Authorities in Durham said the vandalism occurred sometime late Friday or early Saturday, damaging about 40 terra cotta pots imported from Italy. A sculpture in one of the park's fountains was also damaged, along with a sign.
William LeFevre, the gardens' director, said the extent of the damage is still being tallied, but it is expected it to cost thousands of dollars.
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which date to the 1930s, are one of the university's most famous features. The 55-acre attraction draws more than 300,000 visitors a year.
A wedding in the gardens was delayed about an hour Saturday as crews worked to clean up the mess.
Anyone with information on the vandalism should call the Duke Police Department at 919-684-2444.