Thursday, January 28, 2010

Duke Gardens February Events

Curator Stefan Bloodworth leads the Walk on the Wild Side tours.

Following is our February schedule of classes and special events. Please call 668-1707 or e-mail
Alice LeDuc for more information. We hope to see you at Duke Gardens soon!

Thursday, Feb. 2, 1-4 p.m.
Chinese Brush Painting
Visiting artist Alice Zhao, from Hubei Province in China, will teach technical skills and help you explore basic strokes and complete a painting of bamboo, orchids, animals or other Chinese-inspired images. $50; $40 Gardens Friends. See blog post about Chinese Brush Painting here.

Thursday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m.-noon
Tour: Walk on the Wild Side
Join curator Stefan Bloodworth in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants to see which plants are in bloom, learn strategies to design with native plants and discuss regional ecology and global environmental issues affecting native ecosystems, and your role in protecting our home planet. $5; free for Gardens Friends. Registration required. Details on all Gardens tours here.

Saturday, Feb. 6, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn to assess soil using simple field tests and then how to remediate the soil deficiencies you find. Instructor Daniel D. Richter Jr., professor of soils and forest ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, will introduce you to texture and ribbon tests to determine just what is in your soil. Then he will help you devise a plan to improve your soil structure, water retention capacity and nutritional value for your garden plants. All lab materials included. $75; $60 Gardens Friends.

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2-4 p.m.
The Soil Food Web: It’s Alive
*CANCELED* Soil is an intricate web of plants, animals and rock that reflects the plant community it supports. Join instructor Daniel D. Richter Jr., professor of soils and forest ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, for specific information about sustainably managing your garden soil. $15; $10 Gardens Friends.

Tuesdays, Feb. 9, 16, 23, 7-9 p.m.
History of Nature Photography
Become acquainted with some of the great names and works in nature photography as you learn the powerful influence nature photography has had in our country. Work with profession photographer Jennifer Weinberg to develop your ideas and practice techniques first used by the masters. $75; $60 Gardens Friends.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 6:30-8 p.m.
Durham Garden Forum
Forum meets monthly to learn from expert speakers and to troubleshoot. This month: Landscape design strategies with Jan Little, director of education and public programs. $10/ free for members. Information: 237-3376; See more on the Garden Forum here.

Friday, Feb. 12 to Sunday, Feb. 14
Workshops & free lecture with author Toby Hemenway
Hemenway is a frequent teacher, consultant and lecturer on permaculture and ecological design throughout the U.S. and other countries. These special events are co-presented with Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. All events full. Details here.

Friday, Feb. 12 10:45 a.m.-noon.
Traditional Japanese Tea Gathering
As a guest to Tea, you will experience the patterns and poetry of Chado, or the Japanese “way of tea,” while enjoying an enticing bowl of whisked tea and a seasonal treat. Meet at the Doris Duke Center, then head to the Japanese Pavilion. $30; $20 Gardens Friends. Additional tea gatherings will be April 10 and May 7, and there'll be a family Japanese Tea Gathering March 6 and May 8 for families with children age 6 and older.

Monday & Tuesday, Feb. 15-16, 3-5 p.m.
Geology of the Piedmont
Duncan Heron, professor emeritus of geology at Duke University, will discuss the forces that have acted on our land and the rock formations that underlie the various soils that are the basis for the different plant communities in the Piedmont and especially the Triangle. Class also includes a 4-hour field trip Feb. 19. $75; $60 Gardens Friends.

Thursday, Feb. 18, 1-4 p.m.
Rose Care and Pruning
Roses are unique, in their history and in the inspiration people find in them. Join David Pike, of Durham’s Witherspoon Rose Culture, to learn how to work with roses and create the most vigorous growth and flowering for your enjoyment. $20; $15 Gardens Friends.

Saturday, Feb 20, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
2010 Spring Gardening Symposium: Your Natural Garden
Your garden is essential to the health of our world. Learn how to extend that environmental contribution. Includes an optional garden dinner and Sunday workshop. See a brochure here. Register online here or call 684-4444.

Friday, Feb. 26, 10 a.m.
Tour: Spring Flower Walk in the Arboretum
Join Culberson Asiatic Arboretum curator Paul Jones as he guides you to some of the little-known garden spaces and unique plants. $5; free for Gardens Friends. Pre-registration required. Additional Flower Walks March 19, April 9 and May 14. Details on all Gardens tours here.

Sunday, Feb. 28, 2-4 p.m.
Free class: Smart Water Management in the Home Landscape
County consumer horticulture agent Michelle Wallace will teach several methods of managing water in the home landscape, including irrigation approaches, water harvesting, water-wise gardening and creating rain gardens. (Registration required.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chinese Brush Painting Class

Painting by Duke Gardens instructor Alice Zhao.

This column by Sarah P. Duke Gardens volunteer Nan Len originally appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun on Jan. 16.

Gardens, Chinese Art and You

These days, we gardeners have little to do but send in our seed orders. To pass the time, we take classes, read, and plan. For a while, we garden in memories and dreams. In a curious way, we are like the Chinese nature artists who painted their works from memory.

In the middle of winter, a Chinese brush painter could paint a cheerful picture of a bird in a fruit tree just to brighten up a dreary day. In the middle of winter, I buy seeds for plants that will attract the butterflies that I remember from last year. Admittedly, I am stretching the point, but there is a lot about Chinese nature painting that strikes a chord with gardeners.

The history of Chinese painting goes back to the 6th century BCE. Even to an untrained eye there is something distinctive about a Chinese brush painting. Such a rich tradition cannot be described quickly, but a few significant aspects of this style include the symbolism of the images, the technique of painting and the use of brush and ink.

Chinese painting can be divided into four broad categories of subjects: figures, landscapes, flowers and birds, and bamboo and rocks. Landscapes are the traditional subject of brush paintings, often including mountains, streams, and forests. In a painting, an entire landscape will be represented but not in the Western style of single perspective. Rather, the artist uses a shifting perspective to take the viewer from the bank of a stream to the top

of a mountain in one painting.

A student of brush painting will practice painting the “four gentlemen or seasons” – the plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum – as each of these images includes traditional brush stroke techniques. These plants have also come represent certain human virtues.

Plum blossoms are cold-resistant flowers that bloom in late winter and represent hope, endurance and renewal. Orchids bloom in the spring and are a symbol of grace. The bamboo depicts summer and reflects strength, upright integrity and flexibility. Chrysanthemums resolutely bloom late into autumn, keeping their bright colors despite the cold.

Remarkably, brush paintings are done without a sketch, model or corrections. Once a stroke is put on paper, it is not changed. The artist creates an image by remembering the subject and then conveying the essence of it, although not necessarily a strict representation of its physical form. Control of the brushstrokes and the ink allow an artist to create an image with thick and thin lines in dark to light shades. Some of the paintings are done only with black ink while others have pale to vibrant colors.

Both calligraphy and brush painting are regarded as art forms. The material used for calligraphy and painting – brush, ink, inkstone and paper – have been refined over the centuries and are called the “four treasures of the study.”

Over time, the scholar-artists who practiced brush painting combined it with calligraphy and poetry. This is why you often see writing in Chinese art; the image and the poetry – sometimes a quoted piece, sometimes the artist’s own composition – complement each other.

As you sit with a cup of tea or coffee thinking about your garden, you are like the Chinese brush painter remembering something long observed. Like the painter, you have an image in your mind that captures the essence of your garden.

If you are interested in reading about and looking at Chinese brush paintings, the Metropolitan Museum of Art webpage is a good place to start (

If you would like to try your hand at brush painting, consider signing up for the Chinese brush painting class at Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 1 to 4 p.m. The instructor is Alice Zhao, a visiting artist from Hubei Province in China. Call (919) 668-1707 or e-mail for more information. (Update: just one spot left!)

Painting by Zhao student Alice Le Duc
Director of Adult Education at Duke Gardens

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Durham Garden Forum

Triangle Gardening enthusiasts have a new educational source they can turn to for help with basic or complex gardening issues. The recently launched Durham Garden Forum gathers monthly to discuss gardening techniques. People can join the Forum for $25 annually (beginning in April) or pay $10 per meeting. Members need not live in Durham.

Each meeting is led by an expert in the featured topic, from horticulturists to landscape designers and members of the N.C. Cooperative Extension. Attendees will also be encouraged to share their experiences. Meetings are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St., Durham.

Forthcoming 2010 topics include: design (Feb. 9); blooming sequence (March 9); vegetable gardening (April 6); pests (May 11); garden diseases (June 15); and sustainable turf strategies (July 20). For information, e-mail Gene Carlone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January Duke Gardens events

Welcome to the new year! Below are our January classes and tours. We hope to see you this month at the Gardens. You can e-mail or call 668-1707 for information or to register.

Here's our full January-June brochure. And don't forget to take a look at our fantastic Feb. 20 2010 Spring Gardening Symposium: Your Natural Garden.

Jan. 7, 11 a.m.-noon
Walk on the Wild Side
Explore wild North Carolina in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Join curator Stefan Bloodworth to see which plants are in bloom, learn strategies to design with native plants and discuss regional ecology and global environmental issues affecting native ecosystems, and your role in protecting the health of our home planet. $5; free for Gardens Friends. Registration required.

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2-4 p.m.
Bring Your Own Vegetable Garden to Life
For tips on garden planning, deciphering seed catalogs, starting seeds, creating raised beds, composting, organic backyard farming and more, join Durham County master gardeners Charles Murphy and Darcey Martin. Free (registration required).

Thursdays, Jan. 14, 21, 28, 1-4 p.m.
Digital Photography: Understanding Camera, Computer & Photo Editing
Learn from photographer Jennifer Weinberg how to operate your camera, including ISO settings, white balance, and loading, editing and organizing jpgs on computer. Class will also cover basic photography techniques like composition and framing. Bring your camera and manual to each session. $80; $65 Gardens Friends.

Thurs., Jan. 14, 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11, 18, March 4, 11, 18, 9-10:30 a.m.
Plant Propagation
Select your favorite plants and learn a step-by-step process to raise them from seed or cuttings and then plant in your own garden. Here is your chance to learn some propagation techniques through hands–on experience with expert guidance from Duke Gardens staff. $95; $75 Gardens Friends.

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2-4 p.m.
Italian Gardens: Contrasting Classical and Contemporary Garden Style
Spend an afternoon in armchair travel as we visit gardens across Italy. College professor Greg Pierceall has been making a special study of Italian gardens, touring each summer with landscape architecture students. Join us for a review of how classical techniques and design strategies are reinterpreted to serve contemporary garden goals. Take home a refreshed view of strategies to use in your own garden. $15; $10 Gardens Friends.

Monday-Wednesday, Jan. 18-20, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Landscape Design Workshop
Refine and refresh your landscape design skills in this three-day intensive workshop. College professor Greg Pierceall will focus on design techniques and strategies and then work with you on graphic presentation skills. The workshop will be run as a studio, with quick intensive design challenges, in-class critiques and an energetic pace that fosters exploration and discovery. $215; $175 Gardens Friends.

Friday and Monday, Jan. 22 and 25, noon-5 p.m.
Photoshop for the Nature Photographer
Photographer Paul Salazar will teach how to configure Photoshop, using camera raw image processing, making selections and masking, darkroom effects, filters and color management, and other useful Photoshop features. Class will meet in a computer lab setting. $120; $85 Gardens Friends.

Also, registration for our Nature Adventures Camp in June is open now, and we're seeking vendors for the April 24 Plant & Craft Festival.