A Tour of the Tulips at Duke Gardens

I planted three dozen tulips in my garden last fall. To date, only one lonely stem-and-leaf has reached full maturity and bloomed a soothing orange on top.

Reportedly, Duke Gardens planted over 55,000 bulbs.  Although I haven’t counted, it would appear that 54,999 of them have bloomed. For the last two weeks or so, I have enjoyed each new wave with wonder.

Come and take a tour of the tulips!

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The Terrace in the Historic Gardens is tier after tier of tulips. I took this photo in the early morning hours, which I’ve found to be a gloriously peaceful time for passing through nature and marveling at the Creator’s hand before beginning my workday.

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Thanks to the time and talents of the Duke Gardens staff and volunteers, the Terrace is arranged in matching symmetry from left to right, with each row containing different kinds or color themes.

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Morning dew on a Terrace Gardens tulip.

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The midday sun shines through a mass of red tulips. — Historic Terrace Gardens.

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In the Rose Garden, tulips bloom in planters here and there around the 100-year-old Roney Fountain.

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Tulips aren’t the only beauties blooming in spring at the Gardens. The trees on the Terrace are canopies of complimentary colors.

OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
— Robert Frost; from “A Prayer in Spring”

Check back soon and I’ll show you what has come and gone but is not to be forgotten–such as the striking Cherry Allee by the main entrance’s Gothic Gate!

Join With All Nature

Hello, World! It would seem that I’ve been living under a rock since early January, doing very little writing. (Let’s see if I can still string a few sentences together!)

I hope that you’ve been weathering winter well. Here in central North Carolina, we’ve had some snow and ice, the latter of which always makes things more interesting. Despite the weather (or because of it), I was able to capture the Duke Gardens blanketed in snow.

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The Virtue Peace Pond at Duke Gardens is always a tranquil sight. (Note the splash of orange-red to the right, where construction in the nearby Spring Woodlands Garden is underway. How exciting!)

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The snow and ice have since melted (and it’s in the 60’s as I write this post!), but it was a mere 24 degrees last Saturday morning when I took this photo of a cute little warbler fluffing its feathers to retain body heat and keep out the cold. — Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens

A verse from an old favorite comes to mind when I consider the subtle wonder of a tiny bird carefully designed to dwell in “summer and winter and springtime and harvest”–a witness in nature to God’s great faithfulness, mercy and love.[1]


“Great is Thy Faithfulness”; Thomas Obediah Chisholm (1866-1960)

 

Veritas Vineyard: Truth in the Foothills

Veritas_Vineyard_1781Nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the family-owned Veritas Vineyard and Winery. While passing by that stretch of Afton Mountain Road, (Route 6), outside of Charlottesville last weekend, I stopped to take some pictures.

I’m far from being a wine connoisseur and I’m even less of a consumer. However, I’m intrigued by the art and science (and hard work!) of making good wine. Besides that, the striking nature of a vineyard is hard to miss. Veritas Vineyard & Winery is no exception when it comes to quality and beauty—they have received many awards and accolades since their inception in 2002.

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Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton, Virginia, complete with a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop.

In Latin, “veritas” means “truth.” The vineyard’s name harkens to the words of Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman author and philosopher of nature: “in vino veritas.” Translated, this means “in wine there is truth.”

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In the foreground here is a unique metal sculpture situated on a rise not far from the Tasting Room. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

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The grapes grown at Veritas Vineyard are primarily vitis vinifera, a grape common to Europe and Asia. An American-French hybrid is grown to a lesser degree as well. —  Afton, Virginia

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At Veritas, overnight guests can stay at The Farmhouse B&B. This lovely 1800s homestead offers six guest rooms and an adjacent 2-bedroom cottage. — Afton, VA

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Sheep craze in the pasture beside the barn-turned-cottage. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

I could have spent all afternoon in The Farmhouse Garden, which sits at the back of the house facing rows and rows of grapevines and the Blue Ridge in the distance.

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A pretty pollinator on a coneflower in The Farmhouse Garden. –Vertias Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

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…And still more coneflowers. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

The science and production of grapes is referred to as viticulture. Turning the subsequent grape juice into wine is known as vinification. Veritas Vineyard used the classic principles of the two when creating their wines. --Afton, VA

The science and production of grapes is referred to as viticulture. Turning the subsequent grape juice into wine is known as vinification. Veritas Vineyard uses the classic principles of the two when creating their wines. –Afton, VA

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The fruit of Veritas Vineyard’s labor can be enjoyed responsibly in the architecturally pleasing Tasting Room. — Afton, VA

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Looking out over Veritas and its lovely vistas, I sensed the work, time, and creative power involved from the moment the ground is prepped and the vines are planted to the final enjoyment of the wine produced, and I thought about how Jesus (God in human flesh) miraculously turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Concerning this miracle in relation to God’s ongoing providence over creation, C.S. Lewis wrote:

…it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.

Year after year, by His creative power and through the stewardship of man and his labor, God is turning water into wine.


C.S. Lewis quote from God in the Dock, p. 29.

Sandy Creek: A City of Durham Park

With a forecast of 97 degrees on tap, I did what any sensible person would do—I headed for the great outdoors.

The thermometer was already (or only) registering 82 when I turned off of Pickett Road and onto Sandy Creek Drive. My destination: an abandoned wastewater treatment plant. (Perfectly sensible, right?) Rewind—or fast forward, to be exact. My destination: Sandy Creek Park.

A sign warned that there was “No Outlet” and I followed the road to the end. I found myself in a parking area facing the open expanse of a largely wooded and wild 103-acre park. I immediately liked what I saw.

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Sandy Creek Park in Durham, NC (Saturday, 6/13/15)

Sandy Creek Park was once a wastewater treatment facility, built by Duke University in the early 1900s to serve West Campus and the Hospital. Around 1928, the facility was turned over to the City of Durham. The City operated the plant until its closure in the 1970s. In the 1990s, many of the buildings were razed and a park rose out of the rubble.

Since then, several organizations have partnered with Durham Parks & Recreation to make Sandy Creek Park what it is today. Organizations such as New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, Friends of Sandy Creek, Keep Durham Beautiful, and Alta Planning and Design of Durham. (Not to mention the park’s landscape designer, Kenneth Coulter.)

What is Sandy Creek Park like today? I’m glad you asked.

In a nutshell, Sandy Creek Park is a thriving wetlands and pine uplands habitat complete with a two-mile walking trail system, butterfly garden, picnic area, restrooms, a creek (for which the park is named), and two small lakes.

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The Sandy Creek Park trail system is a combination of natural and paved surfaces. Pictured here is a part of the Sandy Creek Greenway trail. –Durham, NC

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Here’s the start of the 0.4 mile unpaved nature trail around one of the wetland ponds. –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

The park is recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat because it offers the four basics: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. It’s also a registered ebirding site, which means that one can report bird sitings or see the sitings of others at eBird.org.

I didn’t venture too far down the trails this first visit. Nevertheless, there were plenty of flowers and critters to capture by camera. Placards along the way apprise visitors of the various wildlife and plant life around them. I won’t duplicate those efforts here, but suffice it to say that the signs were informative and would add to the overall experience for those with heightened curiosities. Instead, I’ll highlight a few of my favorite things.

Friends of Sandy Creek Butterfly Garden
What a cute little garden this is—complete with all the right perennials to attract pollinators. I was partial to the coneflowers. (Translated: Be prepared to see a few coneflower pictures.)

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Coneflowers in the Butterfly Garden attract butterflies. (One fluttered away just as I snapped this picture.) A butterfly house adds both function and charm to the habitat. –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

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The Sandy Creek Butterfly Garden is a workplace for bees as well. –Durham, NC

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A butterfly (Duskywing?) on a coneflower in the Butterfly Garden at Sandy Creek Park. –Durham, NC

(Not-So) Out With the Old, In With the New
For some, it might seem kind of icky to tromp around a place where wastewater was processed. Personally, I found remnants of the treatment plant—two water tanks and a Pump House—important reminders of the past that added to the park’s charm.

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Vestiges of the bygone water treatment facility (“Vacuator” tank far left; Pump House on right) stand alongside new park features such as this inviting arbor swing. –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

Native Flora
Throughout the park, native wildflowers spring up deliberately as well as naturally. With scenery along the trails dominated by green leaves and shrubs, it was a pleasant surprise to encounter reds and yellows popping up here and there.

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Bee Balm plants, attractors of butterflies and bees, grow tall in front of the old treatment plant’s “Digester.” (Bee Balm is also in the nearby Butterfly Garden.)  –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

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Just past the creek, along the Sandy Creek Trail, I spotted these Black-Eyed Susans. Sure, Black-Eyed Susans are a commonplace wildflower, but did you know that there are several different varieties? For example, these Susans—with their big cylindrical eyes and dipping petals—are different than the ones in my own garden. –Sandy Creek Park; Durham NC

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Red Honeysuckle Alert! Nector-rich vines such as this one growing on the arbor swing beckon to the hummingbirds. Trumpet Creepers, which I also spotted along Sandy Creek, attract such local birds as the Ruby-throated hummingbird.  –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

Sandy Creek Wildlife
As I made my way toward the Sandy Creek Bridge, I came upon an older lady out for her morning walk.

“See that gray-looking tree over there?” She pointed beyond the wetlands toward the upland pines a good quarter of a mile away.

I nodded expectantly.

“It’s a big herons’ nest.” She stated this with the matter-of-fact confidence of a park veteran.

My untrained eyes saw nothing.

Having done her duty to nature and her fellow man, she left me to my neck craning. Fearing that I was missing out on something spectacular, I did the only thing I could think of: I zoomed in as far as my camera would go and snapped away. Once home, here’s what I saw:

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Great Blue Herons nesting in the pines at Sandy Creek Park. I count EIGHT! — Durham, NC

Next time, I’ll know where to look! …And you will too, should you visit the park. Also, it might be useful to carry along a pair of binoculars.

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A black Swallowtail in the brush by one of the lakes. –Sandy Creek Park; Durham, NC

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At least three types of turtles make their homes on the waters of Sandy Creek Park. In one of the small lakes, I spotted four Yellow-bellied Sliders. (There were several other turtle logs, too!) — Durham, NC

Despite living in Durham for ten years, I didn’t know this park existed until recently when web searches for local birds repeatedly referred me to Sandy Creek. The number of birds sited at the park is astounding! And now that I’m out of my shell—play on previous picture intended—I hope to return and photograph some of them.


The City of Durham has more than 60 public parks. I’ve visited and written about three of them. The other two include Leigh Farm Park and Orchard Park.