Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Facebook photo contest: reds & pinks

Euonymus americanus
Photo by Stefan Bloodworth

As February approaches, we've got pinks and reds on our minds -- colors that are already popping in the Gardens but which you can find here all year long, from berries to waterlilies. So how about a new Duke Gardens Facebook photo exhibit+contest devoted to pinks and reds? And for a Valentine's treat, let's have a special celebration of the hearts a bustin' plant (Euonymus americanus).

Got a favorite Duke Gardens photo with pink or red in it? We'd love to see it. Please don't be shy. This exhibit & 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.

For this contest, the reds and pinks can be anywhere, from a flower to a coat or hat -- as long as the setting is here at Duke Gardens.

Note: Facebook's structure has changed, so we can no longer do the contests in "events" with ease. So now we're using a collective album and email, which has worked well so far.

Here's the scoop:

TOPIC: The topic for February is fall colors.

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos for each contest to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. At least 5x7" or larger at 72 ppi is best, but if you don't know how to resize photos, feel free to send them as is, 1 per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You can then add more information about the photo if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and album. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too.

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Feb. 27. Voting will end at 10 a.m. Feb. 28 (update: extended to Feb. 29).

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards. First prize is a Duke Gardens 2012 calendar. 2nd prize: Duke Gardens greeting cards or a 75th anniversary T-shirt. 3rd prize: discount coupon for the Terrace Shop. Entrants may only win one prize per contest theme in each tally (top votes & judges' prizes). Top prize winners may opt for lower prizes.

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.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education & event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Serve Your Bees

Mason bee
Photo by Charles Twine

By Sara Smith

Gardeners can become a little obsessive about “the birds and the bees”; after all, these creatures are couriers for flowers.

I recently decided to investigate how I can help my own garden better serve the bees that, in turn, serve my garden. I learned that our native bees are mostly mason bees, gentle and nondestructive bees in the genus Osmia. Two of the bees native to North Carolina are the orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) and the blueberry mason bee (Osmia ribifloris).

Many of our wild bees feed on a diversity of plants, but these two types of bees tend to specialize. On family farms and in urban gardens, the native mason bees do most of the pollination. In some cases, they can do even more than honeybees do. For example, tomatoes do not attract honeybees because the blossoms contain no nectar and the pollen is deep inside the anthers, so they are pollinated by wind. However, the native bees have a way of vibrating the anthers to dislodge the pollen, which significantly increases cross-pollination between plants, which in turn increases the fruit set by almost 50 percent.

Mason bees are so named because they use mud to build compartments in hollow reeds or holes left by wood-boring insects. After cleaning out the hole, the female begins to load it with pollen and nectar, finally laying a single egg and sealing off the compartment with a thin layer of mud. By repeating this process, she works until the hole is nearly full. Finally, she seals the hole with a thick plug of mud. Once the eggs hatch, each larva consumes all its provisions and then spins a cocoon to pupate. The larva transforms to an adult stage toward the end of summer, but it remains in the cell throughout the winter to emerge in the spring.

Three basic provisions allow the mason bees to prosper: housing, food and water. Gardens, both vegetable and flowering, provide nectar and pollen for the bee population.

For housing, I found a simple construction plan for a mason bee box in N.C. State University’s Cooperative Extension publication “How to Raise and Manage Orchard Mason Bees for the Home Garden."

Food is supplied by the amazing dance between flowers and bees, each supplying the other with a life essential. I plan to designate space for native wildflowers and plants.

I’ll provide water and open ground at the drip line around my air conditioner for them to make mud. If that doesn’t hold enough water, I’ll dig a small hollow in which water can collect.

This year, I hope that you, too, will consider helping out our native bees. They will forage in your garden and vegetable crops from summer until fall, literally making possible the flowers, fruits and vegetables we love and need to survive and prosper. By providing shelter and food for these amazing creatures, we support sustainable agriculture as well as wild and “domesticated” plants that they service. It’s a win-win for both the bees and us.

If honeybees are your interest, you may want to sign up for Duke Gardens’ beekeeping course on two Saturdays, February 4 and 11, from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information or to register please call 668-1707, email our registrar or visit gardens.duke.edu.

Sara Smith is the education registrar and a volunteer propagation team member at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Herald-Sun.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mary D.B.T. Semans: In Memoriam

Mary D.B.T. Semans
at the Roney Fountain dedication

We at Duke Gardens are saddened by this week’s passing of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, a longtime Duke Gardens supporter whose passion and generosity shaped the Gardens in dramatic ways.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens would not exist were it not for the vision and generosity of Mary Semans, her mother, Mary Duke Biddle, and her grandmother, after whom the Gardens is named.

Mrs. Semans often spoke of how much her mother loved flowers and gardening and how important Duke Medical School's Dr. Frederic Hanes was in influencing Mary Duke Biddle to establish the Terrace Gardens in memory of Mary’s grandmother, Sarah P. Duke.

Mary Semans and her late husband, James H. Semans, served as honorary members of the Duke Gardens Board of Advisors since its inception in 1991. And she participated in several major functions during the capital campaign to build the Doris Duke Center, which opened in 2001. She was also the honorary chair of the Gardens' 75th anniversary celebration in 2009.

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has continued the family's legacy of support in the Gardens. The foundation has provided operational support since 1972. It enabled the Gardens to start a children's program in 1995. And it contributed to last year's ambitious refurbishment and relocation of the century-old Roney Fountain from East Campus to Duke Gardens, as well as the expansion of the newly named Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden surrounding the fountain. The fountain project, dedicated in Mrs. Semans' honor, earned an award last year from Preservation North Carolina.

In addition, the sundial in the Butterfly Garden was given to Duke Gardens by the Trent and Semans children in honor of Mary & James Semans' 35th wedding anniversary in 1988. And the gallery in the Doris Duke Center is named for Mary and James Semans.

"I've often said that people who really don't know Duke very well just love the Gardens," Mrs. Semans said at the 75th anniversary celebration. "I'm so thrilled that so many people from out of town come here. So many people from other countries. It's great. The more people who come, the better off it is."

Read more about Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans at Duke Today
See Mrs. Semans talk about how Duke Gardens came to be at 4:15 in this video.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Love the Gardens? Be a docent!

We at Duke Gardens love to let visitors know all about the varied features here, and how the Gardens came to be. But we couldn't reach a fraction of the visitors that we do were it not for our fantastic volunteer docents.

Depending on their interests and availability, docents may lead tours (on foot or by trolley) or lead school or family programs at the Gardens.

We prepare our new docents at annual docent trainings (which current docents may also attend, to refresh their knowledge).

This year's trainings are as follows:

Feb. 21, 9 a.m. to noon: History of Duke Gardens. This session is required for all new docents.

Feb. 23, 9 a.m. to noon: Children’s docents only.

Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to noon: Adult docent session, Children’s docents are encouraged to attend.

March 1, 9 a.m. to noon: Children’s docents only.

Following this experiential formal training, there will be additional dates scheduled with the curators of each of our four main gardens so that docents may gain deeper knowledge about Duke Gardens.

Docent training is open to all current and prospective volunteers. The first step for newcomers is to apply to be a Gardens volunteer. You can learn more, and fill out an application, at the Gardens' website. Thereafter, new volunteers may apply to be a docent. All docents for children's programs must go through a background check, for the safety of visitors and volunteers alike.

For more information, please see our website or call Chuck Hemric, director of volunteers, at 668-1705. We hope to see you soon!