Elon University: A Botanical Garden

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Alamance Building, a National Register Historic Place in the historic district of Elon University. (Alamance County, North Carolina)

Elon University, a private liberal arts school founded in 1889 and located in Alamance County, North Carolina, has the unique distinction of being classified as a botanical garden. It doesn’t have a botanical garden. It is a botanical garden. And not only that, six buildings of the Colonial/Georgian Revival style and one monument on campus are on the National Register under the designation Elon College Historic District.

Intrigued by these recent discoveries, I paid the campus a visit and was not disappointed. Take a look at some of the beautiful flora and architecture I saw as I meandered winding brick pathways and surveyed lush green lawns:

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Could anyone ever be late for class, I wondered, with this pretty reminder posing at the intersection of two brick walkways?

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Columns and arches, such as those behind this lovely lily, were prevalent practically everywhere on campus.

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The floral splendor attracted butterflies galore, such as this black swallowtail.

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But the butterflies were not to be outdone. I also spotted a hummingbird and even this hummingbird moth.

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The porch of the alumni house looked like it would be the perfect place to stop for a spot of sweet tea.

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You can’t stop progress! Elon’s campus is growing, as the orange construction fencing in this photo portrays. I encountered many folks, such as these leisurely dog walkers, who were taking advantage of the shady sidewalks and beautiful scenery.

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A showy hibiscus bloom flaunts a raggedy petal near the historic O’Kelly monument, which I photographed very poorly and therefore did not make the cut.

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Bees were busy in the lovely flower bed near the historic Carlton Library.

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The relentless heat of a southern summer couldn’t wilt these hearty rudbeckia.

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…and more coneflowers, because I’m crazy for coneflowers. Plus there’s the historic library in the background–nameplate and all.

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Seemingly subtle accents, such as this ivy-covered brick wall, added to the charm of Elon’s campus. I wanted to go back to school all over again!

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“E” is for Elon. (Believe it or not, it took me a moment to put two and two together. …Lightbulb!)

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So many of the places on campus were prettier in real life than through my camera lens. One such place was here by the pergola and Lake Mary Nell.

I left Elon University decidedly appreciative of its visual appeal and southern charm.

Monarchs of the Garden

I recently learned about “Gardening for Attracting and Caring for Butterflies,” courtesy of Duke Gardens and taught by a volunteer butterfly expert.

Gardening, butterflies, and insects go together.

With this axiom in mind, the time was spent developing a deeper appreciation for the relationship between butterfly and host plant, a keener awareness of seasonal cycles, and the value of protecting or bolstering butterfly populations. Practical tips for establishing a butterfly garden were discussed as well.

There are two types of plants that attract butterflies: nectar plants, which are perennials and annuals that provide nutrients for the adult butterfly; and host plants, such as milkweed, dill and parsley, on which the butterfly lays her eggs.  When setting up a butterfly garden, it’s helpful to not only understand these two distinctions, but to also determine the desired amount of personal involvement. Generally speaking, there are three levels of commitment: none/minimal, moderate, and maximum.

The minimal gardener might be one who enjoys attracting butterflies for their beauty. In this case, nectar plants would serve them well. For the moderate gardener who wishes to aid in the production of butterflies from egg to caterpillar (protecting them from predators or adverse weather), involvement would include growing host plants and covering the plants once the eggs are laid. The hardcore butterfly gardener is that able soul willing to invest an hour a day during the life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Such involvement sometimes entails raising the developing butterfly indoors or in a protected place outdoors depending on the type of butterfly and the season.

Our speaker, who came laden with fully-stocked caterpillar and butterfly cages, could be classified as a hardcore butterfly gardener and caretaker. Primarily raising monarchs and black swallowtails, her learning curve has been steep—she began three years ago. Now, over 40 species of butterflies visit her garden. As “citizen scientists,” she and her husband assist in replenishing the declining monarch population and participate in state and local butterfly counting days (one of which occurs at Duke Gardens). Such opportunities are available to anyone who is interested.

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Caterpillars, (swallowtails are pictured here), go through five growth intervals, called instars, shedding their skeleton after each interval before entering the chrysalis (hard skin) stage of development.

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A caterpillar eats constantly in preparation for the chrysalis (pupa) stage. The larval (caterpillar) stage in monarchs, pictured here, typically lasts 9-14 days.

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On the right, two chrysalides hang as the miraculous development of the butterfly continues to take place inside. The bright colors of the butterfly’s wings will begin to show through the chrysalis as nutrients stored up from the caterpillar’s earlier eating extravaganza fuel metamorphosis. On the left, three empty chrysalides and a recently “born” butterfly. When a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, the spectacular moment is referred to as eclosing.

The talk ended with a butterfly release! Nearly a dozen monarchs were set free in the Page-Rollins White Garden.

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One of the monarchs was removed from the mesh butterfly carrier and placed on my fingers, where it rested for a few moments before taking flight.

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Each monarch released that day had a “Monarch Watch” tag affixed to one of its wings. Monarch Watch is a non-profit organization that enlists the help of citizen scientists to gather data on the migration of monarchs. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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A monarch “rests” on a mum in the Page-Rollins White Garden before beginning its fall migration, which could take it as far as Mexico. — Durham, NC

Nature is amazing! As much as I marvel at creation, I praise the Creator (God) all the more. He is alive and active, declaring His wisdom and power is nature. “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” [2]


[2] Job 12:10
For more information on the butterfly’s transformation, consider reading Metamorphosis—A Symphony of Miracles.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

garden_051615I enjoy the beauty and tranquility of public gardens, but I also like to dig in my own dirt. It’s a great stress reliever, enables one to stay active, and provides an outlet to use or improve upon creativity.

Last fall, I planted new bulbs in my garden to replace some older ones that had gradually petered out over the last nine years. I had a plan and I worked it—an equal balance of colors and types of flowers.

I waited expectantly. When spring came, chaos broke loose. The orange lilies I had planted on either side of my golden euonymus shrubs popped up near the flowerbed’s border in front of the shrubs. Not only that, the lilies quickly outgrew everything behind them in height.

Over the rainy winter, all my carefully scattered anemones must have washed to the right side of the bed, because they grew up in one massive (but pretty!) clump. The daffodils came up but never got heads; and of the four types of tulip bulbs that I planted, only two emerged and bloomed.

The entire landscape I had worked to develop looked anything but creative; and for a brief moment, I felt a wave of stress threatening to wash over me. Then I recalled one of my mother’s green thumb tricks: transplanting. She’d move flowers from the rock bed to the perennial garden to the stone planter out front until she found the perfect place for a particular plant to thrive.

Armed with a new plan, I set to work. I moved the orange lilies to the back yard, where they are now loaded with buds. I spread the anemones evenly across the front bed’s border–and they lived! I enjoyed those two lone tulips for their unique beauty, and I put a few annuals in for good measure.

Things are shaping up. The garden in filling out. Early bloomers have served their purpose and bowed out to the next wave of foliage. Have a look:

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This “ice cream” double tulip had it’s day in the sun. Because my space was limited, I planted three of these bulbs in a big pot on my front porch. Green leaves grew up from all three bulbs, but only one bloomed. (Here, I’m experimenting with night photography.)

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Anemones (or windflowers) are some of my favorites. For me, they keep blooming until the squelching heat of summer hits and persists–which won’t be long!

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Usually my anemones are red and purple, but this new batch of bulbs produced these pretty white ones as well.

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After the ice cream tulip (singular, sigh) faded, I planted some cascading vines, wave petunias and this pretty African daisy in the large planter on the porch. That’s probably a lot for this container to hold, but I like thick greenery and profuse color!

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Out back, I tried something that might be a bit unconventional. I put these tall perennials, called Speedwells, in a deck box that hangs from the railing and serves as a privacy screen. I wasn’t sure if they would like it there, but it’s three weeks and counting and all’s well. (Blue: “First Glory” Speedwell ; White: “First Lady” Speedwell)

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At a recent Triangle Gardeners Volunteer Recognition event hosted by Duke Gardens and attended by volunteers from four area gardens, I received as a parting gift this “Slim Jim” phlox pilosa, courtesy of Juniper Level Botanic Garden. It nicely compliments a white “Minnie Pearl” phlox that comes up faithfully and blooms from late April until early June in my front garden.

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During a recent visit to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, I purchased Piedmont Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia obovata var. obovata) at the garden’s gift shop. This perennial, the 2009 NC Wildflower of the Year, is drought resistant and tough despite its delicate, lacy blooms.

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On Mother’s Day weekend, my seven-year-old nephew gave all the girls in the family two flowers apiece in celebration of Mother’s Day. (He didn’t mind in the least that I’m not a mother.) It was very touching, and I planted this pretty vinca with tender care in my front flower bed.

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The “heart” of a shasta daisy–the second flower that my nephew gave me. Very charming.

That’s a glimpse of my garden. But that’s not all! Soon to bloom are my “Maryland, My Maryland” black-eyed susan and my ever-reliable “Jeff Gordon” yellow lilies, the latter of which were given to me when the 24/48 shop at Hendrick Motorsports was re-landscaped about eleven years ago. There’s nothing like a flower with some history!

Then, of course, there are my blue stars that shine in June through September. And the pretty pink perennial my younger sister gave me when thinning her own garden a few years back. …Dividing and sharing perennials is another joy of gardening, something I watched my mother and our neighbor Francis do from time to time while I was growing up.

Well, you get the idea. (I could go on and on!) Do you have “green space” in which to tend a garden? If so, how does your garden grow?

A Spring Photo Tour of Duke Gardens (Part 2)

Last week, I featured a spring photo tour of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. …Part 1, that is!

With 55 acres of lush beauty to behold, I could hardly cover it all in one post. My previous post highlighted much of the Historic Gardens, the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and the Culberson Asiatic Arborteum—all of which are teeming with new and different blooms by the way!

Now, for Part 2.

There are many dazzling displays of color throughout the Doris Duke Center Gardens—a series of small specialty gardens surrounding the Doris Duke Center, the latter of which consists of the education and information center, meeting hall, and Garden Shop.

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Alongside the Doris Duke Center is the Serpentine Garden, a short winding path that leads to the Page-Rollins White Garden. — Durham, NC

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The Page-Rollins White Garden is designed to resemble an English garden. –Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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All the flowers in this garden are white…well, mostly all of them are white! — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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This pretty path leads to the Virtue Peace Pond. — Duke Garden’s Page-Rollins White Garden; Durham, NC

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A white Iris by the Virtue Peace Pond, with the Doris Duke Center in the background. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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This picture is a bit blurry, but the scene makes me laugh. Two mallards came swooping down onto the Virtue Peace Pond, the one quacking up a storm. I was so tickled with the talkative duck, I didn’t notice the turtle sitting beside him until I downloaded the picture! — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Bright white blooms, such as these Double Virbunum, abound this time of year in the White Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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These pretty perennials provide beautiful ground cover in the Page-Rollins White Garden and make the transition from English white  garden to natural woodlands a smooth one. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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The Woodlands Bridge connects the White Garden to the Spring Woodlands Garden, an informal space of spring-flowering shrubs and perennials. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Beyond, and on the way to the Discovery Garden, color returns in the form of the Japanese Roof Iris. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Young and old alike are sure to learn a thing or two about gardening and sustainability at the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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The Discovery Garden was established in 2012 as a place for children, particularly those living in urban settings, to learn and experience the joys of gardening. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Busy, busy bees make honey in a corner of the Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Meanwhile in another part of the Discovery Garden, a bumblebee visits some Virginia Bluebells. Unlike honeybees, which make loads of honey that can be harvested by beekeepers, bumblebees only make small amounts of a honey-like substance to eat themselves. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Walking onions grow near the Berpee Learning Center, an education center that was reconstructed from two historic tobacco barns. Walking onions sprout “bulbets” on the top of their stalks. When the “bulbets” get heavy, they bend forward (walk) and touch the ground, taking root some distance away. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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Chives, such as these, are members of the Lily family. In addition to being an easy-to-grown herb, they can be used as decorative borders in gardens. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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The Discovery Garden’s chicken coop normally draws a crowd when the lady layers are in residence. During the cold months, the chickens “fly the coop.” A sign on the henhouse promises that these popular chicks will be back in Spring. I’ll be checking back!

If you’re local or have plans to visit the Raleigh-Durham area, I hope you are able to experience Duke Gardens “live” in the springtime!