Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An inspired new garden

The new Page-Rollins White Garden design
in the Doris Duke Center Gardens

By Crystal Cotton

A garden can have many uses. It can support wildlife, provide food for a family or community or serve as a retreat or a place for inspiration.

The newly redesigned Page-Rollins White Garden in the Doris Duke Center Gardens is a source of inspiration as well as the result of inspiration. The garden design got its first inspiration when its donor, Frances P. Rollins, visited the garden “rooms” at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in England. And when Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, traveled recently to Sissinghurst, he was able to see its White Garden and be further inspired.

You can see the beginnings of Sissinghurst’s influence on a tour of the Doris Duke Center Gardens this Friday at 10 a.m.

One thing that stuck with Holmes after his Sissinghurst visit was the combinations of plants that were used in its White Garden, from annuals to perennials and shrubs.

By combining these ideas with various grass textures, paying attention to forms, height variations and other factors, Holmes is creating a Southeastern U.S. interpretation of Sissinghurst. It’s beautiful now, but it’ll be a knockout when it’s fully developed.

“The combinations aren’t up to par yet because we’re starting with such little, tiny little plants, so they haven’t grown in fully,” Holmes says. “I would say the peak for this garden should be within the next three years, just because the perennials and shrubs have a maturation period. That’s what we’re waiting for now.”

To address the climate differences between England and North Carolina, Holmes is incorporating ornamental grasses.

“They have such a great drought resistance,” he says. “They’re also resistant to many insects and diseases, and grasses are just overall great group of plants to incorporate into the garden.”
Among the annuals and perennials Holmes is planting are white coneflower, liatris, lily of the Nile and daylilies.

Home gardeners can get inspiration and ideas from a walk around the White Garden – both now and over the coming months and years, as the plantings increase in size and variety. On Friday’s tour, you’ll learn more about the designs and plant combinations of the White Garden and other gardens surrounding the Doris Duke Center, and how you might incorporate them in your gardens at home.

As with his own trip to Sissinghurst, Holmes hopes visitors will be invigorated by the beauty of the Page-Rollins White Garden and leave with ideas they can take home.

“I want them to be inspired,” he says.

TOUR INFO: For more information about Friday’s tour, or to register, please call 668-1707 or email slsmith@duke.edu. The Gardens will also offer Doris Duke Center Gardens tours in fall.

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 is at 420 Anderson St.

Crystal Cotton is a junior at N.C. Central University and a communications intern at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.


  1. Crystal, thank you for this article! I visited the White Garden in June and fell in love with it! Absolutely gorgeous place! I posted my pictures in MySecretGarden blog here http://tanyasgarden.blogspot.com/2011/07/white-garden-at-sarah-p-duke-gardens-nc.html

  2. Thanks! It's great to see that people actually do read the blog. This really means a lot to me and I love your blog and pictures as well.