Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Photo Contest: People in Duke Gardens

Photo by Charles Twine

There's practically nothing more picture perfect than Duke Gardens, which is why so many people love to take selfies and photos of each other in this stunning setting. We'd love to see and share your favorites in our fall 2014 "People in Duke Gardens" photo contest. Photos may be new or older, but we will award extra prizes for photos featuring Duke students wearing Duke clothing, and for photos from the 1980s and earlier.

Please don't be shy. This 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.

Here's the scoop:

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos per category (people/Duke students/vintage) to Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments 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 albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too. 

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees or engaging in other activities that are not permitted.

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Photo by Erika Zambello

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, and an extra prize for the best photo of a Duke student or students dressed in Duke logo clothing, as well as best vintage photo of a person/people at Duke Gardens. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons, Duke Gardens note cards or other Duke Gardens-related gifts

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.

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.

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

 Photo by Orla Swift

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Volunteer Recognition Celebration: A Class Act

By Ellen Levine
Photos by Robert Ayers

As a new volunteer attending my first Volunteer Recognition Celebration last week, I thought the event was, in keeping with the Gardens, a class act. While it no doubt took considerable planning, all seemed to come together effortlessly -- the weather, the lovely reception on the Piva Terrace outside the Doris Duke Center, and the company. I came away impressed by the commitment, creativity, service and talents of my fellow volunteers, privileged to be among them and inspired to do more.

After we all gathered inside Kirby Horton Hall, Jan Little, director of education and public programs, welcomed us with much appreciated remarks recognizing the importance of volunteers to the Gardens, and noting that “together, we share this place and the value of the natural world.”

Chuck Hemric, director of volunteer services, reported that for the 2013-14 year, the 23rd of the volunteer program, volunteers recorded an impressive 16,025 hours. He presented the following milestone awards:

10 Years of Service
Jan Carter
Evelyn Nicholson
Diana Spock
Alice Thacher

15 Years of Service

Don Barry
Theo Roddy
Lyle Wright

20 Years of Service
Taimi Anderson

Education program coordinator Kavanah Anderson proudly announced that more than 4,000 school children came through the Gardens this past year, and we are on track to exceed that number this year, with added mid-year volunteer training for the first time. She thanked the volunteers in the children’s program for “sharing nature with the next generation.” She expressed special appreciation to Hope Wilder, an education program assistant and past volunteer, whose work was especially instrumental this year.

Orla Swift, director of marketing and communications, expressed her appreciation for the volunteer photographers, whose photos play a prominent role in Gardens publications — including the annual report, wall calendar and Flora magazine. She announced a photography award for Charles Twine, who has been shooting for the Gardens for many years.

Volunteer photographer and Gardens board of advisors member Rick Fisher earned the Pioneer Award for his photography-focused initiatives for the Gardens, including launching the Durham Photography Club at Duke Gardens, teaching classes, and offering portrait sessions to the public with all profits going toward Duke Gardens. Fellow volunteer photographer Wendell Hull used Photoshop trickery to create some amusing photos of Rick in honor of the award, showing Rick's pioneering spirit in the face of Godzilla and other creatures.

Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, thanked the Blomquist ambassadors for their service. He expressed special appreciation for Andrea Laine, for her tenacity (“she just keeps coming back”) and her intellectual curiosity. He recognized Jeff Prather, his “right-hand man,” as “instrumental in kicking the recirculating stream project into gear.”

Stefan Bloodworth and Jeff Prather

Next up was Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, who thanked the volunteers who assist with the Discovery Garden, the propagation team, plant sales, the Doris Duke Center Gardens, and the water garden, and who serve as ambassadors at the Discovery Garden and the Gothic Gate. He jokingly rewarded all with a much-appreciated 8 percent raise and five hours more work per week.

Chuck announced the fine work of this summer’s youth volunteers, who work with the summer camp, the Terrace Shop, and in horticulture. Five of them were awarded the Durham Mayor’s Award, which recognizes 100 hours of volunteer service over their summer break.

Chuck concluded the celebration with several long-standing Gardens volunteer awards:

The Thyme Award recognizes those who have given a significant amount of time. It was awarded to Barbara Branson, Mary Dawson, Helen Dennis, Cynthia Eckroth, Beth Elkins, Nan Len, Parker Morton, Shelly Nowik, Theo Roddy, Sharon Sanford, Sharon Sokol, Diane Spock and Andy Wheeler.

Thyme Award winners

The Margie Watkins Volunteer Spirit Award, recognizing the volunteer who most embodies the spirit of volunteerism, was awarded to Beth Elkins.

The Gehman Award, named for Scott Gehman, who endowed the volunteer program in 1991, was awarded to Andy Wheeler, for outstanding achievement in his partnership with the Gardens. Yes, we learned, we really do see him everywhere, as he has led 81 tours over the past year, is ambassador at the Main Gate, and has measured all pathways for documenting walking tours. And here I thought he’d been cloned.
Andy Wheeler and Chuck Hemric

It was indeed a wonderful evening and a great reminder that volunteering here is as nurturing to us as we try to be to the Gardens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding Food on a Field Trip

by Kaitlin Henderson

A group of 200 sixth-grade students recently came to Duke Gardens over two mornings to learn how ancient civilizations found food. They went to the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants to imagine what life as a hunter-gatherer in North Carolina might have been like, and to the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden to learn about the history of plant cultivation and agriculture.

In the Blomquist, students used pictures to help identify plants. These plants ranged from those you can eat directly, such as grapes and prickly pear cactus, to plants that add flavor or texture to your meal, such as mint and sassafras, and those that attract birds and animals that you could hunt, such as beautyberry and hickory.

As they stood in the woodsy environment of the Blomquist, students were surprised to learn that food was all around them. Even with a plant photo to use as a guide, most students found it hard to find an unfamiliar plant growing among all the other plants in its environment. Others recognized the plants we talked about from their own neighborhoods, but they hadn’t realized they could be used for food. Sometimes students were surprised to see things they did eat, such as ginger and onions, growing as a whole plant in their natural habitat. For example, they might have seen a ginger root in the past, but that didn’t help them identify it from the portion of the plant that grows above ground.

When some rain showed up, we wondered what hunter-gatherers would have done in that situation. You still need to eat in bad weather! Some students had the great idea that hunter-gatherers could have used the leaves of a nearby banana plant as umbrellas.

Our sixth-grade visitors left with a better understanding of what hunter-gatherer life was like. And they had a greater appreciation for conveniences such as comfortable shelters and farms and grocery stores, which get you off the hook for finding your own food in the wild.

Kaitlin Henderson is a graduate student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Training by Doing (and Pretending to be Third-Graders)

Training to lead the "A Bug's Life" program

By Kaitlin Henderson

Duke Gardens offers many different tours for its myriad visitors. You might have taken an adult trolley tour or have kids who have come on a field trip. If so, you know how hugely important our volunteer docents are. The staff and volunteers who lead tours of the Gardens have a wealth of information and experience to offer, all with their own perspectives.

To help volunteers increase their knowledge, we offer trainings. For instance, you may have recently seen a group of 15 adults dancing and singing about butterflies in the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden. What better way to learn how a children’s program really works than by going through it yourself? To learn how to lead a program for third-graders, new volunteers get the chance to imagine they're 8-year-olds for a couple of hours. I know I enjoyed experiencing the Gardens from that perspective. You don’t always get the time to bring your uninhibited curiosity about nature to the forefront, investigating insects under a log or examining what your ears and nose are telling you about your environment.

The point, of course, is to prepare ourselves to lead children in experiencing and learning about the Gardens, but it’s also a nice refresher for us adults to do the same. Plus, with a group of such diverse and knowledgeable people, you always discover new things. For example, did you know that bamboo is a clonal plant, meaning that new shoots sprouting out of the ground are actually copies of a nearby stalk? I didn’t.

If you’d like to become a docent (leader or assistant), please fill out our volunteer application here. Or, if you’d like to go on a tour of the Gardens, you can find more information here.

Kaitlin Henderson is a graduate student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Duke Field Trip to the Blomquist Garden

by Erika Zambello

As a teaching assistant for Duke's "Introduction to Environmental Science and Policy" undergraduate class, I was asked to organize a field trip for students that would help reinforce course material. I knew instantly where I wanted to take them: the Blomquist Garden for Native Plants. Both close to campus and an amazing place to learn about native North Carolina ecosystems, the Blomquist Garden could illustrate concepts students had learned in the classroom, such as ecosystem function, biodiversity and conservation.

The students met me at the Doris Duke Visitor Center on a cloudy afternoon. After trooping through the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden and to the entrance of the Blomquist Garden, we met Blomquist curator/horticulturist Stefan Bloodworth, who would lead our tour.

Right away Stefan captured their attention as he explained that he was not interested in the "beauty" of a plant but rather the way it contributed to biodiversity. In particular, he wants the Blomquist Garden to attract and support as many insect species as possible.

Of course, that means butterflies and bees feeding on the nectar and pollen of flowers, he said, but insects in all life stages need plants to survive. Butterflies may not feed on the large oak trees of the garden, for example, but as caterpillars they absolutely love them.

When planning the Blomquist Wildlife Garden in particular, Stefan and the staff took every insect life cycle into account when selecting plants, as well as other birds, reptiles and amphibians. The Wildlife Garden features a small stream that is home to crayfish and salamanders, while the nearby flowers give food to bees and butterflies, decomposing logs host another class of insects and decomposers, and birds rest and feed in the surrounding shrubs and trees. With wildlife diversity as the goal of the garden, Duke Gardens has increased the insect species in the Wildlife Garden from fewer than 10 to more than 100!

As Stefan continued, I saw the students nodding, making connections from the garden to their own lives. They were especially interested when he focused on the importance not just of species diversity but genetic diversity as well. At the Blomquist Garden, the staff plants "straight species" as much as possible. What is a straight species? Simply put, a plant variety whose genetic makeup has been, as much as possible in our modern world, untouched by humans, either through selective breeding or cloning. Because they have reached their present form through natural processes, their seeds retain the largest amount of genetic diversity.

To find seeds for certain species at the Blomquist, staff members travel around the Triangle looking for native seeds to bring back. When they find a clump of plants, they follow a specific protocol. Instead of taking all the seeds they find back to the Gardens, they sample 25% of the plants, and from that 25%, they only take 25% of the seeds. In this way, they do not remove an entire plant clump's genetic material, only a sample. In addition, gathering seeds from local areas means the seeds themselves are best adapted to conditions here in the Triangle.

We walked from the entrance of the Blomquist Garden to the Steve Church Endangered Species Garden, where Stefan spoke of the importance of prairie habitats in fostering diversity. Unfortunately, true prairie habits are few and far between in North Carolina. In part to rectify this and in part to educate the public on the value of prairie habitats, Duke Gardens is planning to cultivate its own prairie ecosystem.

As our third and final stop, Stefan showed us the future location of the prairie, just beyond the Endangered Species Garden. It is here that staff and volunteers will plant a carefully researched list of both grasses and wildlflowers - also collected from local sources - to replicate a prairie.

After a few questions, the field trip ended. Though we had only been in the Blomquist Garden for an hour, the students told me how much they had learned. I agreed that I had learned a lot, too! Flowers and plants are beautiful, but it is so important to remember that they also play an critical biodiversity role in both their population, by harboring genetic diversity, and in their larger ecosystem, as host and food and shelter to insects and other wildlife.

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.