Monday, September 9, 2013

Learn from others at Duke Gardens

By Jan Little

Gardeners wear many hats. Over time as you garden, you pick up a wide range of other skills and knowledge. So you are a gardener, but you learn a little about arboriculture as you prune your trees, a little about agriculture as you expand your vegetable garden, and a smattering of entomology as you try to figure out what is chewing on various plants.

But from time to time all gardeners get stumped—a problem occurs that you have never seen before, or you see a plant and cannot identify it, and the internet doesn’t have a definitive answer for either situation.

Not to worry—there are considerable resources available to Durham gardeners.

Duke Gardens horticulturists lead programs in the Gardens throughout the year. Join us on the first Thursday of each month in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants for a “Walk on the Wild Side” program focusing on the ecology of North Carolina. For gardeners seeking a new perspective, the “Color and Plant Combinations” program in the Terraces and Historic Gardens will give you a fresh menu of garden plants and ideas. For a global view, try the “Autumn in the Arboretum” program to learn more about Asian plants useful in North Carolina and enjoy the colorful fall display.

Durham County Extension Master Gardeners can help you with problem solving. These gardeners are extremely knowledgeable and happy to assist you in identifying plants, weeds and insects, or learning how to help an ailing plant. Master Gardener Lynne Nelson coordinates their schedules and reports that they have answered hundreds of gardening questions at Duke Gardens this year. The Master Gardeners are in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden on Tuesdays and Saturdays and in the Terraces Gardens on Wednesdays. They also present lectures and seminars about gardening topics throughout the year.

For orchid enthusiasts the Triangle Orchid Society meets at the Gardens every month with displays and presentations to expand your orchid knowledge.

Nature photographers meet monthly at Duke Gardens to share and review images and teach each other (or learn from visiting experts) about techniques and tools. See their Facebook page for more information.

Additionally the Durham Beekeepers Club meets here to discuss working with bees in the garden.
Even just a walk through Duke Gardens can assist you with your own garden.

Duke Gardens is a living laboratory of beautiful plants and combinations. Here you can see specific garden styles and types, and examples of how to manage drainage, water and soil problems. Volunteers and staff work throughout the Gardens each weekday and are happy to answer questions.

Stroll around the Gardens to see mature plantings. You may finally find that plant for a special spot in your garden. You will also begin to understand which plants thrive in sun or shade, or in dry or wet situations.

For information about all the events and assistance available at Sarah P. Duke Gardens please go to the calendar listings page at

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 receives roughly half of its operating budget from Duke University. The rest comes from people like you, who value all that this public botanic garden has to offer. Duke Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.

Columnist Jan Little is Duke Gardens’ director of education and public programs. For information about Gardens programs, please go to This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

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