Saturday, October 20, 2018

Family Weekend: Exploring Duke Gardens

By Annie Yang
Class of 2020

Every year, parents, siblings and other family members descend on Duke for Family Weekend, hurrying about with many things to do and places to be. This weekend can feel like a hectic time for both students and their families, which is why a visit to Duke Gardens is a welcome change of pace.

Although West Union might be packed, with no place to even sit down, it never feels too busy when you have 55 acres in the Gardens to explore. The serene atmosphere in the Gardens is like a breath of fresh air, and walking through its miles of paths is a great way to relax with your family while showing them one of Duke University’s gems.         


The view from the Frances P. Rollins Overlook
Photo by Annie Yang
If you’re coming from West Campus, it’s most convenient to cut right behind the Allen Building to enter the Gardens through the Memorial Gate. Parking at the Gardens often fills up on beautiful spring and fall weekends (though there is a free overflow lot nearby). 

If your family has never been to Duke Gardens before, it is almost a rite of passage to take them to marvel at the beautiful plants and landscaping in the Terrace Gardens. If you have any younger siblings, they will also be delighted by the colorful koi swimming in the fish pool. Most visitors enter the terraces through the pergola at the top or adjacent to the Fish Pool, but you can bring your family to the overlook up the hill behind the pond for a different perspective and a breathtaking view of the terraces.

Another must-see site in the Gardens is the large pond in the Asiatic Arboretum, home to a large variety of ducks, as well as geese and turtles. The turtles often soak up the sun on the rocks at the edge of the pond, and the ducks are happy to be fed food that can be purchased inexpensively at the Terrace Gift Shop. If you look closely at the ripples in the pond, you may also see tiny fish fluttering through the shallow water. You might also spot the resident great blue heron as you walk around the pond!        


Waterfall at Pine Clouds Mountain Stream
Photo by Annie Yang
The iconic red bridge over the pond is currently being renovated. However, there are plenty of other wonderful locations nearby that people visiting the bridge may overlook. For example, you can take your parents to Pine Clouds Mountain Stream, a stunning feature added to the arboretum just a few years ago. The sound of birds chirping and the rushing water in the recirculating stream makes it a perfect place to sit down with your family, take a breather, and absorb all the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Additionally, a new outdoor restroom with a Japanese-style interior recently opened adjacent to Pine Clouds, which will be a relief for visitors who previously had to trek back to the other bathrooms in the Terrace Gardens or the Doris Duke Center. As you walk through the arboretum, you’ll also see gorgeous blooms of Japanese aster and ginger lily.         



Osmanthus fragrans
Photo by Annie Yang
If you have a little bit more time to spend in the Gardens and would like to show your family around some less frequented but no less beautiful sites, the mini bamboo forest nearby the Garden for Peace is a unique spot. Imagine that -- towering stalks of bamboo in the middle of Duke University! You may also catch a whiff of the Osmanthus fragans growing nearby, which are known for their powerful fragrance. If your parents go, “What’s that smell?” you can impress them by telling them sweet osmanthus’ scientific name. 

Exploring the winding paths through the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants is also delightful, and a great way to learn about our ecosystem, plant conservation and supporting wildlife.

Younger siblings or relatives will also enjoy the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, which is a sustainable, organic food garden near the Doris Duke Center. This garden is designed to help visitors learn about nature's symbiotic relationships. The garden is also home to a coop full of chickens, and many bee hives.

If have questions, be sure to seek out one of Duke Gardens' volunteer garden ambassadors, who can help you make the most of your visit.

There’s something for everyone to appreciate at Duke Gardens. Hopefully, when you return back to the hustle and bustle on campus, you and your family will feel refreshed and energized after your stroll through this nationally acclaimed botanic garden in the heart of Duke's campus.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Stokes' Aster

Stokes' aster in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.
Photo by Sue Lannon.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

Stokesia ‘Klaus Jelitto’ shares its name with Klaus R. Jelitto, a German horticulturalist who founded Jelitto Perennial Seeds, an international and award-winning seed company. Though Jelitto Perennial Seeds is a multinational company, this herbaceous perennial is native to the coastal plains from North Carolina down to Florida and should feel right at home in your garden.

Stokesia ‘Klaus Jelitto’, commonly called Stokes' aster, has a rather distinctive look, with its pincushion of florets in the center and notched blue-purple petals. It has a long summer to early fall bloom, and removing individual spent flowers will encourage springtime reflowering. This is a robust, low-maintenance plant and a good grower, preferring full sun although it can also tolerate filtered sunlight. ‘Klaus Jelitto’ thrives in moist, sandy soils and is drought and heat tolerant. Keep an eye on it after heavy rains, however, as its large flowers might flop.

Draw out this aster's strengths by planting it in borders, cottage gardens, or near water sources like streams and ponds. This is a plant native to wetlands, bottomlands, and wet pinewoods, after all! ‘Klaus Jelitto’ also works well in small groups or massed.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: 'Twilight Zone' little bluestem

Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'. Photo courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.
By Annie Yang

Schizachyrium ‘Twilight Zone’ stands out from other little bluestems by taking on a silvery purple color starting in midsummer instead of coloring up in the fall like its cousins. This prairie grass first comes out in striking pastel blue-green hues before intensifying into eerily purple tones and deepening into redder shades later in the season, providing a wonderful spectacle for months.

Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'.
Photo courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.
‘Twilight Zone’, a bit ironically, requires full sun and is both heat and humidity tolerant. It can grow in a range of soil moisture levels, though it prefers soils on the drier side, and it can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils. This sturdy plant does not require much fertilization either, and it can really thrive in places where other plants find it difficult to survive.

The strengths of Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone’ are best showcased along borders or in a meadow garden. Like its other Schizachyrium relatives, ‘Twilight Zone’ supports pollinators like bees and butterflies and invites birds in with food, shelter and nesting material.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!
Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'. Photo by Beth Hall.

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Green and Gold


Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianium).
Photo courtesy of Pleasant Run Nursery.
By Katherine Hale

Like many native species, green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianium) is frequently overlooked in favor of flashier, more aggressive novelties.  That’s a shame because green and gold is a shade gardener’s dream:  it’s subtle, dependable and fills up bare gaps along wet meadows or woodland understories without taking over.

In late March through May, green and gold adorns itself with small, cheerful yellow star-like flowers. They offer a taste of sunshine for those fed up with winter, and a welcome sip of nectar for hungry pollinators desperate for spring. Once the first flush fails, the plants will bloom off and on throughout the summer at sporadic intervals. Semi-evergreen leaves remain vigorous in all but the coldest winters, but they make unpalatable forage for any wandering deer.

‘Superstar’ kicks it up a notch by boasting dense, mat-forming clumps that are significantly larger than the wild types and brighter, more upright flowers. Plants growing under ideal conditions—moist soil and bright-filtered shade—average 6-8 inches high and 24 inches wide. They spread by expanding the size of the clumps rather than by weedy rhizomes. Its neat and tidy growth habit make it well suited to rock gardens and shady perennial borders, or lining paths and trails through deciduous understory.  It doesn’t work for every garden—full sun or dry areas are not its fortes—but nothing in any plant nursery than can beat it on its home turf.

Despite its low profile in the catalogs,  green and gold ‘Superstar’ is ready for prime time in your garden. Mix it in with fellow-shade dwellers like Heuchera, irises or Christmas ferns, or bunch it en masse to take over a hillside. Whatever you do, it’s hard to go wrong—and steady, dependable green and gold will be there for you year after year, as polite and charming as ever.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’

Epimedium 'Sulphereum' in flower.
Photo by Beth Hall.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

Owing to the flower’s unique, almost prismatic shape and the pale white sepals seemingly floating over the petals, Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’ is also known by a number of colorful names like bishop’s hat and fairy wings. It’s no wonder this curious and beautiful flower has been a garden classic for years.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant that enjoys partial to full shade and loose soil with consistent moisture. Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’, a long-lived plant, is also resistant to rabbit, deer, drought, heavy shade, dry soil and shallow, rocky soil. The delicate nickname ‘fairy wings’ really belies this perennial’s reliability and durability.

Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’ is quite the versatile plant and can fill a number of different niches in a garden. It spreads nicely and works well as groundcover in small, shady areas of rock gardens or planted en masse in woodland gardens. It also lines paths and walkways handsomely and grows well underneath trees.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Willow-leaf Sunflower 'Low Down'

Willow-leaf sunflower. Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS Plants Database.
By Katherine Hale

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Bright, cheerful, and adored by pollinators, the perennial willow-leaf sunflower (Helianthus salicifolius) dots Midwestern watercourses with its iconic yellow flowers every fall without fail. But its vigorous growth—rising 8 feet or more under ideal conditions—makes it too tall and unwieldy for the average garden in its wild form, flopping over in heavy rains or overshadowing its neighbors.

Fortunately, horticulturists came to the rescue and transformed the willow-leaf sunflower through selective breeding. Enter ‘Low Down’, a compact and well-behaved dwarf cultivar with all the charisma of its bigger brothers. Why bother with pruning or staking when you could have a plant appropriately sized for a garden and save yourself the effort? Topping out at 18 inches, ‘Low Down’ is an excellent choice for a perennial border, container garden, wildflower meadow or anywhere in full sun where a colorful look is desired.

Like all sunflowers, ‘Low Down’ attracts wildlife, but only the kind you want to see in your garden—bumblebees, goldfinches and migrating birds, as opposed to deer and insect pests. A hardy perennial, ‘Low Down’ offers more blooms for your buck without the need for constant replanting. Willow-leaf sunflowers look great in a vase or in a field with ornamental grasses and traditional autumn stalwarts like asters and chrysanthemums.

Good things come in all shapes and sizes. For gardeners, sunflower cultivars like ‘Low Down’ prove that sometimes less really is more.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Anemones

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'. Photo by Beth Hall.
By Katherine Hale

Well-known favorites like asters, chrysanthemums and goldenrod have their place in the fall garden, but few can compare with the stately Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, a hybrid Japanese anemone that begins to bloom in late August here at Duke Gardens. First discovered by chance in a French garden in the 1850s, ‘Honorine Jobert’ is an established classic at the Gardens, most notably in the Walker Dillard Kirby Perennial Allée. There, you’ll find a stunning and unexpected surprise—a massive profusion of 2-inch blooms that resemble giant buttercups emerging out of knee-high mounds of feathery green foliage.

Anemone 'Prince Heinrich'.
Photo by Chris Holaday.
The white petals (actually sepals) around a sunny yellow center (the true flowers) attract bees and butterflies, as well as anyone in the mood for something different as the seasons change. Flower arrangers love the tall stems and long vase life of the flowers, and their color and elegance make them a popular choice for fall bouquets and weddings. If allowed to remain on the plant, the blooms will linger through October, amazing longevity in a season in whic so many other species are past their prime.

With a plant as ethereal as ‘Honorine Jobert’, it’s hard to have just one.  Fortunately, they work best when planted in dense clusters, resulting in a jaw-dropping collection of flowers when grouped en masse. Isolated plants may need staking and support to show off their blooms to best effect, but plants in larger groups tend to support each other while simultaneously suppressing weeds with their shady foliage.

Anemone 'Königin Charlotte'.
Photo: C. Holaday.
Though ‘Honorine Jobert’ is by far the most popular variety, there are hundreds of anemone options for the discerning gardener. Other fall-blooming Japanese hybrids, ‘Königin Charlotte’ (Queen Charlotte) and ‘Prince Heinrich’, are appropriately named for royalty and boast large, semi-double blossoms in various shades of pink. There’s also the elegant Anemone Wild Swan, with prolific white flowers with lilac stripes on their backs. Unlike the fall flowering Japanese anemones, this A. rupicola hybrid starts blooming in late spring and continues through first frost.

Native plant gardeners aren’t left out of the fun: there’s the Canada anemone (A. canadensis), a showy spring bloomer found in moist floodplains and riverbanks throughout the East Coast, and its cousin, tall anemone (A. virginiana), which occupies a more upland habitat.

Anemone 'Wild Swan'.
Photo: B. Hall.
Regardless of which anemone strikes your fancy, some basic ground rules will help ensure their long-term survival. Anemones love moist but well-drained soil that is never allowed to dry out; they can tolerate full sun, but their delicate leaves will burn in the summer heat unless planted under a shady canopy with protection from drying winds. While they are slow to establish in the beginning, healthy plants will freely naturalize over time via underground rhizomes, expanding the patch still further.  Anemones are an excellent choice for woodland or cottage gardens, contrasting nicely with the blooms and foliage of shade garden staples like hostas and astilbes.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Tall anemone (A. virginiana).
Photo: B. Hall.
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!