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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Duke Gardens

Posted March 7, 2006

Day two of our North Carolina garden tour takes us to Durham. Some call this the Crown Jewel of Duke University. The Sarah P. Duke Gardens are stunningly beautiful just about any time of the year. Explore every inch of these 55 acres on the West Campus of Duke and you will come away refreshed and recharged. You can’t beat the price. There is no admission and each year more than 300,000 visitors from all over the world visit Duke Gardens. The university provides half of the gardens’ operating budget. The rest comes from donor gifts. Ironically a funding shortage at Duke set the stage for these gardens. In the 1930’s university planners wanted to turn the area into a lake with elegant fountains but the school was tight on funds. Duke Medical School luminary Frederic M. Hanes persuaded his friend, Sarah P. Duke, widow of one of the University's founders, to give $20,000 to finance a garden that would bear her name. The original garden located in a valley was washed away by floods. Dr. Hanes led the push to construct a new garden on higher ground. Today there are four major sections: the original Terraces and their immediate surroundings, the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants (a representation of the flora of the southeastern United States), and the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum (devoted to plants of eastern Asia). You will enjoy an enchanting five mile network of paths through these magnificent gardens which also serve as a backdrop for live performances of dance and music. The Duke Gardens are open daily until sunset. Tomorrow the road leads to Raleigh as our tour of Tar Heel gardens continues.
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