A Spring Photo Tour of Duke Gardens (Part 1)

Color abounds this time of year at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, “the crown jewel of Duke University” and the recipient of multiple horticulture awards. In recent weeks, steady streams of visitors have enjoyed this lovely, living showcase of plants and wildlife.

The tulips on the Italian-style Historic Terraces have been spectacular!


The Duke Gardens Terraces in early April. (Durham, NC)


Tulips & daffodils bask in the sunshine near the Historic Terraces pergola. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Although such dazzling displays steal the spotlight, there are other gems tucked among the tulips.


When walking the allees of the Historic Terraces, the tendency might be to look down—at clusters of colorful tulips or at the koi in the fish pool (the latter of which is especially popular with the kiddies). When one looks up, behold! Beautiful magnolia blooms. The variety pictured here, called a Sunspire Magnolia, grows on a narrow tree with upward-facing flowers, making it great for small gardens or tight spaces. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

The adjacent Culberson Asiatic Arboretum is replete with wildlife and flowering trees.


In early April, pops of color from the flowering peach, cherry, and redbud trees took center stage in the Asiatic Arboretum. — Duke Gardens, Durham, NC (pictured here: Chinese redbud)


The story behind this photo: As I was leaving the Gardens after a lunchtime photo-taking extravaganza earlier this month, I spotted a cardinal perched near the Japanese-style Arched Bridge. My camera was already turned off and stowed away. In my experience, cardinals are skittish so I wasn’t sure I could capture the scene–but I wanted to try! A short way off to my left, a chattering group of garden guests were approaching. I snapped three pictures before the happy visitors reached the spot. A fourth photo is of the iconic red bridge…and the tips of a cardinal’s tail feathers in the top right corner!

Subtle splendor of the indigenous variety springs up along the meandering paths of the Memorial Garden and the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. To the casual onlooker, these areas of Duke Gardens may appear a bit drab. Not so, in my humble opinion. A closer look reveals the intricacy of the leaves and blooms—displays of creation that are carefully planned and far from ordinary.


Dutchman’s Breeches are commonly found on the forest floor of a woodland habitat. These native plants are a wild version of Bleeding Hearts. — Blomquist Garden of Native Plants


Celandine poppies in the 6.5-acre Blomquist Garden of Native Plants add a splash of golden-yellow color to the predominantly green landscape. These native wildflowers are sometimes referred to as wood poppies. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC


The 1.5-acre Memorial Garden doesn’t get as much foot traffic as the neighboring Terraces or the Asiatic Arboretum, but it’s a tranquil place to sit for a spell. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC


The delicate white flowers of this “Summer Snowflake” plant didn’t look like much until I stooped down for a closer look. — Duke Gardens’ Memorial Garden; Durham, NC

Although each area of Duke Gardens is distinctly themed, the entire 55-acre expanse flows seamlessly. (There are four main gardens in all: Historic Gardens, Doris Duke Center Gardens, H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Part 2 of my photo tour will feature the Doris Duke Center Gardens.)

With the passing of time, the early spring colors are beginning to fade. Not to worry! There always seems to be something in bloom in this “garden for all seasons.”

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

There are protected wetlands behind my house—a bottomland hardwood forest, to be exact. And a creek runs through it.

As I was contemplating the creek over a cup of tea after church today, I did a little investigating on “the interwebs.” The creek runs into Jordan Lake; and from there, it flows into the Haw River. This, in turn, continues on to the Cape Fear River, which is the only river in North Carolina that empties directly into the Atlantic Ocean.


No doubt, these are the sort of things I should have learned in elementary or middle school. I’m a late bloomer, I suppose. But to quote one of my cousins, “You’re never too old to learn.”

Well said.

Lots of birds and vegetation inhabit the wetlands behind my house; and as several of my previous posts have indicated, I never tire of watching the birds. In fact, I spent so much time lookin’ out my back door today that I missed lunch entirely. (That’s a big deal for me. That’s some serious concentration right there.)

I took several pictures (through the glass, unfortunately) of cardinals, eastern bluebirds, woodpeckers, finches, and such.




After a bit, I decided to up the ante. Could I get a bird (in focus) in flight? Not as easy as it sounds for someone who finds manuals and instructions tedious and would much rather wing it—pun intended.




All Things Bright and Beautiful

Sarah P. Duke Gardens: quite possibly the most magnificent place in Durham, North Carolina. From the tall trees to the flowers & foliage to the tiny bird that sings, all things there are bright and beautiful.

Want to know what the Gardens look like in Autumn? Here’s a flurry of photos that I took on my whirlwind tour through the Gardens earlier this week. Enjoy!


Along the allees of the Terrace Garden, the coleuses are still colorful and profuse. Did you know that the coleus is a member of the mint family? — Duke Gardens; Autumn 2014


In the Terrace Garden, I pondered how these flower blossoms and ornamental tomatoes found their way to the fountain statue. The wind? Critters? Mischievous garden guests? — Duke Gardens; Autumn 2014


At the fish pond, the koi (fish) look large enough to ride (my, how they’ve grown!) and the water lilies look good enough to eat. Almost. Almost. — Duke Gardens Terrace Fish Pond; Autumn 2014


A blue dasher dragonfly sits atop a water lily in the Terrace fish pond. — Duke Gardens; Autumn 2014


The Butterfly Garden is drying off. Despite this, I spotted several winged wonders and a few flowers still blooming. — Duke Gardens; Autumn 2014


A male cardinal along the edge of the South Lawn is a nod to North Carolina’s state bird. — Duke Gardens; Autumn 2014


Everything about the magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) is magnificent and grand, right down to the seed pod. — Duke Gardens South Lawn/Terrace Garden; Autumn 2014

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

— Ce­cil F. Al­ex­an­der (1848)

Sixty-seven in 22

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ― Ansel Adams

Well, now.

Clearly that describes something a bit more intense than simply pointing, clicking, and “lucking into” a few good pictures every now and then.

I want to make those sorts of photographs! To that end, I have enrolled in a series of photography courses at a local studio. As I excitedly await my first class, I’ll just keep seeing things that I like, zooming in, and clicking willy-nilly.

As a matter of fact, I did a bit of that willy-nilly stuff during my lunch break today. In the span of 22 minutes, I took 67 pictures. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound like a whole lot to you, but would it help to know that during those 22 minutes I also ate two pieces of pizza and a container of Black Cherry yogurt?

Here are some of my willy-nilly shots:








Stay tuned for my odyssey from novice point-and-clicker to (hopefully!) more informed, passionate photographer in the months to come.