Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"The Artful Garden" with W. Gary Smith - an anticipatory stroll


Chinese snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum)
in the Page-Rollins White Garden.  
By Kaitlin Henderson

Inspired by W. Gary Smith's upcoming lecture at Duke Gardens on Thursday evening, and his award-winning book, From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, I took a walk through Duke Gardens today with the idea of "artfulness" in mind.

To me, artfulness in the gardens means the careful but ever-present interplay between nature and human design. It wasn't something I had deliberately looked for throughout the entire gardens before, and I found myself seeing artful things with every step I took.

As I began my stroll in the Page-Rollins White Garden, I noticed the wonderful interaction of textures around the Chinese snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum) pictured above. The puffs of flowers are light and float above the leaves of the many green plants, and the different types of stone nearby add their own unique, contrasting texture.


I made my way into the Spring Woodland Garden (above) and looked at an area I've seen countless times, but with new eyes today. I love this view from the large wooden bridge down the small creek, and today I realized some of that is because of the wonderful glimpse you get of such a picturesque scene. But this photo doesn't do it justice. Actually standing in this spot, you get to experience the feeling of the light breeze and the sound of birds chirping as they flit among the trees.



As I walked into the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, I was reminded that artfulness doesn't need to be big. It can involve just one plant, like this Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ssp. dissectum 'Ornatum'). The blanket of leaves has such exquisite draping, and there's a playful hide & seek of that external shell and the partially revealed internal branches.


Artfulness can even involve a dead piece of a plant, as I found a little farther on my walk. This cast-off branch makes a beautiful arch with the sun streaming down on it and a vine twirling up. I think it's a fantastic example of an artfulness that comes from working with the garden -- recognizing what this could contribute and deciding to leave it in the garden.


Leaving the Asiatic Arboretum, I came upon this scene of the creek running through the Hanes Lawn. It reminded me that artfulness doesn't need to be so subtle that it hides the human hand and imagination that created it. To me, this area is an incredibly successful instance of making a landscape design obvious and inviting. Other people clearly got the same message that this is an enjoyable setting, as it is a much-visited spot.


Deliberate artfulness can show itself simply in the horticultural structures, too, such as these subtle but unhidden guide wires for the new native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) growing onto the pergola after the recent Pergola Restoration Project.


Entering the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, I was reminded of the artfulness that can guide your experience of a garden beyond the plants growing there. I took a tour of the Blomquist with curator Stefan Bloodworth earlier this year, and one of the many things he talked about were these new wooden signs. Everything used to make them, from the different woods to the font, was carefully chosen to create a cohesive experience of the Blomquist Garden. This balancing depth of thought that artfulness brings, which considers the natural space and how people design and experience it, can apply to all aspects of a garden.


In the end, though, my favorite examples of artfulness are the quiet, contemplative spaces that showcase a harmony between people and plants. In the spot pictured above, I love the balance of the gardeners' design of a sheltered resting place, the compliance of the Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) that encloses the space, and the enjoyment of those who come upon it.

It's fun to think about gardens we visit, and our own gardens that we tend, from an artful perspective.  You don't need to be a trained artist to appreciate and conjure artful flourishes all around you. But it's a special treat to have a trained eye such as W. Gary Smith's to get the creative wheels turning even more.

Join us for "The Artful Garden," on balancing the physical realities of your garden with your artistic imagination, on Thursday, April 23, 2015. Smith will be available after the talk to sign copies of his book. For more information and to register, please call 919-668-1707.

Kaitlin Henderson studies interdisciplinary engagement in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pursuing the Nature Photography Certificate

Photo by Leonard Beeghley
by Erika Zambello

I was on my belly in one of the Terrace Gardens paths, hoping I wouldn't get in the way of other visitors. My camera in front of me, I placed the lens as close as I could to a patch of delicate blue and purple pansies bordering the trail and reaching just a few inches above the ground. Sure, I could have taken the photo standing up, but I had just learned about the importance of different photography perspectives in "Learning to See in Nature," and I was already impressed with how interesting my image looked as I got down to the plant's level.

The photography courses at Duke Gardens have opened up a whole new world for me, changing the way I see the natural environment when I am photographing. I am pursuing the Nature Photography Certificate, which requires four core photography classes, 30 class hours of electives, and three Home Horticulture Certificate required courses. I am nearing the completion of my certificate, and the difference in the technical quality of my photographs as well as composition is obvious.

Beautiful redbud blossoms
As I learned about my camera itself in "Introduction to Digital Photography," and explored composition, light, focal point, and so much more in my other classes, I found myself in all sorts of interesting positions around the Gardens. I lay on my back along a stone ledge to take pictures of grasses waving in the wind above me, I bent and stretched with a reflector to diffuse just the right amount of light over a yellow poppy flower, and I got up on my tippy-toes to take a close-up shot of a cherry blossom overhead. Was it good for my photography? Yes. Was it also a ton of fun? Yes!

Monocot cells under the microscope in Basic Botany.

The largest surprise in my certificate journey has been how much I have enjoyed the Home Horticulture Certificate courses. Though I am an environmental student, I actually know quite little about gardening basics or plant identification, and it was a true joy to recognize plants in the Gardens after taking a tour with Education Director Jan Little in "Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens;" to look through the microscope with Duke professor Alec Motten, who taught the Gardens' "Basic Botany" class, as we differentiated a monocot from a dicot; to pull apart an onion plant as my first propagation practice in "Gardening 101." As an ecologist, I'm usually focused on the big picture - a forest, a landscape, a park - and it was really great to focus on individual plants, or even individual cells!

Learning tree identification in "Landscape Plants" class.
My last photography class will be "Macro Photography," a two-day course in which fine art photographer Les Saucier teaches participants the best techniques and practices for macro shots, photos that will get the most from your camera and lenses and create astonishing close-up images. I'm excited to finish my last photography class but sad that my certificate program is almost over. Lucky for me, I can continue to take as many photography class as I want, even if I have already earned the certificate.

As I near the end of my Nature Photography Certificate, I find myself recommending the courses to new and experienced photographers alike. There is always something new to learn, and I pick up helpful tips from both the skilled instructors as well as my fellow students!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.





Plants of Distinction Series

by Erika Zambello

It isn't often that you see a group of people kneeling on the trail, faces full of daffodils. But that's just what we were doing in Duke Gardens' Plants of Distinction class "Scents of Spring."

The Plants of Distinction series provides participants with the opportunity to look at specific plants in the Gardens with more focus, whether those plants provide color, delight, seasonality, or, in our case, fragrance. Spring is an especially fragrant time to be in the gardens, both for pleasing and not-so-pleasing odors. Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, led us on a walk to learn about plants that would charm us with their springtime perfumes.

Cherry trees in the Entry Allée
Though we were focusing on the scents of spring, its colors were hard to ignore. The cherry trees were in full bloom, decorating the Gardens with their pink and white blossoms. We stopped a few times near the Doris Duke Center and in the Perennial Allée, gradually making our way to the Terrace Gardens. There we were greeted with a wealth of flowers to pause over and smell.

Peach blossoms
Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis), which grow in multiple colors throughout the Gardens, have an especially sweet fragrance that I just loved. Directly across from them was a bed full of pansies and daffodils, showing off their yellow and purple colors. Though the Narcissus 'Falconette' variety have smaller petals than others, Jason explained that in his experience, the smaller flowers actually have the better and more powerful fragrance. Directly above the daffodils were the peach blossoms, and though they only had a faint smell the tree was jam-packed with beautiful blossoms that I could not stop photographing.

Mixed bed of pansies and daffodils
We moved down the Terraces and up above the fish pool to take in the delicate aroma of the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), and then up through the Memorial Garden and Butterfly Garden before heading into the Woodland Garden. Throughout the tour we had many opportunities to test the fragrance of each flower that Jason described, as well as learn the best growing conditions for the plant and how we might use them in our own gardens. By the end of our walk, I had a whole new appreciation for the wonders of the spring season.

The final course in the spring and summer Plants of Distinction series is "Early Summer Blossoms," which will be led by Bobby Mottern, director of horticulture. Learn which plants ornament our early summer in this stroll through the Gardens to see fringe trees, late magnolias, peonies, and more. The "Early Summer Blossoms" walk will be on Thursday, June 11, from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

The class fee is $7; $5 for Gardens members and Duke students/staff. Participation is limited to 15 only, so don't miss your chance to learn more about Duke Gardens' Plants of Distinction!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Instagram Photo Contest: #dukegardensstudents


We're thrilled with the response to our first Instagram-Facebook photo contest (#dukegardenscolorpop), so we're doing a second one!

This time we're looking for photos of Duke students in Duke Gardens -- and among the prizes will be a $50 iTunes gift card (see details below). Your photograph can be recent or from past years.

Entering this contest is a little different from past contests, so please read the "How to Enter" instructions carefully.

Here's the scoop:

HOW TO ENTER: Tag your Instagram photos with #dukegardensstudents. Please only tag three photos with #dukegardensstudents, as participants are limited to three entries. Outside of the contest, we welcome #dukegardens tags at any time, and #dukespring tags this season. We will search for the #dukegardensstudents hashtag, and upload your photos into an album on Facebook, with your Instagram 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." Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too. We'll also tally "likes" on the Instagram photos.

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

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Tuesday, April 28. Voting will end at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 30.

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just "like" your favorite contest photos, both in Instagram and on Facebook. You can find us @sarahpdukegardens in Instagram. On Facebook, we're at facebook.com/dukegardens.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes on Facebook and on Instagram, as well as judges' awards. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons, Duke Gardens note cards, the Duke Gardens souvenir photo book and other Duke Gardens-related gifts. We'll also have an extra prize -- a $50 iTunes gift card -- for the best Gardens photo featuring a Duke student or students dressed in Duke-branded clothing.
 
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. In entering this contest, you are confirming that you are the person who took the photograph and that the person in the photo has granted permission for it to be shared online.

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, April 6, 2015

Photo Contest: Instagram Colorpop!

Photo by Reagan Lunn
We're excited to introduce our first ever Instagram+Facebook photo contest, Colorpop!

Whether it's spring, summer, fall or winter,  Duke Gardens always features beautiful colors. Showcase your favorite color moments with images of flowers, structures, birds or any colorful feature. Entering this contest is a little different from past contests, so please read the "How to Enter" instructions carefully.

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. 

Here's the scoop:

HOW TO ENTER: Tag your Instagram photos with #dukegardenscolorpop. Please only tag three photos with #dukegardenscolorpop, as participants are limited to three entries. Outside of the contest, we welcome #dukegardens tags at any time, and #dukespring tags this season. We will search for the #dukegardenscolorpop hashtag, and upload your photos into an album on Facebook, with your Instagram 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." 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, April 28. Voting will end at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 4.

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just "like" your favorite contest photos, both in Instagram and on Facebook. You can find us @sarahpdukegardens in Instagram. On Facebook, we're at facebook.com/dukegardens.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes on Facebook and on Instagram, as well as judges' awards, and an extra prize for the best Gardens photo featuring a Duke student or students dressed in Duke logo clothing. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons, Duke Gardens note cards and 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.
In entering this contest, you are confirming that you are the person who took the photograph and that the person in the photo has granted permission for it to be shared online.

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.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Homeschool and Family Programs for Spring

         
Enjoying the Virtue Peace Pond

By Micaela Unda
Curiosities, questions, and collaborations–there is no place better to explore such childhood enthusiasm than Duke Gardens in spring. Sparked by the desire for discovery and the urge to explore, wonder, look, and learn, children and Gardens staff alike fuel their inquisitiveness through the Gardens' Homeschool and Family Programs.

Duke Gardens is pleased to address the growing need for quality homeschool education programs. In 1988, there were only 962 homeschools in the state. By 2014, that number had grown to 64,234, according to North Carolinians for Home Education.

Homeschool students have the opportunity to cover a wide range of subjects tailored to their age, ranging from botany to ecology, to flower anatomy, and more!

Students lean in to examine a water lily
Whether it be examining wiggling worms traveling through their vermicomposting bin, unearthing the variety of pollinators that call the Gardens home, or even taking a peek at the teeming life in underwater ponds, students will learn things they never knew.

Children share curiosities during circle time 
Education program assistant Hope Wilder described a typical day, which blends academics with outdoor explorations and hands-on activities. Each class starts off with an interactive activity, and then the students gather to read a book about the day's topic. 

Then it is time to hit the outdoors! "Students go out week by week and look at what's in bloom and at different flowering families. So it’s like actually hardcore botany," Wilder says. "I mean, we're looking at all the stamens and pistols and Latin names. We learn the characteristics of the family, go out there and look at lots of living examples, and then come back and do a dissection. They get to tear flowers apart and count everything that is going on there and do little sketches. And I think that that is just really real, rather than just talking about it or looking at posters or something.”


Studying plant parts


Wilder is passionate about the scientific process. She recalls one of her favorite moments: “Some of the questions that the kids were asking, you could write a doctoral thesis on those questions. They were things like, ‘I wonder how do the roots know to go down and the plants know to go up? How do they know how to do that?’ … ‘If a plant is getting eaten by bugs, does it know it is getting eaten by bugs? Does it hurt the plant?’ And I thought, ‘Wow, these are really interesting questions, and it seemed that curiosity can lead to much deeper learning.”

Learning more about plants

The classes also include a dash of fun, Wilder notes. “One time we were walking like animals, so we would be walking like raccoons, then walking like foxes, hopping like rabbits, we’re being bullfrogs, then at the end of class, once I had already given them back to the parents, I look out the window and I just see all the children rolling--they're just rolling from one side to the other side of the lawn.  ‘This is awesome,' I thought. 'That is truly great!’”


Children gaze into bug boxes during hands-on activity


If your children have a burning curiosity to explore the outdoors, or if you'd like to spark that curiosity, join us and come peruse the paths of the Duke Gardens in homeschool programs.

“I have a very collaborative process," Wilder says. "If parents and kids have new ideas that they want to explore, I like them to come out and let me know, because the shape of the programming is entirely based on what the kids are interested in.”

Remember, Duke Gardens is only a hop, skip, and jump away!


For more information about Duke Gardens programs, please see our calendar listings. To register, please call 919-668-1707.

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


Photography by Kaitlin Henderson

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Activities at Duke Gardens

Enjoy daffodils and other flowers on a Duke Gardens Easter visit.
Photo by Robert Ayers.


With Easter Sunday approaching, many families are looking forward to creating Easter egg hunts for children to enjoy in their yards. Others will head to Duke Gardens, hoping to bring their egg hunts to a larger space. We want to remind visitors that Easter egg hunts are not permitted in Duke Gardens, and to offer some fun ways for visitors—particularly youngsters—to celebrate Easter and enjoy all springtime visits together.

Why no Easter egg hunts at Duke Gardens? We ask visitors to refrain from egg hunts so that we can keep the fragile plants in this botanic garden safe from excited little hands and feet searching high and low for eggs and candies. We also ask visitors to help protect wildlife, so animals and birds won't try to eat the large number of forgotten eggs and candies later. Many people are unaware that chocolate can be especially harmful to dogs, and we want our visiting dogs to be safe, too.

What to do instead? We'd love to hear your ideas. Here are some of ours:

* Explore the Discovery Garden to see blueberries, kale, chard, peas, mustard and other yummy foods being grown. For children who've only ever seen these foods on a plate or in a grocery store, seeing where the plants are "born" can be fun. The Exploration Station will also offer free drop-in activities in the Discovery Garden from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday (and all Saturdays through May 2).

* Play a game of Search with Your Eyes (not hands, please): Kids can have lots of fun looking all over the Gardens for signs of spring, from new buds to colorful blossoms. How many times can they find their favorite color? How about familiar shapes that appear in leaves and flowers? How many circles, triangles or squares can you find? If you visit our information desk before heading out into the Gardens, we'll give you a free Scavenger Hunt for young visitors to follow. 

* Bird watch: From a great blue heron to a red-tailed hawk, a black-necked swan and many other species, lots of birds will be enjoying the spring weather in the Gardens this weekend. How many different birds can you spot? Any you've never seen before? Check out the informational signs at the Asiatic Arboretum Pond or the Bird Viewing Shelter in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and you can write down species names to learn more about when you get home.

* Shutterbug Madness: We'd love to see your favorite photos that celebrate spring in Duke Gardens. Please share them on our Facebook page, on Instagram (@sarahpdukegardens or tag #dukegardens) or email them to dukegardensphotos@yahoo.com.

*Easter Sunday Service: Join Duke Chapel Sunday for a 6:30 a.m. Easter Sunrise Service or an 11 a.m. Catholic Mass on the South Lawn of Duke Gardens. If you're coming for the sunrise service, please don't forget to bring a flashlight to help find your way to the lawn in the morning darkness, and a towel to wipe the dew from your chairs. If it rains, the services will be in Duke Chapel.

Thank you for joining us in celebrating spring and protecting the plants and animals that we all love.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. Duke Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.