Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday gift idea: dance, dance, dance!

Having trouble finding a fun holiday gift for a special someone?

Why not give him/her an evening of fun at Duke Gardens' forthcoming swing or tango dances?

We'll have swing dances on Jan. 12 and Feb. 9, each preceded by a one-hour beginner lesson that's included with the price of admission. We'll also have four one-hour workshops from 1-5 p.m. on Jan. 12, which you can read about in our previous blog post.

And on Feb. 8, we'll have a tango milonga, also preceded by a one-hour beginner lesson.

You don't need to bring a partner, and you don't need a certain level of physical fitness. You can enjoy these dances at any level. They're part of the new health and wellness series of classes and events offered at Duke Gardens.

For information about other educational programs for children and adults, please see our website. We are only now beginning registration for these events, so feel free to craft your own gift certificate and take care of the registration details with our registrar Dec. 26 or thereafter at (919) 668-1707.

Happy holidays!

Swing dance workshops Jan. 12

Duke Gardens' swing dances have been so popular that we decided to go a step further and offer an afternoon of swing workshops preceding our next dance on Jan. 12. The dances and workshops are part of a new Health & Wellness Series that also includes yoga for beginners.

The workshops will be taught by the fabulous Wesley Boz and Debbie Ramsey, of Mad About Dance Academy.

Each workshop will be an hour long, and they will run from 1-5 p.m. Beginners who would like to attend the 8 p.m. dance that night should also plan to take advantage of Wes' one-hour beginner East Coast swing lesson at 7 p.m., which is included in the cost of dance admission. That beginner lesson will be different from what's taught in the workshops, but it will all work together for you.

Please see our website for full information about the evening dance and lesson.

The workshops will be as follows:

1 p.m.: Slow Blues Basics
Learn the basic elements of this popular dance style, including connection, rhythm and musicality.

2 p.m.: Charleston Kicking Patterns
Add some more spunk to your basic East Coast Swing with a dash of high-energy Charleston. 

3 p.m.: Slow Blues for Experienced Dancers
Move beyond the basics of the popular blues dance style, using your existing dance abilities to dig deeper into connection, rhythm and musicality.   

4 p.m.: Advanced East Coast Swing Patterns
Take your swing dancing to a whole new level.

Cost: $18; $16 members of Duke Gardens, Carolina Dance Club or Triangle Swing Dance Society.
Multi-class discounts: $32/$30 for 2 workshops; $42/$38 for 3 workshops; $48/$44 for all four workshops.

Pre-registration required. Parking included.

Buy tickets: To charge tickets by phone, please call 888-21SWING. Tickets may also be purchased in person at Duke Gardens (cash/check only).

Gardens info: 919-668-1707. Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Duke Gardens going smoke-free

Sarah P. Duke Gardens is pleased to announce that it will be a smoke-free environment beginning January 1, 2013.

This new policy joins a list of existing regulations designed to ensure the safety of visitors, plants and wildlife alike, and to help make visitors' experiences at Duke Gardens as enjoyable as possible.

The policy applies to the Doris Duke Center and all other indoor and outdoor spaces at Duke Gardens.

The Gardens' rules will be posted prominently at various locations in the Gardens preceding the January no-smoking transition.

To learn more about Duke Gardens and its many features and programs for the public, please visit

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Duke Gardens 2012 note cards are here!

Duke Gardens' note cards are always popular, particularly in the gift-giving season. So Gardens enthusiasts will be happy to know that we have a brand new batch of note cards in the Terrace Shop. They come in sets of 12 (3 per image) for $10, and you can buy them at the Terrace Shop or call 919-684-9037 to order by mail.

The new images are below. And we also have limited quantities of the 2011 cards, as well as the 2011 Asiatic Arboretum snow scene that serves beautifully as a holiday greeting card. See the 2011 cards here.

We are ever grateful to the generous photographers who share their images with Duke Gardens for use in our publications. If you are interested in being a volunteer photographer, please see our website for more information.
Japanese iris (Iris ensata) in the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.
Photo by Rick Fisher

Burpee Learning Center in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden
Photo by Orla Swift

Terrace Gardens and wisteria-covered pergola (2003)
Photo by Ed Albrecht

Roney Fountain in the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden
Photo by Rick Fisher

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures
an environment in the heart of Duke University
for learning, inspiration and enjoyment
through excellence in horticulture.

Please also consider a Duke Gardens' Friends membership for yourself or for a friend in this gift-giving season. More than half of the Gardens' annual budget comes from people like you, who value all that Duke Gardens has to offer. For information, please email or call 919-684-5579.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Secret Underground World

Does this banana plant grow well here because of the soil, 
or does it help create soil that enables it to grow here?

Acclaimed gardening author Jeff Lowenfels comes to Duke Gardens for a guest lecture and a workshop Dec. 15. rescheduled to April 27 & 28, 2013. Learn more below.

By Jan Little

Our world is amazing. New information and discoveries continue to surprise and delight us, including research about soil. And now you can add soil to the list of party conversation starters with amazing new information about the world under our feet.

Several hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci noted that “we know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil.” That is now changing, and the story that is emerging is incredibly fascinating.

This story involves a web of micro-animals, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, plants and roots and, moving up the food chain, insects, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and finally humans. It is commonly referred to as the soil-food web.

We are just now beginning to understand that plants don’t just grow where conditions are hospitable to their needs—plants actually shape and change the soil to suit their requirements more closely. So the plants in woodland settings will help produce a soil that is significantly different than that of the plants in grasslands.

When this system of plants, soil and animals is in balance, it is entirely sustainable and there is no depletion of the soil. The system is far older than humans—it just took us this long to catch on and begin to understand it. And this understanding helps us create lower maintenance, sustainable gardens.

Each layer of this soil food web has a job to complete. For example, the bacteria, fungi and some insects act as the world’s garbage disposal systems. Not only does this tidy up our world, it also recycles nutrients and makes those tasty tidbits available to plants. Quite simply, we would not have any food if the decomposers did not complete their jobs.

All of this information will lead us to some fairly significant changes in how we work with our garden soil. Managing your soil-food web will encourage you to stop using synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers give a quick shot of nutrients to the plants, but over time they kill the soil biology and stop the ongoing processes of the soil-food web. Instead, use compost, organic fertilizers and healthier gardening practices.

This also encourages us to discontinue the annual rototilling of garden soil. Rototilling disrupts and destroys the soil biology, and over time it depletes soil of its structure and fertility. Generally it is suggested that breaking up the soil as you establish a garden is fine, but after that you should use sustainable maintenance practices to build the soil and the soil-food web.

You can learn more about the soil-food web with author Jeff Lowenfels when he visits Duke Gardens this month. Jeff is giving both a small group workshop on creating and using compost teas (Dec. 15 rescheduled to April 27, 2013, 9 a.m.-noon) and a lecture on the soil-food web (Dec. 15 April 28, 2013, 2-4 p.m.). This is based upon his research for the book Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, originally published by Timber Press in 2006 to great acclaim.

Jeff’s book has been enthusiastically reviewed, and it was touted as the most important gardening book published in the past 25 years. He won the prestigious Garden Writers of America Gold Award for gardening books when Teaming with Microbes was originally published. We now have the opportunity to read a new edition published in 2011.

If you’d like to register for Jeff’s workshop or lecture, or learn more about these or other events at Duke Gardens, please call our registrar at 668-1707 or send an email. Duke University staff and students may attend for the Gardens member discount price.

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.

Jan Little is director of education and public programs at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.