Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Saturday is Spring Family Fun Day

Making "sound sandwiches"
at Family Fun Day

By Crystal Cotton
Do you recall those days of playing in the woods, collecting rocks, going on wild insect hunts, and making dandelion jewelry?

Well, perhaps you can get back to this during Duke Gardens’ Family Fun Day on Saturday. The point of this day is to enjoy nature and learn more about it through science-themed activity stations.

building a fairy house

Kids and their families may work together to build fairy houses, concoct gel slime, make volcanoes in a bottle, paint with plants, dissect lima beans and see how plants can grow in a plastic glove. Families may also join the Great Fish Release, in which they’ll put the first fish into the newly refurbished fish pool at the foot of the Terrace Gardens.
making "ooze"

Part of Family Fun Day’s mission is to encourage families to bring their children closer to nature in their everyday life. That’s something that Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, focuses on often with his own family.

In Bloodworth’s house they have “screen-free Sundays,” in which using screens of any sort – from television to computers – is forbidden.

“It’s just a time for the family to be together and get back to nature,” he says.

“When the kids know those other distractions aren’t an option,” he says, “that’s when they start looking for things to do.”
"sound sandwiches" teach children how vibration affects sound

Simply by starting with amphibians and insects, he says, you can begin to explain exactly how dependent a frog is on all of these other little pieces of its environment.

“Keep it simple, keep it interesting, and then really challenge them to make connections in their own brains,” he suggests.
learning about plants

An event like Family Fun Day can be helpful for parents who may have difficulty getting their kids outside and playing.

Durham mother Catherine Clabby likes her 12-year-old daughter to get outside and have fun because “it’s real free play.” Being outside allows kids to move their bodies and release energy, she says. “It just calms everybody down.”

“The Gardens are so great because it’s a refuge where you can come and walk and just be enveloped by all the beautiful plant life,” she says. “It’s just a place to go and relax.”

Participating in the Duke Gardens Family Fun Day could be the start of a whole new family adventure full of hiking, biking and becoming more familiar with our natural surroundings.

Family Fun Day will be Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about that and other nature-focused events, including summer day camp, please go to or call 668-1707.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.
Crystal Cotton is a junior at N.C. Central University and a communications intern at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the May 21 Herald-Sun.

Can this stick be part of a fairy house?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Spring Plant Sale Continues

By Lauren Sims

Thanks to all who shopped at our fund-raising Spring Plant Sale. Duke Gardens raised roughly $10,000 after expenses. And the preview sale for members drew our highest gross ever. The preview also attracted new members who wanted first dibs on the wide array of plants -- including about 40 Duke employees who took advantage of a membership discount.

If you missed the sale, all is not lost. There are still some fabulous plants available at the Gardens' Terrace Shop, just waiting for you to give them a loving home. And for an added "Duke appreciation" perk, Duke employees may have a 20 percent discount on these plants from May 18 through May 25. (Update: this sale is now open to the general public & the plants will remain on sale until they're gone.)

There are a collection of colorful hanging baskets to choose from, full of flowers such as pink verbena.

We also have the stokesia 'Mary Gregory,' which will have a feathery yellow bloom.

The kaleidoscope abelia is a great option and always keeps you guessing; its leaves change color throughout the year.

There are some gorgeous bushes available, like the red-tipped cleyera japonica or santolina.
Cleyera japonica


And we have a selection of the ever-popular hostas (see our hosta video) and the hardy banana plant.

If you're looking to attract wildlife to your garden, come check out the Joe Pye weed (which your neighborhood butterflies will love) and nepeta “catnip,” (which will please both the cats and the bees).

Joe Pye Weed

Nepeta 'Catnip'

(cats love it)

And if you’re looking to attract the envious glances of your neighbors, you can’t beat the sheer beauty of plants like the camellia, the spice rose, and the peony 'Scarlett O’Hara.'

Spice Rose

Duke Gardens can also help you stock your edible gardens this season. We still have a wide variety of herbs available, including rosemary, oregano, lavender, chives, chamomile and sweet basil.

Add that to our squash plants and blueberry bushes, and you are well on your way to a delectable summer garden!