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Hidden Gardens at Duke

Places off the beaten track to enjoy nature at Duke

Sarah P. Duke Gardens is described as the "crown jewel of Duke University," but there are other campus gardens where you can enjoy greenery and serenity.

According to Mark Hough, Duke's campus landscape architect, the legacy of beautiful landscaping is integral to Duke's history. It dates back to the design of the campus quads in the 1920s by the nationally known Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. "One of the guiding principles in Duke's master plan is that Duke is a collection of memorable spaces, and that includes both buildings and landscapes, whether on or off the beaten track," Hough said.

Here are five off-the-beaten-path gardens at Duke for your warm weather explorations.

Beber Sculpture Garden

Beber Sculpture Garden at Law School
Behind the Duke Law School is an unexpected treasure: a sculpture garden nestled in woodlands. Made possible by Law School alumnus Bob Beber and his late wife Joan, a graduate of the Women's College, the Beber Sculpture Garden was built in early 2007, just in time for Bob Beber's 50th reunion. The garden includes four pieces of outdoor sculpture by prominent North Carolina artists, including "Channel Loch" by Kyle Van Lusk (pictured) and "Tilted Arc" by Wayne Trapp. The Law School also maintains tables and chairs to invite faculty, staff and students to use the space for gatherings.

Kim Burrucker, director of public interest and pro bono for Duke Law, enjoys the serenity of the gardens. "It is a great place to go for a quiet lunch, but is also very conducive to group gatherings," she said.

Pratt Memorial Garden

Pratt Memorial Garden
The curved benches and stone wall of the Pratt Memorial Garden border patches of grass behind the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) building. The circular seating area in this quiet area invites students, faculty and staff to stop for a moment and soak up the sun.

Dedicated on Nov. 3, 2007, the seating area was built in honor of Pratt School students, faculty and staff who have died. Engraved on a plaque near the curved wall are these words from George Bernard Shaw: "Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

Duke's Medicinal Garden

Medicinal Garden at Medical Center Library
Tucked away on the terrace of the Seeley G. Mudd Building is the Duke Medical Center Library and Archives medical garden - a potpourri of potted plants overlooking the lawn of the Duke Farmers Market.

The pots contain herbs and plants such as rosemary, tansy, valerian and Wall germander. The garden was created so faculty, staff and students can learn to recognize common herbs and plants historically used to treat illnesses like gout, insomnia and fevers. A free pamphlet describing the traditional uses of plants in the garden, as well as other medicinal plants is available from the Medical Center Library and Archives.

Recently, the library posted signage to help visitors navigate up the stairs and around the corners of the outdoor staircase to discover this hidden garden spot with tables, chairs and benches. "It's one of Duke's best kept secrets," said Beverly Murphy, assistant director, communications and web content management.


Labyrinth for Stillness

Integrative Medicine Labyrinth
The tranquil garden behind the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine includes a large expanse of bright pebbles, carefully crafted into a traditional circular labyrinth. The single path, outlined with dark stones, curves and doubles back as it leads to the center of the circle and out again.

Dr. Jeffrey Brantley, director of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the center, often walks the labyrinth.

"The path winds in and out, but if you just keep walking, eventually you reach the center, your goal," he said. "In the process of just walking and letting go of the mental activities associated with getting someplace, you can discover a surprising dimension of stillness and presence within."

A Lush Path

von der Heyden Pavilion walkway

At 10 feet wide, the strip of land between the von der Heyden Pavilion and the back of the Languages Building on West Campus could be the narrowest garden area on campus. The curved pathway, lined with lenten roses and lilies of the valley, beckons passers-by to explore - but not very far.

"It is small and secluded, and doesn't lead anywhere, but I always want to walk back there when I notice it," said Aaron Wellborn, director of communications for Duke Libraries.

Tell Us: What are your favorite places on campus to enjoy nature and serenity?