Saturday, October 20, 2018

Family Weekend: Exploring Duke Gardens

By Annie Yang
Class of 2020

Every year, parents, siblings and other family members descend on Duke for Family Weekend, hurrying about with many things to do and places to be. This weekend can feel like a hectic time for both students and their families, which is why a visit to Duke Gardens is a welcome change of pace.

Although West Union might be packed, with no place to even sit down, it never feels too busy when you have 55 acres in the Gardens to explore. The serene atmosphere in the Gardens is like a breath of fresh air, and walking through its miles of paths is a great way to relax with your family while showing them one of Duke University’s gems.         


The view from the Frances P. Rollins Overlook
Photo by Annie Yang
If you’re coming from West Campus, it’s most convenient to cut right behind the Allen Building to enter the Gardens through the Memorial Gate. Parking at the Gardens often fills up on beautiful spring and fall weekends (though there is a free overflow lot nearby). 

If your family has never been to Duke Gardens before, it is almost a rite of passage to take them to marvel at the beautiful plants and landscaping in the Terrace Gardens. If you have any younger siblings, they will also be delighted by the colorful koi swimming in the fish pool. Most visitors enter the terraces through the pergola at the top or adjacent to the Fish Pool, but you can bring your family to the overlook up the hill behind the pond for a different perspective and a breathtaking view of the terraces.

Another must-see site in the Gardens is the large pond in the Asiatic Arboretum, home to a large variety of ducks, as well as geese and turtles. The turtles often soak up the sun on the rocks at the edge of the pond, and the ducks are happy to be fed food that can be purchased inexpensively at the Terrace Gift Shop. If you look closely at the ripples in the pond, you may also see tiny fish fluttering through the shallow water. You might also spot the resident great blue heron as you walk around the pond!        


Waterfall at Pine Clouds Mountain Stream
Photo by Annie Yang
The iconic red bridge over the pond is currently being renovated. However, there are plenty of other wonderful locations nearby that people visiting the bridge may overlook. For example, you can take your parents to Pine Clouds Mountain Stream, a stunning feature added to the arboretum just a few years ago. The sound of birds chirping and the rushing water in the recirculating stream makes it a perfect place to sit down with your family, take a breather, and absorb all the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Additionally, a new outdoor restroom with a Japanese-style interior recently opened adjacent to Pine Clouds, which will be a relief for visitors who previously had to trek back to the other bathrooms in the Terrace Gardens or the Doris Duke Center. As you walk through the arboretum, you’ll also see gorgeous blooms of Japanese aster and ginger lily.         



Osmanthus fragrans
Photo by Annie Yang
If you have a little bit more time to spend in the Gardens and would like to show your family around some less frequented but no less beautiful sites, the mini bamboo forest nearby the Garden for Peace is a unique spot. Imagine that -- towering stalks of bamboo in the middle of Duke University! You may also catch a whiff of the Osmanthus fragans growing nearby, which are known for their powerful fragrance. If your parents go, “What’s that smell?” you can impress them by telling them sweet osmanthus’ scientific name. 

Exploring the winding paths through the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants is also delightful, and a great way to learn about our ecosystem, plant conservation and supporting wildlife.

Younger siblings or relatives will also enjoy the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, which is a sustainable, organic food garden near the Doris Duke Center. This garden is designed to help visitors learn about nature's symbiotic relationships. The garden is also home to a coop full of chickens, and many bee hives.

If have questions, be sure to seek out one of Duke Gardens' volunteer garden ambassadors, who can help you make the most of your visit.

There’s something for everyone to appreciate at Duke Gardens. Hopefully, when you return back to the hustle and bustle on campus, you and your family will feel refreshed and energized after your stroll through this nationally acclaimed botanic garden in the heart of Duke's campus.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Stokes' Aster

Stokes' aster in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.
Photo by Sue Lannon.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

Stokesia ‘Klaus Jelitto’ shares its name with Klaus R. Jelitto, a German horticulturalist who founded Jelitto Perennial Seeds, an international and award-winning seed company. Though Jelitto Perennial Seeds is a multinational company, this herbaceous perennial is native to the coastal plains from North Carolina down to Florida and should feel right at home in your garden.

Stokesia ‘Klaus Jelitto’, commonly called Stokes' aster, has a rather distinctive look, with its pincushion of florets in the center and notched blue-purple petals. It has a long summer to early fall bloom, and removing individual spent flowers will encourage springtime reflowering. This is a robust, low-maintenance plant and a good grower, preferring full sun although it can also tolerate filtered sunlight. ‘Klaus Jelitto’ thrives in moist, sandy soils and is drought and heat tolerant. Keep an eye on it after heavy rains, however, as its large flowers might flop.

Draw out this aster's strengths by planting it in borders, cottage gardens, or near water sources like streams and ponds. This is a plant native to wetlands, bottomlands, and wet pinewoods, after all! ‘Klaus Jelitto’ also works well in small groups or massed.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: 'Twilight Zone' little bluestem

Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'. Photo courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.
By Annie Yang

Schizachyrium ‘Twilight Zone’ stands out from other little bluestems by taking on a silvery purple color starting in midsummer instead of coloring up in the fall like its cousins. This prairie grass first comes out in striking pastel blue-green hues before intensifying into eerily purple tones and deepening into redder shades later in the season, providing a wonderful spectacle for months.

Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'.
Photo courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.
‘Twilight Zone’, a bit ironically, requires full sun and is both heat and humidity tolerant. It can grow in a range of soil moisture levels, though it prefers soils on the drier side, and it can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils. This sturdy plant does not require much fertilization either, and it can really thrive in places where other plants find it difficult to survive.

The strengths of Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone’ are best showcased along borders or in a meadow garden. Like its other Schizachyrium relatives, ‘Twilight Zone’ supports pollinators like bees and butterflies and invites birds in with food, shelter and nesting material.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!
Schizachyrium 'Twilight Zone'. Photo by Beth Hall.

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Green and Gold


Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianium).
Photo courtesy of Pleasant Run Nursery.
By Katherine Hale

Like many native species, green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianium) is frequently overlooked in favor of flashier, more aggressive novelties.  That’s a shame because green and gold is a shade gardener’s dream:  it’s subtle, dependable and fills up bare gaps along wet meadows or woodland understories without taking over.

In late March through May, green and gold adorns itself with small, cheerful yellow star-like flowers. They offer a taste of sunshine for those fed up with winter, and a welcome sip of nectar for hungry pollinators desperate for spring. Once the first flush fails, the plants will bloom off and on throughout the summer at sporadic intervals. Semi-evergreen leaves remain vigorous in all but the coldest winters, but they make unpalatable forage for any wandering deer.

‘Superstar’ kicks it up a notch by boasting dense, mat-forming clumps that are significantly larger than the wild types and brighter, more upright flowers. Plants growing under ideal conditions—moist soil and bright-filtered shade—average 6-8 inches high and 24 inches wide. They spread by expanding the size of the clumps rather than by weedy rhizomes. Its neat and tidy growth habit make it well suited to rock gardens and shady perennial borders, or lining paths and trails through deciduous understory.  It doesn’t work for every garden—full sun or dry areas are not its fortes—but nothing in any plant nursery than can beat it on its home turf.

Despite its low profile in the catalogs,  green and gold ‘Superstar’ is ready for prime time in your garden. Mix it in with fellow-shade dwellers like Heuchera, irises or Christmas ferns, or bunch it en masse to take over a hillside. Whatever you do, it’s hard to go wrong—and steady, dependable green and gold will be there for you year after year, as polite and charming as ever.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’

Epimedium 'Sulphereum' in flower.
Photo by Beth Hall.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

Owing to the flower’s unique, almost prismatic shape and the pale white sepals seemingly floating over the petals, Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’ is also known by a number of colorful names like bishop’s hat and fairy wings. It’s no wonder this curious and beautiful flower has been a garden classic for years.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant that enjoys partial to full shade and loose soil with consistent moisture. Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’, a long-lived plant, is also resistant to rabbit, deer, drought, heavy shade, dry soil and shallow, rocky soil. The delicate nickname ‘fairy wings’ really belies this perennial’s reliability and durability.

Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’ is quite the versatile plant and can fill a number of different niches in a garden. It spreads nicely and works well as groundcover in small, shady areas of rock gardens or planted en masse in woodland gardens. It also lines paths and walkways handsomely and grows well underneath trees.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Willow-leaf Sunflower 'Low Down'

Willow-leaf sunflower. Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS Plants Database.
By Katherine Hale

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Bright, cheerful, and adored by pollinators, the perennial willow-leaf sunflower (Helianthus salicifolius) dots Midwestern watercourses with its iconic yellow flowers every fall without fail. But its vigorous growth—rising 8 feet or more under ideal conditions—makes it too tall and unwieldy for the average garden in its wild form, flopping over in heavy rains or overshadowing its neighbors.

Fortunately, horticulturists came to the rescue and transformed the willow-leaf sunflower through selective breeding. Enter ‘Low Down’, a compact and well-behaved dwarf cultivar with all the charisma of its bigger brothers. Why bother with pruning or staking when you could have a plant appropriately sized for a garden and save yourself the effort? Topping out at 18 inches, ‘Low Down’ is an excellent choice for a perennial border, container garden, wildflower meadow or anywhere in full sun where a colorful look is desired.

Like all sunflowers, ‘Low Down’ attracts wildlife, but only the kind you want to see in your garden—bumblebees, goldfinches and migrating birds, as opposed to deer and insect pests. A hardy perennial, ‘Low Down’ offers more blooms for your buck without the need for constant replanting. Willow-leaf sunflowers look great in a vase or in a field with ornamental grasses and traditional autumn stalwarts like asters and chrysanthemums.

Good things come in all shapes and sizes. For gardeners, sunflower cultivars like ‘Low Down’ prove that sometimes less really is more.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Anemones

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'. Photo by Beth Hall.
By Katherine Hale

Well-known favorites like asters, chrysanthemums and goldenrod have their place in the fall garden, but few can compare with the stately Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, a hybrid Japanese anemone that begins to bloom in late August here at Duke Gardens. First discovered by chance in a French garden in the 1850s, ‘Honorine Jobert’ is an established classic at the Gardens, most notably in the Walker Dillard Kirby Perennial Allée. There, you’ll find a stunning and unexpected surprise—a massive profusion of 2-inch blooms that resemble giant buttercups emerging out of knee-high mounds of feathery green foliage.

Anemone 'Prince Heinrich'.
Photo by Chris Holaday.
The white petals (actually sepals) around a sunny yellow center (the true flowers) attract bees and butterflies, as well as anyone in the mood for something different as the seasons change. Flower arrangers love the tall stems and long vase life of the flowers, and their color and elegance make them a popular choice for fall bouquets and weddings. If allowed to remain on the plant, the blooms will linger through October, amazing longevity in a season in whic so many other species are past their prime.

With a plant as ethereal as ‘Honorine Jobert’, it’s hard to have just one.  Fortunately, they work best when planted in dense clusters, resulting in a jaw-dropping collection of flowers when grouped en masse. Isolated plants may need staking and support to show off their blooms to best effect, but plants in larger groups tend to support each other while simultaneously suppressing weeds with their shady foliage.

Anemone 'Königin Charlotte'.
Photo: C. Holaday.
Though ‘Honorine Jobert’ is by far the most popular variety, there are hundreds of anemone options for the discerning gardener. Other fall-blooming Japanese hybrids, ‘Königin Charlotte’ (Queen Charlotte) and ‘Prince Heinrich’, are appropriately named for royalty and boast large, semi-double blossoms in various shades of pink. There’s also the elegant Anemone Wild Swan, with prolific white flowers with lilac stripes on their backs. Unlike the fall flowering Japanese anemones, this A. rupicola hybrid starts blooming in late spring and continues through first frost.

Native plant gardeners aren’t left out of the fun: there’s the Canada anemone (A. canadensis), a showy spring bloomer found in moist floodplains and riverbanks throughout the East Coast, and its cousin, tall anemone (A. virginiana), which occupies a more upland habitat.

Anemone 'Wild Swan'.
Photo: B. Hall.
Regardless of which anemone strikes your fancy, some basic ground rules will help ensure their long-term survival. Anemones love moist but well-drained soil that is never allowed to dry out; they can tolerate full sun, but their delicate leaves will burn in the summer heat unless planted under a shady canopy with protection from drying winds. While they are slow to establish in the beginning, healthy plants will freely naturalize over time via underground rhizomes, expanding the patch still further.  Anemones are an excellent choice for woodland or cottage gardens, contrasting nicely with the blooms and foliage of shade garden staples like hostas and astilbes.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Tall anemone (A. virginiana).
Photo: B. Hall.
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Native Grasses

Native grasses in the Piedmont Prairie. Photo by Sue Lannon.
 By Annabel Renwick
Horticulturist
Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens

Autumn brings cooler, shorter days and helps the garden transition from summer into winter. By September many of our garden plants have finished blooming and frequently gone to seed, but not so in the Blomquist Garden’s Piedmont Prairie. Many of the late flowering, native grassland species are just coming into flower, such as the asters and goldenrods, so it’s not surprising that so many of these late flowering U.S. natives have been cultivated as garden plants worldwide, extending the enjoyment of gardens until the arrival of frost.

Eragrostis spectabilis.
Photo: USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 
September is also the time when many Southeastern native grasses are in flower along North Carolina roadsides. It may come as a surprise to many, but grasses do have flowers. The tiny flowers or spikelets are formed on a flowering stem, known as an inflorescence, with the more “ornate” grasses having highly branched inflorescences or panicles. Some of these panicles can be so intricately branched that they appear as airy mounds of transparent fine lace. Purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) is one such species that has to be my favourite native grass planted in an ornamental setting. The gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) make super planting companions with purple love grass.

Particularly striking are the taller grasses such as Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) with its masses of golden, oat-like  panicles, and sugarcane plume grass (Erianthus giganteus), with its clusters of silvery plumes shooting skyward. Stipa gigantea (giant feather grass), a stunning grass with arching flowering stems reaching 6 feet, is a stalwart of English Gardens but as a Mediterranean native doesn’t adapt well to North Carolina’s  hot and humid climate or heavy clay soil. Indian grass would easily make a marvelous replacement for S. gigantea in a North Carolina Garden.

Sorghastrum nutans in the Piedmont Prairie. Photo by Cathi Bodine.
The striking Erianthus giganteus works well at the back of a border and could replace the commonly grown (and sometimes invasive) Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese silver grass) in local gardens. Generally grasses prefer growing in sun or may tolerate partial sun, but they will not thrive in shade.  Many local grasses are drought tolerant and prefer nutrient poor soil; they will grow in our local heavy clay soil, and as with most grasses they are deer tolerant.

Grasses have been used in ornamental plantings in the U.S. for more than 100 years. One of the earliest proponents of incorporating native grasses into U.S. landscapes was the Danish-born Jens Jensen who, at the turn of the 20th century, belonged to the Prairie School style of design based on the Arts and Crafts movement established in Great Britain during the latter part of the 19th century. In more recent decades, Dutchman Piet Oudolf has echoed Jensen’s philosophy, designing and installing grass dominated landscapes including the Highline in New York City.

Oudolf has written many design books using grasses, but one of my favorites is “Gardening with Grasses,” by Michael King and Piet Oudolf (1998). A second recommendation is “The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes,” by Rick Darke (2007).

Come to Saturday’s Fall Plant Sale and you’ll find these beautiful native grasses and many more.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Heuchera ‘Autumn Bride’


By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020
Photos courtesy of Lurie Garden

With its tall clouds of white flowers that bloom from August through September, this Heuchera cultivar certainly does seem reminiscent of an ‘Autumn Bride’ all dressed in white. Its flowering is one of the largest in the genus—this plant pulls out all the stops. What’s more, the foliage of Heuchera ‘Autumn Bride’ is velvety to the touch, much like the fine quality of a bride’s gown.





Especially in southern climates, ‘Autumn Bride’ thrives in the shade and in well-drained soils that are moderately moist. This easy-care cultivar fares better than most Heucheras in hot and humid summers, and it has good drought tolerance and is deer resistant.


Commonly called coral bells, Heuchera works well as groundcover in rock gardens, open woodland gardens and borders. Its 2-foot stalks with white blooms really stand out when planted in groups or massed, and they make lovely cut flowers. ‘Autumn Bride’ can also be wedded to other plants to create exciting foliage contrast and combinations.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Hostas

Hosta 'Wheee!' in the Historic Gardens. Photo by Mandy Cuskelly.
By Mandy Cuskelly
Assistant Horticulturist, Historic Gardens

Have lots of trees and shade? Not sure what to plant? No problem—plant hostas! I am a bit of a hosta enthusiast, if you couldn’t tell. I mean, what’s not to love about a classic perennial that is shade tolerant and comes in so many shapes, sizes and colors? I could talk about hostas all day, but I'm going to behave and just talk about a few that will be offered at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale this Saturday, Sept. 29.

Hosta ‘Wheee!’ is just as much fun as the name makes it out to be. Its foliage flips and turns in every direction and never fails to grab the attention of passersby. Plant this hosta near a path or bench to attract interest and serve as a conversation piece.  Maturing at a little less than 2 feet tall, it is ideally placed at the front of a shaded bed.


Hosta 'Halcyon' in the Historic Gardens. Photo: M. Cuskelly
‘Halcyon’ is a tried and true champion of the hosta world. This classic hosta has dark blue-green leaves that hold the blue color well in our hot and humid summers.  As a bonus, ‘Halcyon’ tends to shoot off color mutations in some new shoots, and in fact is the sport parent of popular hosta cultivars like ‘June’, ‘First Frost’ and many, many others. In the Historic Gardens, we like to tuck containers like this one in unexpected places. The ‘Halcyon’ pictured has been growing in the pot for several years, looking great—and it’s low maintenance, just needing some occasional water.





Hosta 'Mini Skirt' in a mixed arrangement.
Photo: M. Cuskelly

‘Mini Skirt’ is a fun new miniature hosta. It measures only 5 inches tall at maturity but has big personality. It has very wavy blue-green leaves with yellow margins. Miniature hostas are perfect for fairy gardens or mixed bowls with other miniature shade plants. This photo shows an example of several different cultivars of miniature hosta that I put together for a display in the garden this summer. ‘Mini Skirt’ is the bottom right plant in the center.



Hosta 'Mini Skirt'. Photo by
Walters Gardens Inc.
Hostas can tend to show some wear entering into fall, but this is a great time of year to plant them. With the heat of the summer passing and more occasional rains returning, the hostas will have a great chance to get established and show their full potential next spring.
When siting these plants, you’ll want to check the tag for mature size and then provide an organic and well-draining shady spot. Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into just a few of the hostas we will have available at the sale!

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Chinese foxglove

Rehmannia elata growing near the peony collection in the
Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Photo by Beth Hall.
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

Rehmannia elata is commonly called Chinese foxglove for its resemblance to foxgloves, but this herbaceous perennial is actually a member of a completely different family, Orobanchaceae.  Although this plant is native to China, Chinese foxglove thrives in the warmer climate of North Carolina and is a lovely addition to local gardens.

Rehmannia elata grows best in loose, moist, and well-drained soils. It prefers part shade, especially appreciating the morning sun and afternoon shade during hot summer days, and it also tolerates almost full shade. Once established, it is also drought resistant. However, be sure to protect Chinese foxglove from freezing temperatures during the winter with a good layer of mulch. Rehmannia elata is also generally pest free, attracting only the occasional slug or snail.

Unlike true foxgloves, Chinese foxglove will repeat bloom for 3-4 months, usually unfurling its bell-shaped petals from May to September, with the heaviest bloom around June and July. Rehmannia elata is generally low maintenance, but if you want to see it keep blooming, you’ll have to remove its spent flowers. However, this little bit of work is well worth it. Its attractive rosy purple color is sure to brighten up any shade garden!

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Fragrant Tea Olive

Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus 'Beni Kin Mokusei'.
Photo courtesy of Nurseries Caroliniana Inc.
By Katherine Hale

The first sign of fall isn’t shorter days or cooler nights—it’s the apricot-like scent  wafting through the air as the fragrant tea olives bloom. Hailing from China, these evergreen shrubs boast hundreds of tiny flowers that pack a big punch, filling the air with massive quantities of perfume. When the season peaks here at Duke Gardens (it’s starting now!), you can follow your nose to the tea olives lining the paths near the lower parking lot and in the Historic Gardens, long before you see them.

The plant’s official name—Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus—is a lengthy one, but don’t let that intimidate you. The first three words are a fancy way of saying it’s an especially fragrant tea olive with orange flowers in place of the usual white. What makes 'Beni Kin Mokusei' so special is that its blooms are much deeper orange than the garden variety auranticus, so much so that they appear almost red in certain lights.

The late horticulturist J.C. Raulston of N.C. State University once saw a sprig of ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ in a flower arrangement during a visit to a Korean temple and fell in love; he reportedly claimed he would have been willing to risk jail to acquire a specimen of his own.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go to such lengths—this variety has now been introduced to the United States and will be available for purchase at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale on Sept. 29.

What to do with ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ once you’ve purchased it? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Take advantage of its heavenly scent and plant it in a sunny place near a porch or patio or anywhere you care to linger on cool autumn evenings. Or use it as a privacy hedge or to line outdoor paths, as we do with the Osmanthus at Duke Gardens. Tea olives are deer- and disease-resistant, and incredibly low-maintenance once established, fading into the background until the fall. You’ll wonder how you ever managed to live without them.

Read more about Osmanthus at Duke Gardens in this 2016 blog post.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Nepeta 'Cat's Meow'

Nepeta 'Cat's Meow'. Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens.
By Katherine Hale

The finest gardens offer more than eye candy—they engage us on multiple levels by offering a feast for all of our senses. With its sweet scent and distinctly textured leaves, ‘Cat’s Meow’ ornamental catmint perfectly fits the bill, packing a strong visual punch unmatched by any other perennial on the market. Honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds—not to mention your cat and any human visitors—will agree.

Despite the gorgeous blue-purple flowers, this catmint is no shrinking violet. Deer prefer to avoid it, and with decent drainage it’s remarkably disease-resistant. More upright than other varieties of catmint, ‘Cat’s Meow’ stands tall where its competitors flop, and it requires no staking or pruning—though a tidy dead-heading now and then will promote another round of blooms. Vigorous and drought-tolerant once established, ‘Cat’s Meow’ loves heat, but it will also do well in areas with light afternoon shade. Because it’s a sterile hybrid, there’s no need to worry about errant seedlings volunteering where they aren’t wanted or taking over your perennial border.

The dense, compact shape and trouble-free requirements of ‘Cat’s Meow’ make it perfect for edging, containers, rocky patches, herb gardens or any place where a colorful touch is needed. Children will love the fuzzy, aromatic leaves, and its bright flowers liven up any floral  arrangement. Catmint is also a great choice to underplant with roses, as we do here at Duke Gardens, because it offers a delightful contrast that doesn’t interfere or compete with them for space and resources. Unless your backyard is densely shaded or a boggy swamp, you really can’t go wrong with it.

They say you can never have it all, but ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint comes pretty darn close. Check out this and other amazing perennials at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Woodland Phlox

By Rose James
Duke Class of 2020
Phlox divaricata 'Blue Perfume' is similar
to the 'Blue Moon' variety we'll have at
the Fall Plant sale. Photo by Jason Holmes.
Finding the right color of flowers for your garden can be difficult. I am particular to roses myself, but when it comes to purple and blue blooms, I have to turn to other options. Some of the prettiest shades of lavender I have ever found have come from the Phlox divaricata, commonly called the woodland phlox.

Ranging from lavender to blue, the Phlox divaricata is a small, native wildflower with dainty flowers that bloom in  April and May. It grows to be 8 to 12 inches high and equally as wide. It does well in partial shade to full shade gardens.

As an added bonus to its lush color, the woodland phlox is known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. If left to grow in your garden, the woodland phlox will form large colonies over time, as wildflowers tend to do.

Woodland phlox in the Terrace Gardens. Photo: J. Holmes.




The Duke Gardens Fall Plant sale will feature the 'Blue Moon' Phlox divaricata, known for its deep violet-blue flowers. Its blooms are not only colorful but very fragrant. The 'Blue Moon' is a good complement for gardens with ferns and hellebores and is certain to please gardeners seeking to bring a variety of color into their gardens.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Celebrating Pollinators

Pollinator habitats in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.
Photo by Sue Lannon.
 By Jason Holmes

While visiting Mount Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina over Labor Day weekend in 2016, I witnessed a native bee pressing open the lipped petals of the pink turtlehead (Chelone lyonii).  It made me think of the importance of that moment and yet how that bee had already visited hundreds of flowers that day in order to collect pollen on the side of her legs. I quickly yelled to my son to come get an up-close view. This was a perfect opportunity to show him the importance of that little creature.

Insect pollinators may seem like a small part of our daily lives, but they have an enormous impact on us. Fortunately, gardeners’ interest in pollinators appears to be growing, judging from sales of pollinator plants at our Fall & Spring Plant Sales. That's heartening for horticulturists like me, who are devoted to attracting pollinators to Duke Gardens and teaching visitors about these species’ roles in our lives.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a
rudbeckia flower in the Discovery Garden.
Photo by Kathy Julian.
Most people don’t realize that honeybees are not native to North America and that thousands of other insect species were responsible for pollinating many plant species before their introduction. Bees and wasps, flies, butterflies and moths, and beetles are among the thousands of plant pollinators across North America. These beneficial insects are responsible for all insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables that provide us with most of the nutritious vitamins and minerals that we need daily, and they also broaden our diets beyond just meat and wind-pollinated grain foods.

This act of pollination allows many types of plants to produce fruits and seeds, helping to create vigorous plants over many generations.

Approximately 75 percent of all plants in the world require animals for pollination. These animals are part of many humans’ daily diets, something worth keeping in mind as we seek ways to help the plants around us thrive.

At Duke Gardens, we celebrate and promote all types of pollinators.  In the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, a sustainable organic food garden, we donate over a ton of fruits and vegetables every year to local food relief organizations.  This is an amazing total, considering that we only garden on 2/10 of an acre.  We could never produce this incredible amount without assistance from the thousands of pollinators we see daily buzzing around the garden. In the Brody Garden, and in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, we have gardens designed specifically to attract these fascinating little pollinators.  We have nine honeybee hives in the Brody Garden. And with the help of dedicated volunteers, we have been building pollinator houses that we’re pleased to see attract many different beneficial species.

If you’re excited about helping pollinators, try planting species that will bring them to your garden. “Attracting Native Pollinators,” by The Xerces Society, is a great resource to learn more. If you already have these plants, consider leaving perennials longer through the fall and winter for habitat. Many of these species will create nests within the dead stems of perennial species.  Get creative and build pollinator houses or insect hotels. They’re similar to bird houses, but you leave off the front wall and pack it with small stems of bamboo so that solitary insect species can build nests inside.  Remember, if you build it, they will come!

FALL PLANT SALE INFO:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Jason Holmes is curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens at Duke Gardens. This article is adapted from a previous post in Sept. 2016.

Friday, August 24, 2018

"The Big Easy" lives on


We were all sad to say a sudden farewell to "The Big Easy," Patrick Dougherty's beloved sculpture on the South Lawn. Alas, storms and flooding in spring and summer took too great a toll on this intriguing art installation, and it became unstable.

But we have some good news! Most of the finials held their shape beautifully when removed from the main sculpture, so—with  Dougherty's blessing—our curators and horticulturists found perfect locations throughout Duke Gardens for the finials to enhance the landscape design and stay with us  awhile longer.

We hope visitors will enjoy encountering these small echoes of a big attraction. If you take photos of them and post online, please tag #dukebigeasy. We'd love to see them!

The dismantling begins. Photo by Clarence Burke.

A beautiful view of a bittersweet moment. Photo by Lori Sullivan.

And here are the finials....can you guess where?










Finial photos by Bill LeFevre and Laura Daly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Japanese Maples at the Terrace Shop

Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream'
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020
Photos by Annie Yang

If you missed this month’s Spring Plant Sale (our most successful ever -- thank you!) or if your garden is calling out for more, there are still plants available in Duke Gardens' Terrace Shop, including many cultivars of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).

Native to Japan, China, Korea, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia, these plants are super versatile and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Some varieties are naturally smaller and shorter and can grow in containers. Other cultivars can serve as understory plants grouped together in shady woodland areas of a garden.

Japanese maples usually run relatively small for trees, but some of them can stand out even when planted alone. Their leaves run a whole spectrum of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, purple. In general, they prefer some afternoon shade but also a good deal of sunlight to showcase their colorful foliage.

Japanese maples require well-drained and consistently moist soil, as well as protection from strong winds. Watch out for late spring frosts, which they are especially vulnerable to when young. Despite this, many cultivars are relatively easy to grow and are long-lived. Below are a few of the Japanese maple cultivars available at the Terrace Shop. We recommend that you call in advance (919-684-9037) if there is a particular cultivar you are seeking.
Acer palmatum 'Summer Gold'


‘Summer Gold’

True to its name, ‘Summer Gold’ maintains an energetic yellow color throughout the summer, as well as the fall. Its foliage starts off light green in the summer and deepens into the fall, retaining wonderful shades for months.

Standing at 10 to 12 feet at maturity, ‘Summer Gold’ is a somewhat taller tree compared to its Japanese maple relatives. This tree thrives in well-drained soil and has average water needs. It is also resistant to deer and insects, and it is drought tolerant. ‘Summer Gold’ distinguishes itself from other Japanese maples not only with its color but also with its ability to withstand full sun without burning. This is a tree that is well adapted to the summer and isn’t afraid of full sun, heat or humidity.

‘Autumn Fire’

The leaves on this deciduous tree start off typically green like any other tree you might encounter in the early spring. But as spring transitions into summer and then into fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ begins to show its true colors. The edges of its unique, narrow leaves are first tinged with red, and eventually a fiery red engulfs the entire leaf. In the fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ is alight with its stunning scarlet hues, standing out even in a season packed with attractive foliage colors.
Acer palmatum 'Autumn Fire'

‘Autumn Fire’ grows to be about 6 to 8 feet tall and requires well-drained, rich soil and regular watering. As a bonus, ‘Autumn Fire’ can also tolerate humidity. Like many Japanese maples, this tree prefers full to partial sun. But be careful exposing ‘Autumn Fire’ to too much full sun or else it will really burn!

‘Peaches and Cream’

When I first encountered this tree, I wasn’t sure what was so “creamy” about ‘Peaches and Cream’. There seemed to be a lot more peaches implied by the red than any cream or white! But to truly appreciate ‘Peaches and Cream’ you really have to follow it through the seasons. In the early spring, the leaves on this deciduous tree actually take on a pale green, almost white color, accentuating its veins, which are still dark green. As the weather gets colder, the cream is replaced by an orange-yellow color reminiscent of sweet summer peaches.

As with other Japanese Maples, ‘Peaches and Cream’ is on the shorter side, from 6 to 12 feet tall, but it certainly makes up in personality and vibrancy what it lacks in stature. ‘Peaches and Cream’ thrives in acidic, well-drained and rich soil, and it is also drought and humidity resistant. This tree can grow under mostly sun to mostly shade, but it prefers the shade. Imagine enjoying a bowl of peaches and cream under the cool canopy of a tree during the summer!

The following cultivars may also still be available through the Terrace Shop: Vitifolium, Taki no Gawa, Green Mist, Skeeter’s Broom, Crimson Princess, Katsura, Alan’s Gold, Calico, Meigetsu, Little Cindy, Emerald Lace and Tamukeyama.

Thank you again to all shoppers for making the 2018 Spring Plant Sale our most successful ever! If you love gardening, remember that Duke Gardens members get 10% off all plant purchases at the spring and fall sales, and first dibs at the members-only preview sale in spring. Please see our website to learn more about becoming a member of Duke Gardens.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Sedum + Sempervivum

Sedum 'Lemon Ball'
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

The bright yellow-green foliage of Sedum ‘Lemon Ball’ bursts out like fireworks and radiates excitement and freshness. It’s one of six Sedum varieties we will have at our Spring Plant Sale on Saturday and members-only preview sale this evening (see event details below). ‘Lemon Ball’ is a close cousin of ‘Angelina’, another Sedum variety, but it retains its vibrant color all year.

‘Lemon Ball’ requires full sun (you wouldn’t want to hide this plant in the shade!), and it grows in dry soil with average watering. It is also sturdier than ‘Angelina’ and is drought tolerant as well as rabbit and deer resistant. Fittingly, ‘Lemon Ball’ blooms in the summer and fits right in with the other bright, exciting colors of the season.

This plant works well as a border plant, lighting up any walkway or garden path. ‘Lemon Ball’ can also pop out in rock gardens without distracting from the beauty of the stones. You can even bring them indoors and place them in a hanging planter. ‘Lemon Ball’ will certainly stand out in any niche you find for it.

Scroll down to see more Sedum from our plant sale collection, as well as the popular Sempervivum 'Carmen' (hens and chicks).


SPRING PLANT SALE INFO:
Date: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Preview sale for members only: Friday, April 6, 4-6 pm. Duke Gardens members get 10% off at the preview sale and public sale, as well as a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!
Sedum 'Mahogany Red'

Sedum Sunsparkler 'Dazzleberry'

Sempervivum 'Carmen'