden programs,” Henderson says.

To prepare for a recent session, Henderson set up five tables. To appeal to preschooloers, she had materials for touching on one table, including a tub of sand and water.

Parents and children have many options to choose from
in Classroom Open Hours. Photo by Kati Henderson.
Another table had science magazines and old Duke Gardens calendars for making collages, along with an activity suggestion: Cut out a picture of an animal, create a habitat for it using more pictures and then collage them together. Nearby were boxes of cut branches for stacking and building structures. A fourth had a variety of leaves with drawing and dissecting materials for a hands-on nature study. And the table for parents had resources galore.

For students on school break, Classroom Open Hours can slow the brain-drain by infusing fun self-directed studies into their days off. It’s also popular for people seeking activities for visiting children.

“It gives the adults a bit of a break,” Henderson says. “They don’t have to choose the activity, gather the materials or plan the lesson. Because it’s drop-in, you can come when you want.”
Children love exploring our learning
lab. Photo by K. Henderson.

PROGRAM DETAILS:

DATES: Tuesdays through Nov. 28, and Jan. 16-Feb. 27

TIME: 1-3 p.m. Drop in anytime.

FEE: $3 per child per session; $40 per child or $120 per family for all sessions.

MORE INFORMATION: See our website to learn more about this and other programs for children and families, and to begin the registration process or ask questions. You may also call or email us directly at 919-668-1707 or gardenseducation@duke.edu.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Woodland Phlox

By Rose James
Duke Class of 2020
Phlox divaricata 'Blue Perfume' is similar
to the 'Blue Moon' variety we'll have at
the Fall Plant sale. Photo by Jason Holmes.
Finding the right color of flowers for your garden can be difficult. I am particular to roses myself, but when it comes to purple and blue blooms, I have to turn to other options. Some of the prettiest shades of lavender I have ever found have come from the Phlox divaricata, commonly called the woodland phlox.

Ranging from lavender to blue, the Phlox divaricata is a small, native wildflower with dainty flowers that bloom in  April and May. It grows to be 8 to 12 inches high and equally as wide. It does well in partial shade to full shade gardens.

As an added bonus to its lush color, the woodland phlox is known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. If left to grow in your garden, the woodland phlox will form large colonies over time, as wildflowers tend to do.

Woodland phlox in the Terrace Gardens. Photo: J. Holmes.




The Duke Gardens Fall Plant sale will feature the 'Blue Moon' Phlox divaricata, known for its deep violet-blue flowers. Its blooms are not only colorful but very fragrant. The 'Blue Moon' is a good complement for gardens with ferns and hellebores and is certain to please gardeners seeking to bring a variety of color into their gardens.

Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Plant Sale Preview: Why Plant in Fall?


By Sheon Wilson
Publications coordinator

Fall is the best time to plant a garden, whether you have a vegetable garden, perennial garden, shrubs or trees. It’s prime time to improve your landscape, and Duke Gardens Fall Plant Sale this Saturday will help you meet that goal.

From herbs to shrubs, we'll have a wide variety of plants
that are ideal for this region. Photo by Cecilia Xie
The sale will include plants propagated by Duke Gardens staff and volunteers, along with bulbs, trees, vegetables, shrubs and other delights from local suppliers. Our well-received “Herb Garden in a Box” discount deal is back by popular demand, as well as dorm-friendly succulents and other plants perfect for students. Duke Gardens members will receive 10 percent off every purchase.

Getting your plants into the ground now will give them a strong head start to a healthy spring and summer.

“We are getting into the cooler season, when plants go dormant and put more energy into their root systems,” says Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens. “The root systems are easier to establish during the fall and winter months.”

A complex underground network, roots go into resting mode in the winter, minimizing the basic processes that sustain a plant. The falling temperatures and reduced daylight cause the upper part of a plant to stop growing and enter a state of suspended animation. Without leaves to photosynthesize and make food, the plant’s roots live off of stored sugars.

Plant your tulip bulbs in fall for a spring spectacle.
Photo by Bobby Mottern.
The roots’ ability to sustain life year-round benefits the entire plant. In fall, the soil is warm from summer sun, so the roots can expand with ease until the soil freezes, and thereafter grow more slowly.  In springtime, the plant is prepared to send energy back out to the extremities so blooming can begin. And the roots will have more strength to withstand  often harsh summer soil conditions.

In the Terrace Gardens, horticulturists usually maintain the summer beds through mid-October, and then pull weaker plants and fill the beds with fall color, said Mike Owens, curator of the Historic Gardens.

Use that tip to improve your garden. Remove annuals that have been ravaged by the summer sun and replace them with a splash of color, perhaps some showy and resilient chrysanthemums.
Plant in fall to get a healthy start on a strong
root  system, like that our dawn redwood.

We’ll have gorgeous plants for a variety of garden styles and conditions, and our expert horticulturists and volunteers will be happy to advise you on the best fit for your garden conditions and for the time and energy you have (or don’t have!) to spend caring for your plants. We look forward to seeing you at the sale, and to giving your plants the healthy head start they need. 

Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join now or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fall Plant Sale: Dorm Plants + Student Giveaway

By Annie Yang
Duke T'20

Air plants are a perfect
low-maintenance plant for
students. Photo by Beth Hall.
Duke Gardens can be a wonderful respite from the rigors of Duke student life, with its beautiful landscapes to stroll through and lovely plants to admire and learn about. But students are increasingly recognizing the benefits of plants even in the confines of their tiny dorm rooms and apartments.

Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale on Saturday will celebrate this healthy trend by featuring succulents and other plants that thrive indoors with low maintenance. And if you’re one of the first 75 students at the sale, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon, you’ll receive a free air plant. 

A dramatic air plant display
at Duke Gardens.
Taking care of air plants is somewhat different from other plants you may be used to growing, but once you get the hang of it, they shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Air plants are the common name for plants of the Tillandsia genus and they get their name because they don’t require soil to grow. Their roots are not for soaking up water but instead attaching onto pretty much any surface—trees, rocks, seashells and more.

There’s plenty of room for creativity and imagination in displaying your air plant. Whether it’s in a terrarium, a mason jar or a hanging air plant rack holder, there’s a lot of room for creativity and imagination in displaying your air plant. Place them near a window to get bright, indirect light and good air circulation too.

But air plants can’t survive on sunlight and air alone. Every week or so, remove your air plant from whatever you’ve chosen to attach it to and soak it in room temperature water for about 20 to 30 minutes. After it’s soaked, gently shake your plant to remove excess water—sitting water can cause rot and harm or kill your air plant. Set it out to dry with the leaves facing down, and within four hours, or about when you get back from class, the plant should be completely dry and ready to be returned to its container. If you nurture your air plant, it may even bloom in wonderful colors—a once in a lifetime event for each plant.

Cristina Lai's low-maintenance succulent plant.
You can also expand your succulent collection at Saturday’s sale. Senior Cristina Lai got her succulent because having greenery in her room “brightens up the space and makes it feel more homey rather than temporary,” she says. Succulent-focused events at DuWell, Duke’s student wellness center, always draw an enthusiastic crowd. Justin Sharpe, a student development coordinator for DuWell, says students like the sense of responsibility in being able to “make something, call it their own, and take care of it all at the same time.”

Of course, taking care of succulents is low-maintenance and low-stress—you won’t need to panic too much if you’ve forgotten to water them for a few days or even a week or so. The key to taking care of succulents is to wait until the soil is completely dry and then soak them. If you’ve put your succulent in a pot with drainage holes, water the plant until water runs out of the holes. But if you don’t have a container with drainage, don’t worry. You can add pebble or sand layers to your soil to help with drainage, or tip the container to let the excess water run out.

So even with midterm season ahead, with its never-ending piles of work, these dorm-loving plants will be one less thing to worry about and one more thing to ground you.

Fall Plant Sale details:
Air plants look great together!

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join now or on site.
Student air plant giveaway: Each student will receive one air plant during the sale, while supplies last. Students must show a current Duke ID to qualify.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Wintersweet

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox).
Photo by Kathy Julian.
By Paul Jones
Curator, Culberson Asiatic Arboretum

To be precocious is to develop earlier than might be expected. In the garden this adjective may be used to describe certain plants that come into flower while Mother Nature is still enforcing the chill of mid-winter.

Witchhazels (Hamamelis spp.) are well-known shrubs that often display this tendency. Japanese apricot (Prunus mume), another. A less familiar shrub, but one that is certainly a favorite among those privy to its charms, is Chimonanthus praecox, or wintersweet.

As the scientific name implies, wintersweet is precocious (the Latin praecox meaning early ripening). And as the common name implies, the flowers are sweetly fragrant—in the winter. And fragrant it is! As one person’s comments I read about this species put it, “there is truly nothing like it.” Just delightful.

Wintersweet is native to China and belongs to the plant family Calycanthaceae—the same family that our prized spring flowering native sweetshrub (aka sweet Betsy or Carolina allspice) Calycanthus floridus belongs to. Wintersweet has translucent multi-petaled yellow flowers, about an inch or so in diameter when fully opened, produced in great abundance. Typically the flowers remain unscathed through some pretty cold temperatures.

Winter flowering shrubs are often intensely fragrant, presumed so because of the scarcity of pollinators during the cold. Perhaps humans are displacing hibernating insects as the primary pollinator of wintersweet as we greedily bury our noses deep into flower after flower, savoring its most glorious scent.

We'll have wintersweet and more at our Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, from 8 a.m. to noon. Hope to see you here!

This plant highlight originally appeared in Duke Gardens' Flora magazine.

Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Climbing Aster


By Jason Holmes
Curator, Doris Duke Center Gardens

I am always interested in cool climbers, and climbing aster, known to us botanical types as Ampelaster carolinianus, is one of the coolest I know.

The prefix ampel means climbing; thus we have the genus “climbing aster.” This deciduous semi-woody plant grows long vine-like stems. These 6- to 8-foot-long sprawling stems may be attached to a trellis, arbors or fences, or allowed to ramble through shrubs. Unlike other vines, it has no way to attach itself, so it relies on whatever may be its closest garden companions.

Ampelaster is native to lowland marshes and moist areas throughout Florida and a few isolated coastal counties in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Easily adaptable to our garden soils, this climber thrives in full sun and has grown magnificently wherever I have planted it.

Its best attribute is its striking floral display during the fall. Like clockwork, climbing aster is covered with clusters of 1-inch flowers in November. I often recall these beautiful blooms because Ampelaster is one of the few plants blooming when leaves are changing to their autumn colors. The flowers have pinkish to purple ray petals that radiate out from the vivid yellow-orange disk flowers in the center. I have found this species to be a great late season nectar source for monarch butterflies and other native pollinators.

We'll have climbing aster and more at our Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, from 8 a.m. to noon. Hope to see you here!

This plant highlight originally appeared in Duke Gardens' Flora magazine.

Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

Plant Sale Preview: See Fall Beauties in Person

Hedychium coronarium, or white ginger lily.
Photo by Jason Holmes.
By Rose James
Duke T'20

Shopping at Duke Gardens' Fall Plant Sale can require a bit of imagination sometimes: you plant these bulbs near this tree and that shrub, anticipating what they will all look and smell like many months from now.

But for fall beauties, you don't have to wait. Simply take a stroll through Duke Gardens right now, and you can get a preview of some of the delights we'll have waiting for you at our Sept. 30 sale.

Start by following your nose to Osmanthus fragrans, also known as the fragrant tea olive. Visitors can never get enough of this vibrant plant's intoxicating scent, and they always want to know more about it. Native to the Himalayas, China and Japan, this is a hardy plant with an exceptionally long bloom period, up to two months during the fall. It can grow up to 30 feet tall, although the typical height ranges from 10 to 12 feet. You can find fragrant tea olives blooming in various areas of Duke Gardens. If you are near it, you will not be able to miss its amazing smell. You can read more about it in this fall 2016 blog post.

The Osmanthus fortunei will also be featured at the plant sale. It is commonly known as fortune's tea olive, and it produces small, white flowers during the fall. It is a fragrant evergreen that is particularly resistant to deer. Bigger than the typical Osmanthus fragrans, fortune's osmanthus can grow to be 15 to 20 feet tall and equally wide. It does well in sun and shade gardens, and it is drought resistant. If you are looking for a hardy yet sweet-smelling plant to enhance your garden, look no further than the Osmanthus fortunei.

Muhlenbergia capillaris.
Photo by Jason Holmes.
The Hedychium coronarium, called the white ginger lily, is an herbacious perennial native to the Himalayas that flowers from August to October. It is a fan-favorite for showy, fragrant flowers. With blooms said to resemble white butterflies, the white ginger lily is an excellent addition to any garden that gets full sun or partial shade. The lily will grow to be 3 to 6 feet tall with a spread of 2 to 3 feet. It can be found along the banks of North Pond (just south of Yearby Avenue) in the Asiatic Arboretum. Follow your nose, and you are sure to find it.

Another plant currently in its dazzling season is Muhlenbergia capillaris, commonly called pink muhly grass. This is a perennial Asian grass that grows to be 2 to 3 feet tall and equally wide. This is a low maintenance plant that has a gorgeous spread of pink flowers in the fall months. It is a wonderful addition to any garden that gets full sun or partial shade, and when it is not in bloom, it features glossy green leaves and stems, making it beautiful year-round. You can see this grass in the Doris Duke Center Gardens, including on the hillside adjoining the lower parking lot.

Callicarpa cathayana. Photo by Rose James.
If you are looking for color for your garden, you need to check out Callicarpa cathayana -- also called beautyberry, and for good reason. This is a deciduous shrub that grows to be 4 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide. Like the pink muhly grass, the beautyberry is best suited to full sun or partial shade gardens, and it is low maintenance. The real treasure of this plant is its plentiful purple berries, preceded by pink and purple flowers. This plant will attract birds in the fall, when the berries emerge. It is a must-see in Duke Gardens.

We hope your Duke Gardens visit whets your appetite for the vast array of plants we'll have at the Fall Plant Sale. Our expert horticulturists will be happy to talk to you about ideal plants for your garden conditions and gardening style. Duke Gardens members will get 10 percent off all purchases -- you may join in advance or on site. We look forward to seeing you here!


Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join now or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons & boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!