Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Duke Gardens Visitor Vignettes: #1

Welcome to Duke Gardens Visitor Vignettes, a snapshot view of who's spending time in the Gardens  and what's on their minds.

Our first gathering of vignettes is by Julia Gong, a local high school student and an avid fan of the Humans of New York (HONY) interview project. Julia loves Duke Gardens, so she was eager to set out into the Gardens, HONY style, and talk to other people about what drew them to Duke Gardens.

Here's Julia's collection from a recent visit:

“It’s really peaceful here, and I kind of needed it," said the woman in the photo above. "I’m just here for a research program, so I’m here for a few weeks. It’s in the department of Cancer Bio and Pharmacology.

"It’s really different from the campus back home, for me. I’m from Georgia Tech. It’s in Atlanta so it’s in the heart of downtown, and you come here and it’s just so much nicer.”

She had been photographing the turtles. “I was sitting here and I just saw them. They just came here, and…it’s perfect! They’re all different sizes, which is pretty cute. That one was in a perfect pose, too, and another one came up and opened its mouth, and it’s…just beautiful!”

“We come here all the time. This is a great place to walk dogs!”

Is there something that draws you back?

“It’s just beautiful. You can kind of always change the route and it’s always interesting. It’s never boring. There’s always something new to see.”

Any advice for someone who just came for the first time?

“See everything. Make enough time to really see everything. Especially right here. The Asian Gardens are my favorite.”

“He’s visiting for the weekend.”

“I’m from New Hampshire.”

“I’m local for the summer. I’m working for ADF."

"It’s nice here in the shade. It was cool to see some of the birds. The baby duckling and the mama over there, it was really cute to see it just skirt across the water. And there’s that turtle, just chillin’. He doesn’t even care. I have a pond at home and we have turtles, and normally if you even get this close to them, they’re like, 'Nope. I’m out!' ”

I asked them when they were last here. In unison, they said, “We were just trying to figure that out.”

She speculated, “Probably a year ago.”

“I think a little longer than that. A year, a year and a half, maybe two.”

When asked about their favorite aspect of the gardens, he replied, “Peacefulness.”

She added, “Quiet. I love seeing all the different flowers. We can’t grow a lot because the deer eat everything, and I don’t know how you manage to keep the deer out, so I like seeing stuff that I couldn’t do at home. I neither have the energy, time, nor money to do it at home, so I appreciate the fountains, and all the different types of plants.”

“And if you were a horticulturalist, this would be the job to have. This amphitheater is really symmetrical, the textures, the colors. It’s interesting to me.”

She had some advice for prospective visitors. “I would try to get a little bit of each of the different ones, the formal gardens, the Asian gardens, the naturals. And I think it also depends on season, and when you need the shady pads.”

“Like this week.”

“Versus the sunny, like in the winter when we come, it’s nicer to stay out where you get the sun. And whether you have little kids that need to run around in the field.”

I wondered if they had brought their kids here before.

“Well, our kids are pretty old, but yes, we have.”

“We brought them here when they were little.”

“Yeah, we did, when they were growing up. And now we come back here with their spouses.”

“And if we ever get a grandson, he’ll come here.”

And they’re also proud locals. “We live ten minutes away, which is ridiculous for not coming more often.”

Do you have a photo of yourself in the Gardens and some thoughts you'd like to share in our Visitor Vignettes? If so, we'd love to see them. Please email them to Thank you!