Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Facebook Photo Contest: "Buds & Blossoms" & "Students in the Gardens"

Students enjoying the Asiatic Arboretum pond
Spring is finally here, and we want to celebrate with a dual Facebook Photo Contest. This time around, we have two distinct categories for Duke Gardens photos: "Buds and Blossoms" and "Students in the Gardens." The latter category includes students from any school or college, and photos may be new or older, but we will award an extra prize for photos featuring Duke students dressed in Duke logo clothing.

Please don't be shy. This exhibit and 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 for each category 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.

In "Students in the Gardens," students may be of any age, but we will rely on the honor system that all entries feature actual students. 

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Thursday, April 24, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, April 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, and an extra prize for the best photo of a Duke student or students dressed in Duke logo clothing. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons and 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.  

SEE THE ENTRIES: Check out the albums for Students in the Gardens and Buds & Blossoms.

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.

 Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream')


Blomquist Art Exhibit: Where Art Meets Nature

by Erika Zambello  

This past weekend Duke Gardens hosted its "Art and Nature: Artwork Inspired by the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants" exhibition in the Doris Duke Center. Open to visitors Friday evening and throughout Saturday and Sunday, the exhibition highlighted the artistic abilities of local artists -- including Duke Gardens' staff, volunteers, and the surrounding community -- while drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Blomquist Garden. You can still see it online.

"Cardinal Flower and Hummingbird," by Ali Givens
I arrived at the exhibit Saturday morning. Kirby Horton Hall was filled with bird sounds, as the calls of different species played over the sound system and instantly brought me closer to the natural world. The artwork was set up on vertical displays and on cloth-covered tables around the room, and against one wall a large screen portrayed photographs of the Blomquist Garden's flora and fauna.

Wild ginger vase by Sasha Bakaric
Drawn instantly to a draped, brightly colored fabric, I found myself in front of of Jacqueline Ridley Key's silk print and accompanying watercolor painting. I was amazed. She had taken a beautiful photograph of flowers from the Blomquist Garden, turned it into a small watercolor, and used Adobe Photoshop to create a repeating pattern that was then printed on silk. The effect was both colorful and intricate, and absolutely reminded me of the Native Plant Garden.

"Ginger," by Jacqueline Ridley Key
Recycled materials played an important role in some of the exhibit's pieces. In "Little Sweet Betsy," Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, used hammered and cut recycled copper to create a realistic portrayal of Trillium cuneatum. 

"It is so satisfying to work with media that would otherwise be labeled as 'scrap' and create a piece that I can enjoy year-round in the garden," Holmes wrote in the artwork's description.

In another piece, titled "A Sense of Place," Sally Boesch used tin from a broken barn roof to create a mirror frame depicting native plants.

Three works won judges' awards: "Over Our Heads," by Linda Carmel, won Best in Show; Sally Sutton's "Connected" was first runner up; and Angela Burr's "Flying Through the Blomquist" was second runner up.
"Little Sweet Betsy," by Jason Holmes
As I moved from piece to piece, I saw the garden represented in ink, paint, pencil, copper, cloth, collage and ceramic. Each work of art was unique, capturing different elements of the wooded Blomquist Garden. 

When I left the exhibit and walked into the garden itself, I paid more attention to the shafts of light streaming through the tree branches, the birds calling back and forth to each other, and the colors and shapes of the plants, the trails, the bridges. The gardens inspired the artwork in the exhibit, and the artwork stirred within me a deeper appreciation of the garden.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stormy Weather: What Temperature Fluctuations Mean for Duke Gardens

by Erika Zambello

We have had a crazy spring in Durham this year, with temperatures fluctuating from the warm seventies to below freezing in mere days.  I sat down with horticulture director Robert Mottern and Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, to learn how these extreme fluctuations are affecting the plants throughout Duke Gardens.

Ice storms are caused by freezing rain, which solidifies when it hits a leaf, twig, driveway, home, powerline or any other surface. Though it may be pretty to look at, the resulting ice is very heavy and can cause structural damage to plants, in addition to wreaking havoc on roads and power grids. Though Durham has experienced multiple ice storms this winter, we have been lucky, says Mottern. At Duke Gardens, "the ice is not heavy enough to do a lot of damage," he tells me, "but we were really close."

What has caused the most damage this winter, he says, is the cold.

There are two main ways that plants survive cold weather. "Typically speaking, they break along the line of plants that are adapted to extremely cold weather or adapted to moderately cold weather," explains Bloodworth. The former use "cell dessication" and the latter "supercooling" in order to survive. While cell dessication is rare in the Southeast (as those plants normally grow in the colder Northeast and Midwest and in Canada), plants found in North Carolina employ supercooling to combat the cold.  

What is supercooling? As temperatures drop, plants "change the chemical content of liquid inside their cells by changing the solute levels, or levels of dissolved minerals and salt within their tissue," says Bloodworth. Like anti-freeze in a car, the increase in solute levels allows the plant to lower the freezing temperature within its cells.

While this strategy works well when temperatures remain in the double digits, plants can no longer prevent freezing when the air drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Because ice expands, frozen cells will rupture, causing damage to the plant. This winter Durham has experienced a few nights of bitterly cold weather, with temperatures dropping as far as 3 °F.

Photo by Robert Mottern
The damage to plants around the gardens is visible. Many of the palm species have browned out, says Mottern, and the Gardens staff must wait and see if the plants can recover. The Terrace Gardens have lost many of their bedding plants, which then had to be removed before replanting can occur. The early blooming trees, including magnolias, camellias and cherries, have lost their flowers to the freezing temperatures. While this will not kill the trees, it has disrupted their annual life cycle and will prevent certain species, like the Prunus mume cherry, from fruiting this year.

In the Blomquist Garden of Native plants, the weather has caused damage to the margins of plant leaves, which -- like human fingers, toes, noses, and ears -- are more suspeptible to the cold. In addition, the single digit temperatures have frozen plant buds.  "All of that year's leaves are hidden inside that bud," Bloodworth tells me. When the buds freeze, "the plant now has to reinvest energy to redo the work that has already been done, which takes a lot of energy and depletes a lot of stored carbohydrates." While the plants will be able to produce new buds and leaves for the upcoming growing season, if such cold winters occur multiple years in a row, plant energy reserves will be severely depleted.

While this year's cold weather and ice storms have caused damage to the plants in Duke Gardens and the greater Triangle, it is not unprecedented. "This is not abnormally cold," Mottern says, "this is really the more normal conditions that we should be having. Having these nice mild winters for the past five to 10 years has really spoiled us." But while the frigid temperatures and snow may be normal, the single digit cold remains outside North Carolina's "safety zone," says Bloodworth, as native plants have not adapted to temperatures below 10 degrees.

Duke Gardens plants are resilient, and most will recover and be as beautiful this year as they were in previous years. Still, it is important to remember that while the cold and ice storms this winter have disrupted our daily lives, they have also impacted the plant ecosystems that surround us.

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Duke Gardens and Wildlife Surveys

gray squirrel

Duke Gardens is an ideal place to practice skills I've learned in "Wildlife Surveys," a graduate school course at the Nicholas School of the Environment offered in the spring semester. The varied landscape provides an important training area where my classmates and I can perfect our identification and observation abilities in a beautiful environment full of wildlife.

As part of our Bird Surveys section, we sat on the grassy knoll sloping down to the Asiatic Arboretum pond. First identification exercise: waterfowl. This massive pond has a proliferation of both exotic and native species, and we learned the field markings of hooded mergansers and wood ducks - both North Carolina year-round residents. A great blue heron refused to be left out of the party and landed gracefully in a tall cypress tree directly behind us.

observing and recording
We curved around the edge of the pond, pointing out ruby-crowned kinglets, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, and white-breasted nuthatches. New and experienced birders alike enjoyed learning together and spending a sunny Friday outside.

"I chose Duke Gardens to practice birding because it's one of the only easily accessible spots on main campus where we can see both passerines (perching birds) and waterfowl," our instructor, Dr. Nicolette Cagle, wrote me in an email. "I wanted the students to be able to practice observing different families of birds."

Wildlife Surveys and Duke Gardens
"My favorite part of Duke Gardens is the gorgeous Blomquist Garden of Native Plants," Cagle continues. "It's a fantastic repository of the Southeast's native woody plants, and it attracts lots of native birds as well."

white-throated sparrow
The Blomquist Garden is full of more than just birds. Our second Wildlife Surveys' unit described mammal observation, and I made loops around the Blomquist Garden  looking for one of our most ubiquitous animals: the gray squirrel.

I watched them forage along the ground, dart into trees and bushes, and stow away more than a few bird-feeder seeds for the duration of the winter ahead. Sketching and recording their movements in my outdoor notebook, for an hour I practiced the craft of a long line of field naturalists, including Charles Darwin, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, who spent their lives observing the natural world.

Each month for the duration of the semester, I will continue to write my naturalist observations of Duke Gardens. Though I have been visiting the Gardens multiple times a week since August, this is an opportunity to enjoy and learn about the Gardens in a new, more nuanced way. Earning class credit for birding? That's just icing on the cake.
Yellow-rumped Warbler

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