Nine Facts: Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Duke faculty and staff can get tickets for visiting the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke University's campus in spring. Others will have to wait a little longer, as the reopening continues in phases.

1. Now a 55-acre living collection, Duke Gardens began more than 80 years ago as the vision of Dr. Frederic M. Hanes, who walked by the ravine each day as a member of the original faculty of Duke Medical School.

2. In 1934, after a $20,000 contribution from Sarah P. Duke, an iris garden was planted in what is now known as the South Lawn. By 1935, the area contained 100 flower beds.

3. The Blomquist Garden of Native Plants is filled with more than 1,000 species and varieties of regional native plants. Some of them found a home in the garden after approved plant-rescue operations from land under development. 

4. The ‘Akebono’ cherry trees are popular spring-blooming trees in Duke Gardens. The cherry trees are planted throughout many parts of the Gardens, from the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum to the Cherry Allée leading from the Gothic Gates to the Roney Fountain.

5. Produce harvested from the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden — a sustainable, organic food garden — is donated to local organizations that provide food and nutritional education to Durham County families. Part of this garden’s mission is to teach children where their food comes from.

6. Most of the streams, fountains and waterfalls throughout Duke Gardens operate via recirculating systems underground, in order to conserve water.

7. The Historic Gardens’ horticulture team and volunteers typically plant more than 60,000 bulbs annually for spring and summer displays in the Terrace Gardens, including a sea of tulips. Because the Gardens’ reopening date was unknown during bulb-planting season last year, and volunteers were unable to be on site, the team took an alternative approach for the 2021 displays.

8. Many features in Duke Gardens contain pieces of history from Durham and beyond, including benches made from old city curbstones, walking paths of historic millstones, and a chicken coop made with recycled lumber from a century-old Oxford textile mill.

9. During a typical year, more than 600,000 people visit Duke Gardens, walking among the five miles of pathways throughout the gardens.

Source: Sarah P. Duke Gardens