Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Spotted Beebalm, Eastern Teaberry and Cardinal Flower


cardinal flower
By Annie Yang
Photos by Beth Hall

Spotted beebalms, eastern teaberries and cardinal flowers are not only attractive plants, they also have interesting histories of cultural, folkloric and medicinal uses. Whatever their practical attributes, their unique physical traits can add color and personality to your garden.

You can find them all at our Spring Plant Sale on April 1 from 8 a.m. to noon.  Gardens members get 10 percent off all plants at the sale, as well as first dibs via our Member Preview Sale on Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. Urge your friends and family to join as well, so you can shop together! Learn more about the sale and membership here.

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)

Cardinal flower in the
Spring Woodland Garden.
The bright red robes of Roman Catholic cardinals were the inspiration for Lobelia cardinalis, commonly called cardinal flower. Its scarlet and brighter red tones add drama to any garden.

Cardinal flower prefers rich, medium to wet soil in partial to full shade. Although a relatively low maintenance plant otherwise, it requires constant moisture. In areas with hotter summers, such as North Carolina, Lobelia cardinalis welcomes some afternoon shade. Long tubular flowers will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Perhaps a little ironically, this plant is not attractive to Northern cardinals, despite a similarity in name.

Cardinal flower plants can grow from 1 to 3 feet tall. You can find it growing at Duke Gardens in the Spring Woodland Garden, where it thrives in the moist banks of the stream and rain garden. If you have a woodland garden, consider planting them at the edge, where they are especially attractive.



Spotted beebalm. 
Monarda punctata (spotted beebalm)

Monarda punctata's medicinal properties were used by the Meskwaki, Mohegan and other tribes to drive away illnesses. But you can take advantage of its pleasing smell to attract many pollinators to your garden.

Native to eastern Canada, the eastern United States, and northeastern Mexico, spotted beebalm thrives in full sun to part shade and in dry, sandy soils with mildly acidic to mildly alkaline pH levels. While drought-tolerant, this species wouldn’t mind some watering during the summer to help promote blooming. Spotted beebalm does best when sheared once a year after particularly brutal frosts or in the spring. The shallow root systems benefit from added leaf mold and compost.

spotted beebalm
With creamy white flowers specked with purple and pinkish bracts, Monarda punctata brightens up any garden and invites beautiful butterflies and beneficial wasps with its sweet nectar. Thymol, the same chemical that makes spotted beebalm so attractive as an herbal remedy, also repels mites and other pests. Spotted beebalm can get a little aggressive, but the occasional pruning is a small price to pay for all the benefits this plant brings to your garden.



Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

A plant of many names, Gaultheria procumbens goes by eastern teaberry, checkerberry, boxberry, drunkards, American wintergreen, wax cluster, spicy wintergreen and youngster, among numerous other identifications.

Gaultheria procumbens produces bright red berries that will last throughout winter. Oil extracted from lovely green leaves was once used to relieve common aches and pains. The oil of wintergreen is additionally used as flavoring in chewing gum, candy, and toothpaste. Be aware that as valuable and useful the eastern teaberry is to humans, some animals depend on its berries and leaves during the winter as an important food source.

Gaultheria procumbens is native to the eastern woodlands of the United States, and it grows best in organically rich, acidic, moist soil. Eastern teaberry can tolerate even heavy shade, but it grows and flowers best in sunny openings with partial shade. This evergreen shrub spreads over time, making for great ground cover in a garden, and gets along with other acid-loving shrubs, such as azaleas and rhododendrons.

SPRING PLANT SALE: Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to noon. Free admission & parking. Please bring wagons/carts and boxes if you have them.

MEMBER PREVIEW SALE: Friday, March 31, 4-6 p.m. Sign up or renew your membership online in advance or on site. Your support helps Duke Gardens preserve the Duke and Durham communities and visitors from around the world with educational programs and nationally acclaimed horticultural design. Thank you!

Blogger Annie Yang is a Duke freshman and a work-study marketing assistant at Duke Gardens. Beth Hall is Duke Gardens' plant records manager.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Dazzling Peonies

Paeonia 'Coral Sunset.'
By Annie Yang
Photos by Jason Holmes

Native to Asia, Europe, and western North America, peonies have fascinated gardeners, botanists and plant enthusiasts for centuries. Scientists have identified dozens of species, all known for impressively beautiful blossoms in a vibrant array of colors. Fortunately, peonies are hardy as well as attractive, and they can make a colorful addition to any garden or household bouquet.

Below are four peony species we’re excited to bring to you at our Spring Plant Sale this Saturday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to noon. Gardens members get 10 percent off all plants at the sale, as well as first dibs via our Member Preview Sale on Friday from 4-6 p.m. Urge your friends and family to join as well, so you can shop together! Learn more about the sale and membership here.

Paeonia 'Coral Sunset'

Gazing upon this gorgeous peony variety, visitors will notice the coral of ruffled petals gently melting into pale pink or white, enclosing yellow stamens at the center. The vibrant, colorful bloom is reminiscent of a warm, summer sunset. Just one look will make it clear how Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’ earned its name.

Every spring, ‘Coral Sunset’ puts on a bright display. An early bloomer, this peony is especially suited to North Carolina, where springs are short and the summers are hot. Durable and long-lived like its peony cousins, this variety faces few problems with pests and is drought-tolerant once established. Give the plant well-drained soil and partial to full sun, and ‘Coral Sunset’ has the potential to thrive for decades in your garden.

Don’t be discouraged if miniature sunsets don’t light up your garden immediately. Peonies take time to establish deep root systems. But patience is a virtue, and ‘Coral Sunset’ will come back year after year to brighten garden borders and bouquets.

Paeonia 'Armani'

With a name inspired by the high-end fashion brand, Paeonia ‘Armani’ flaunts an elegant, dark red flower sure to stand out in any garden. ‘Armani’ distinguishes itself among peonies for boasting some of the darkest reds in the family; double flowers bloom in the late spring to early summer before deepening into a rich burgundy.

You may think that this beauty requires a high level of maintenance, but ‘Armani’ is actually quite easy to care for — just make sure to provide the plant with enriched, well-drained soil with partial to full sun. Don’t forget to trim old stems to keep the plant healthy. As a bonus, this perennial is tolerant to drought, and it attracts butterflies but resists deer and rabbits.

The showy ‘Armani’ also makes an exquisite cut flower, a trait especially convenient given that cutting is one way peonies reproduce. So, don’t be afraid to whip out some scissors and snip at these beautiful blooms in your garden, because they will be back!

Paeonia ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’

Paeonia 'Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt'
A refined, sophisticated flower, Paeonia ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ exudes grace and charm. Gentle, soft pink and creamy white flowers unfurl into an almost waterlily-like arrangement — a sight to behold! It also has a lovely fragrance. ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ was introduced in 1932 and has continued to delight gardeners into the 21st century.

The pastel color would may suggest that the blossoms are delicate, but ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ is another tried-and-true peony — durable, long-lasting, and vigorous. The plant is deer and rabbit resistant, virtually pest-free, and attractive to butterflies. Another low-maintenance peony, it will be perfectly content with enriched, fertile, well-drained soil and partial to full shade. The gorgeous blooms can be relatively large and heavy, so ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ will appreciate some support or shelter to keep the rain from weighing her down.

This peony can function well within many different garden roles: it shines as a specimen plant or in groups, as a walkway or driveway border feature, or as  informal hedges. ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ is also, of course, an exquisite cut flower, certain to stand out in any floral arrangement and captivate the hearts of many.

Paeonia
 'Felix Crousse'


Paeonia ‘Felix Crousse’ was introduced to American gardeners in 1881, and it is easy to see why the variety has remained popular for so long. Magenta to raspberry hues combined with a silvery sheen and an inviting fragrance have made ‘Felix Crousse’ a crowd pleaser and showstopper for generations.

As with other peonies, maintaining the durable ‘Felix Crousse’ involves relatively little hassle. Fertile soil and partial to full sun will help this perennial thrive. Keep in mind that the brilliant flowers are so large that ‘Felix Crousse’ may require some support in heavy rain to prevent them from arching toward the ground. It will be useful to find a sheltered spot in your garden for ‘Felix Crousse’ to settle down in, but don’t let the extra care dissuade you from cultivating this classic garden flower.

Consider combining  peonies with roses or other perennials in your garden to create riveting color patterns. ‘Felix Crousse’ blooms in the late spring to early summer, and growing this peony with varieties that have different bloom times can extend your peony season for more than an entire month of captivating flowers.

SPRING PLANT SALE: Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to noon. Free admission & parking. Please bring wagons/carts and boxes if you have them.

MEMBER PREVIEW SALE: Friday, March 31, 4-6 p.m. Sign up or renew your membership online in advance or on site. Your support helps Duke Gardens preserve the Duke and Durham communities and visitors from around the world with educational programs and nationally acclaimed horticultural design. Thank you!

Blogger Annie Yang is a Duke freshman and a work-study marketing assistant at Duke Gardens. Jason Holmes is the curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lecture & workshop preview: Planting in a Post-Wild World

Take inspiration from the Piedmont Prairie in the
Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.
Photo by Annabel Renwick.
By Katherine Hale

Native plant gardening is all the rage these days, and rightly so, but so often the reality falls short of its true potential.

The problem isn’t with the plants themselves. North Carolina native species are robust, colorful and charming, and they provide food and shelter for a wide range of birds, bees and other creatures. It’s really an organizational problem.

Effective design is what separates a beautiful meadow or functioning rain garden from a high-maintenance nightmare. Traditional garden placement, in which plants are treated as individual units separated by wide swathes of grass or mulch, just doesn’t measure up to the organic vitality and sustainability of landscapes organized by Mother Nature. But letting things run wild doesn’t always produce aesthetically pleasing results, bring in the species you’d prefer, or keep the homeowners’ association off your back.

What’s a busy, conscientious, nature-loving gardener to do?

In two upcoming events at Duke Gardens, landscape architect Claudia West will illustrate that it is possible to have a garden that is ornamental, functional and ecological all at the same time. The secret is to mimic the way plants layer and space themselves in the wild. It’s unorthodox but highly effective, and it’s not an exaggeration to say this will revolutionize the way you see the world.

West’s lecture on Thursday, March 30, will be based on the groundbreaking book she co-wrote with colleague Thomas Rainer, “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes.” Duke Gardens is pleased to host this event as part of the annual Taimi Anderson Lecture Series.

Drawing on key archetypal landscapes—grassland, woodland and forest—West will explain how to find the one that best suits your project or property, and how to find specific species from that landscape that will work in your eco-region. She’ll also detail how to lay out the plants in functional groups based on their roles in the landscape, and how to space plants to avoid any pesky weeding after installation. The Piedmont Prairie in the Blomquist Garden, for instance, could be the perfect inspiration for a backyard meadow featuring native wildflowers and drought-tolerant grasses, or perhaps a border around a more traditionally mowed lawn. Aside from a few basic ground rules and concepts, the limits are only determined by your imagination and creativity in applying them.

Haven’t read the book? Don’t worry—copies will be available for purchase on site with a book signing reception following the lecture. The lecture is free for garden members and Duke students, and $10 for the general public.

For those who prefer a more informal approach, West will also offer a small group workshop on Friday, March 31. Capped at 25 people, this is the perfect opportunity to ask West specific questions about plant selection or home or garden projects and get personalized feedback. The workshop is $80 for Gardens members, and $99 for the general public. Lunch will be provided for participants.

Finally, if you’re inspired by West’s enthusiasm for native plants and eager to try out these principles for yourself, don’t forget our Spring Plant Sale on April 1, and the Preview Sale for members the evening before. Here you can purchase grasses, shrubs and other native perennials selected for their premier ornamental qualities, with unique colors and textures you can’t find in the landscaping section of the average big box retailer—and use them to create a beautiful, ecologically-designed and resilient native garden of your own.

EVENT DETAILS:

“Planting in a Post-Wild World” lecture: Thursday, March 30, 7 p.m.

“Planting in a Post-Wild World” workshop: March 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Doris Duke Center, Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, Duke University, Durham.

Information/registration: gardenseducation@duke.edu or 919-668-1707.

Spring Plant Sale: Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to noon.

Preview Sale for Members: March 31, 4-6 p.m.

Blogger Katherine Hale is an intern in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens and a graduate student in the Field Naturalist program at the University of Vermont. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Little Bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues', also known as little bluestem.

By Katherine Hale
Photos by Jason Holmes

Call it by its Latin name, Schizachyrium scoparium, or by the common name little bluestem – either way, this plant is a winner.

Native to the wide Midwestern prairies, little bluestem is right at home in sunny urban landscapes of North Carolina. In Duke Gardens, you can find this species growing in the Piedmont Prairie in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. We’ll be selling several cultivars at our Spring Plant Sale.

One cultivar, 'Prairie Blues', has blue-green spring foliage that turns reddish-purple by mid-summer, sporting tall stalks bedecked with tiny florets that dry into attractive curls. Another selection, ‘Smoke Signals’, has striking dark coloration that makes it stand out at a distance. Leave the frost-killed stalks up for wildlife shelter and winter interest, or cut it back to the base and use in dried flower arrangements—it will look great either way.
Schizachyrium scoparium

The design possibilities with little bluestem are endless. Beautiful in formal mass plantings and perennial borders, adding visual interest to parking strip buffers and rain gardens, or scattered among wildflowers in a meadow—you can’t go wrong. Upright and tidy, little bluestem thrives in heat and humidity as the ultimate low maintenance perennial. Rip out your lawn, never have to mow again and enjoy a continuous show year-round.

Formerly known as Andropogon scoparium, this species has been reclassified as the genus Schizachyrium. Whatever you opt to call it, look for it at our Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to noon, or at the Gardens Member Preview Sale on March 31 from 4 to 6 p.m. See you there!

Blogger Katherine Hale is an intern in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens and a graduate student in the Field Naturalist program at the University of Vermont. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Sculpture Emerges on the South Lawn

Scaffolding helps to keep the foundational
elements in place during creation. Photo by Bill LeFevre.
By Katherine Hale

A bird’s nest. A treehouse. An alien spaceship.  A new sculpture, constructed entirely out of locally harvested saplings, is taking shape on the South Lawn of Duke Gardens. Starting this week and for the next two weeks, Triangle sculptor Patrick Dougherty will construct his latest creation with the help of a rotating crew of Gardens staff and volunteers. Even in its unfinished state, the sculpture is already drawing a great deal of talk and opinions. And that’s just how Dougherty likes it.

Dougherty and a volunteer add
more sticks to the mix.
Photo by Orla Swift.
“It is clear that a good sculpture causes many different personal associations with those who see it,” he wrote in his 2010 career retrospective Stickwork. Throughout the process of construction, he enjoys flipping the questions of curious passers-by right back at them:  “What do you think it is? And what should I call it?”

Beloved for picnicking and sunbathing, strolling and (ostensibly) studying, the South Lawn now takes a turn as host to a public art installation. Already this sculpture has undergone several transformations. On Friday morning, the third day on site, a small forest of red maple and sweetgum saplings harvested in Duke Forest earlier in the week had sprung up on the center of the lawn, complete with a luxurious carpet of mulch and surrounded by a halo of temporary scaffolding. More saplings, piled in thick bundles, lay nearby. By lunchtime, Dougherty had begun to pull the tops of the branches into graceful, looping curves and lash them into place, while three volunteers gracefully wove smaller branches in between the trunks at their base.

Weaving sturdy walls.
Photo by Orla Swift.
Everyone moves carefully but efficiently, as if they were all born to this work—and perhaps they were.  “When we were young, the ubiquitous stick was an everyday part of childhood play. It was a tool, a weapon, a rafter,” Dougherty writes in Stickwork. “I point out my belief that we inherit stick know-how from our first ancestors. So any volunteer can quickly find that knack, that basic urge to build.” Trees are natural architects, too, and much of the charm of Dougherty’s designs comes from letting them drive the development of the work as it unfolds. The end results are organic, undulating, clearly fabricated yet oddly natural--and intimately reflected of the surrounding landscape.

Duke Gardens executive director Bill LeFevre approached Dougherty several years ago with a proposal to bring his artistry to the Gardens. As the project date drew closer, they agreed upon an ideal location. When the work began, LeFevre and Gardens staff members enthusiastically signed up for opportunities to play a hands-on role.

“We are thrilled and thankful to have the opportunity to work with Patrick Dougherty and his team to create this site-specific work of art in Duke Gardens,” said LeFevre, whose shifts with Dougherty left him somewhat scratched up but also energized and inspired.

“We collected thousands of saplings from Duke Forest, and now we all get to play a role in bending them into Patrick’s emerging vision for the piece,” he said. “I hope visitors will enjoy witnessing this process of creation.”

Dougherty explains his techniques to
staff members who will assist.
Photo by Orla Swift.
Like the forests that spawned them, these sculptures cannot be built in one day—three weeks from start to finish is typical for Dougherty’s constructions. The ongoing process of installation is both an opportunity for the community to interact and participate and a piece of performance art in itself. Once the sculpture is complete, time and the elements will help dictate how long it will remain, but Dougherty’s sculptures typically stay standing for a couple of years.

So, what is it exactly taking shape on the South Lawn? It’s a castle. It’s a forest. It’s a home for elves. It’s a photo opportunity. It’s a chance to get in touch with nature again or an inspiration to build a tree fort of your own at home. Or perhaps it’s none of those things at all for you.  But one thing is for certain: whether you’re involved with the construction or just passing through, Dougherty’s work is likely to intrigue and engage you.

Katherine Hale is an intern in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens and a graduate student in the Field Naturalist program at the University of Vermont. 

Read more about Patrick Dougherty and his work in the latest issue of Garden & Gun magazine.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Duke Gardens Gifts for the Holidays

An embellished lizard pin is among the Garden Guild's
intriguing crafts. Photo by Orla Swift.
By Annie Yang T'20

As nature lovers, we are always on the lookout for fun gifts and decorations for the holiday season. Fortunately, the Terrace Shop and the volunteer Garden Guild make it easy to find fun and festive items.

Origami boxes, some from recycled paper,
make a unique presentation. Photo: Yang.
From origami gift boxes to note cards, ornaments and jewelry, the Garden Guild’s crafty members always have an intriguing selection of gifts related to nature or Duke Gardens.

The guild’s most item popular item is an origami box made of recycled decorative paper, including Duke Gardens’ calendars and other publications, as well as gift wrap and scrapbook paper. The boxes’ design is by origami artist Tomoko Fuse. The guild’s boxes are available all year, but the decorative paper gives the winter boxes a distinctly festive look.

If your friend sews, an acorn
pincushion makes a
whimsical gift. Photo: Swift.
Ornaments are another guild best-seller—in fact, the okra Santa ornaments have already sold out.  Grown in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, the okra is painted to resemble Santa Claus with a very long beard.

As nature lovers, we are always on the lookout for fun gifts and decorations for the holiday season. Fortunately, the Terrace Shop and the volunteer Garden Guild make it easy to find fun and festive items.

Hang tiny Duke Gardens
photos in a window or
on a tree. Photo: Swift.
From origami gift boxes to note cards, fabric Kindle cases, ornaments and jewelry, the Garden Guild’s crafty members always have an intriguing selection of gifts related to nature or Duke Gardens.

The guild’s most item popular item is an origami box made of recycled decorative paper, including Duke Gardens’ calendars and other publications, as well as gift wrap and scrapbook paper. The boxes’ design is by origami artist Tomoko Fuse. The guild’s boxes are available all year, but the decorative paper gives the winter boxes a distinctly festive look.

Ornaments are another guild best-seller—in fact, the okra Santa ornaments have already sold out.  Grown in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, the okra is painted to resemble Santa Claus with a very long beard.

The guild's cork angel ornaments will sing their way into
your heart. Photo: Swift.
Other Garden Guild ornaments range from whimsical cork angels to tiny framed Duke Gardens photos. There are also more standard looking spherical ornaments with unique colors and patterns.

If you want to wish friends and family well this holiday season, the Guild’s seasonal cards add a personal touch to your messages. Some designs are more timeless and boast unique features like wearable pins and tea bags.

Plant pot Santas and elves
add joy to a Christmas tree.
Photo: Swift.
The Guild has quite a few other wearable creations, including blingy lizard and dragonfly pins and Louis Vuitton-style fabric bead necklaces. The craftsmanship and attention to detail make all of the Garden Guild’s creations truly special.

Dress up your Kindle for the holidays with this
handmade fabric case. Photo: Swift.
This is only a small sample of the Garden Guild’s intriguing creations. Visit the Terrace Shop to see all they have to offer and the skill and care put into their work. You'll also want to remember Duke Gardens all year long with a 2017 wall calendar and 56-page souvenir photo book. Visit the store or call 919-684-9037 to purchase your favorite items. There’s something for everyone to bring a piece of Duke Gardens and Duke back home!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Class Preview: Learn to Weave a Round Basket

Cherokee wheel detail.
By Rose James

As fall weather grows cooler and the holiday gift-giving season approaches, many of us seek new creative sparks to fuel us through chilly nights and leave us with one-of-a-kind gifts for ourselves and others. A handmade basket is a perfect fall project, and Duke Gardens instructor Lu Howard can guide you through the whole process in her 6-hour class on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The style of basket you’ll make has a Cherokee-wheel design and veneer cherry wood strip inserts. It’s a perfect basket for beginners, Lu says, because it’s simple to make. The basket is hand-shaped, meaning that you don’t use a mold, so each basket is unique.

Lu will prepare all the materials you’ll need, cutting and marking the staves and reeds in advance. But she will also teach you these preparatory steps, so that after your first basket on Saturday, you can confidently go forth and make many more.

You’ll make your basket with rattan reeds, and you will work with them wet, so be sure to come dressed in clothing that you don’t mind getting damp. Working with wet reeds makes them pliable, and when they dry they will hold their desired shape. You should be able to finish your basket by the end of class. But if you’re a more leisurely weaver, you’ll be well on your way to confidently finish your basket on your own thereafter.

Anyone can learn to make this kind of basket, and the class is open to people as young as 16. You do not need to have any skills or special artistic talent for this class, only a bit of patience. It’s actually quite a therapeutic activity, Lu says. And you’ll have plenty of time to bond with fellow weavers as your baskets take shape.

Lu uses her baskets for a variety of purposes, from storing fruit and spices in the kitchen to providing a pretty display for flower pots on the porch. We hope you’ll join us for this fun and empowering class, and we look forward to seeing the variety of baskets that everyone makes.

Class details: "Round Basket with Cherokee Wheel Embellishment" will meet Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The class fee is $50, or $40 for Gardens members. To register, or for more information, please email or call 919-668-1707.

About the Instructor: 

Lu Howard is a member of the North Carolina Basketmakers Association and Durham’s basket-weavers’ guild. She has won many awards for her baskets. She can make a small pine needle basket in as few as two hours, and she wove a bassinet for her grandson this summer over two to three weeks.

Basket-weaving is in Lu’s blood. Her grandfather was a farmer, and he would make baskets each winter from hickory. He used the baskets to harvest and store produce, as well as to hold toys and other household items.

Lu made her first basket in 1983, in a beginner class in Northern Illinois. She was immediately hooked, and she has been weaving baskets ever since.

With Lu’s enthusiasm, artistry and teaching skills, we’re sure that you will be hooked, too!

Blogger Rose James is a Duke freshman and work-study marketing assistant at Duke Gardens.