Thursday, May 24, 2012

Durham Garden Forum Advice Fair

Jason Holmes, curator of the 
Doris Duke Center Gardens,
will be among the presenters
at the Gardener's Advice Fair.

The Durham Garden Forum will host a free Gardener's Advice Fair on Tuesday, July 17, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Duke Gardens.

The fair is sponsored by the forum, Duke Gardens and N.C. Cooperative Extension.

Informational booth topics and experts will include the following:

Rain barrels: Mike Runk, cofounder of the local company Rainwater Solutions. Mike will also do a rain barrel giveaway.

Repellants: Marilyn Cox, owner of the local company I Must Garden 

Garden Tools: Stone Bros. & Byrd of Durham 

Vermicomposting/composting: Extension Master Gardeners Lynne Nelson & Sara

Soil: Robin Watson, N.C. Department of Agriculture soil agronomist. Bring your soil test results so Robin can help interpret them during the fair. 

N.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers: Answering general gardening questions 

Bird Baths and Houses: Cynthia Fox, owner of Wild Bird Center in Chapel Hill 

Trees: Alex Johnson, certified arborist and urban forester for the City of Durham 

Rain Gardens: Laura Webb-Smith, storm water educator for the City of Durham 

Right Plant, Right Place: Jason Holmes, curator at Sarah P. Duke Gardens 

Durham Garden Center: Barbara Albertus will talk about the hottest new plants 

Durham Photography Club: This club meets on the second Monday evening of each month at Duke Gardens. Photographers of all levels are welcome.

For more information about the Advice Fair, please email or call 919-668-1707.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Landscape Plants

oakleaf hydrangea
photo by Jason Holmes

By Jennie Carlisle

Plants are the bread and butter of good landscape design. Ornamental plants can be used as either an accent or focal point in a yard or garden—adding shape, color, texture and fragrance. Their flowers, foliage and fruit provide seasonal flare. Beyond just looking good and smelling nice, ornamental plants add value to a property.

With so many choices available at local nurseries and garden centers how do you go about picking the right ones for your landscaping needs?

Landscape architect Bobby Mottern, Duke Gardens’ director of horticulture, leads a series of seasonal workshops at the Gardens that focus on dozens of plants that are ideal for gardeners in our region. The latest installment, “Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens: Summer,” will run for four Thursdays—May 31 to June 14 and June 28—from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Mottern shared some thoughts about some of the plants he’ll discuss in the workshop, and tips for selecting them.

What are your favorite plants to use in landscaping? “I like plants that are easy, plants that tolerate many conditions, plants that look great and that provide multiple points of interest. I love oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). It’s a big shrub with bold, textured, large leaves that turn brilliant red in the fall, and it has huge white flowers in the summer. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is also a nice large shrub that has 8-inch long blue flower spikes in June and July. It’s also deer tolerant. I also love torch lily (Knifophia uvaria), which is a June-blooming perennial with tall spikes of orange, red or yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Are there any new plants on the market we should know about? Yes, new introductions are available every year. A relatively new panicle hydrangea is called ‘Limelight’ for its lime-green foliage. A new dwarf butterfly bush called ‘Blue Chip’ is now quite popular, and coneflowers are available in a variety of colors other than the traditional pink/lavender shades.

Do you have any other suggestions for finding and growing ornamental plants? Be adventuresome.  Always be willing to try new and unusual plants, and share plants with your friends. Perennials always need dividing, and seedlings of certain plants need transplanting. Plants are a great gift and it’s always nice to have a story associated with your plants. I still have plants in my yard that my grandmother grew!

REGISTRATION: To register for Mottern’s class, or for more information, please call our registrar at 919-668-1707. The  class is limited to 15 students, so there is plenty of time for addressing gardeners’ questions and concerns. The fee is $105; $85 for Gardens members. For information about other classes and public events at Duke Gardens, please go to

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. 

Jennie Carlisle is an events assistant at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Creating a Photogenic Garden

By Paul Salazar
Photos by Paul Salazar

As a photographer, I am always on the lookout for eye-catching scenes, vibrant colors and interesting subjects. Browse through any photography book or magazine and one is overwhelmed with photographs that we all long to take but never do because we don’t have the time or money to travel to the exotic places pictured in these publications.

Does your camera sit on a shelf most of the winter when scenes outside are dull and all the leaves have fallen from the trees? When spring arrives, our desire to take photographs blossoms like the world around us. Every year, I make a conscious effort to get out and photograph often, even during the dull winter months. I don’t take long trips, I just step out into my back yard.

I have set aside a couple of corners of my yard for photography gardens. These are not the symmetrical, well planned and pristine gardens featured in the garden magazines.  My gardens don’t require a lot of work and are purposely cluttered with interesting items that I collect randomly anytime I see something of interest. I have an old wagon wheel, a banged up watering can, old gardening tools, a section of split rail fence, a section of barbed wire fence and a section of picket fence. Interspersed among these items, I have dragged in some interesting boulders and several pieces of trees that have interesting shapes and knot holes.

Among all these items, I plant flowers and shrubs. Generally, I plant the taller items behind the shorter and evergreen trees and bushes at the very back of the garden so that I have a green background even in the winter months.  A few winter-blooming plants keep color in my photographs year-round. My garden’s layout is constantly changing as I move different items in and out to create new interesting scenes for photographs. My garden is a habitat for birds, butterflies and small animals like chipmunks, squirrels and lizards and for spiders and insects. I’m trying to create mini-scenes for interesting photographs, scenes that include color, shape and form.

Here are a few tips when laying out your photography garden:
1.    Birds are attracted to the sound of running water. Include a bird bath and/or a small garden pond that has a pump to move the water.
2.    I generally do not include white flowers in my garden as they are too bright and distracting in photographs. If you want white flowers, put them in their own section and don’t intersperse them throughout your garden.
3.    Bury several sections of 18-inch-long, 8-inch in diameter plastic pipe in a semi-circle  around the perimeter of your garden  so that you can readily insert and change out interesting posts and sections of trees with interesting shapes and knot holes. I put peanut butter suet in the knot holes to attract birds to natural-looking perches for photographs. 
4.    Place bird feeders around the perimeter. I do not photograph birds at their feeders but include all sorts of interesting objects, branches, logs, etc., throughout the garden for them to perch on. I often plant colorful flowers behind these items for a splash of color.
5.    Check with your local nursery for plants and flowers that attract birds and butterflies.  Save money and buy perennials instead of annuals.
6.    Finally, grab your camera and keep shooting all year!

Columnist Paul Salazar is a photographer and photo instructor whose work has been published in “Our State” magazine, in the book “Forever These Lands” and elsewhere. You can see his photos at

To learn more about photography from Paul Salazar, consider signing up for his 3-session workshop “Photographing Plants,” which runs Wednesday, May 16 & 23, from 6:30-9 p.m., and Saturday, May 19, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Duke Gardens. To register, or for more information, please call 919-668-1707.

To learn more about classes and public events at Duke Gardens, please visit gardens.duke.edu

More photos from Paul Salazar

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.

This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

Family Programs for May

Learn about seeds, scents, soil and more
with our family activities in May

By Kate Blakely

What do amoebas, the Olympics and your nose all have in common? Our family programs for May! During May, we’ll explore the Gardens and its wildlife using our senses. We’ll race seeds and learn about how plants and trees use helicopters, parachutes and other natural machines to spread out their seeds. And we’ll also discover the amazing unseen world of amoebas. Please call 919-668-1707 for information or to register for these programs.

Nature for Sprouts
May 4-27 (Fridays): 10:30-11:30 a.m.
For ages 3-5
$24; $20 Gardens members and Duke staff
Can you name all five senses? And can you figure out how you might use each sense to discover the natural world? How about getting face-to-face with a grasshopper when it’s eating its lunch of grass, or watching as the squirrel wiggles its nose, smelling for danger. Listen and learn the American robin’s tune, then whistle along. Touch the grass and feel whether it’s smooth or fuzzy. Breathe deep and smell the flowers’ special perfumes in the air. Crunch into a carrot along with your lunch and taste those delicious flavors.

In Nature for Sprouts, we’ll explore the Gardens and learn how wildlife creatures use their senses to find food and shelter. We’ll pay special attention to how the changing seasons affect the Gardens’ animals and insects. Join us for this 4-week discovery class for ages 3-5. Caregivers, please join us to deepen your relationship with nature alongside your child.

Seed and Soil Olympics
May 5, 10-11:30 a.m.
For ages 8-10
$6; $5 Gardens members & Duke staff
How many seed are inside a tomato, or on a maple tree? How do seeds travel? In nature, different kinds of seeds race to the soil, where they hope to find conditions that will allow them to flourish. In this class, we’re going to challenge seeds to a competition. We’ll learn about how seeds use water, wind and even animals to spread out and find their own space to grow.

Awesome Amoebas
May 26, 10-11:30 a.m.
For ages 9-11
$6; $5 Gardens members & Duke staff
Did you know that a puddle is made of more than raindrops? In fact, even a tiny puddle can be teeming with life.  Bacteria, protozoa, algae, fungi, tiny insects and even crustaceans – these are some of the creatures you might find. One puddle could hold as many as 80 different living things. What do they eat?  How do they get there? Learn to conduct experiments, use microscopes and look closely to find out more about the life below our feet. This is the last family class of the spring.

Spring Family Fun Day
May 6 & 20, noon-3 p.m.
Free; no registration required
Please see our website for more information.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention
We regret to announce that Paperhand Puppet Intervention has canceled its June 10 performance at Duke Gardens because of a scheduling conflict.