Duke Gardens welcomes public back after being closed for more than a year
Posted June 8, 2021 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2021 10:36 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The Sarah P. Duke Gardens that were closed to the public during the pandemic for more than a year have finally reopened.
Now is the best time to plan a visit to one of the most beautiful and diverse gardens in the country. The gardens opened more than 80 years ago and have about five miles of walkways and trails.
Masks are only required if you go inside garden facilities, including restrooms. Parking is more limited than in the past, especially on weekends. Staff recommend downloading the pay-to-park app on their phone before parking to avoid the lines.
Even though spring is over, there are blooms in each season throughout the botanic garden.
There are four sections of the garden to explore: the Historic Gardens, the Asiatic Arboretum, the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants and the Doris Duke Center Gardens.
While walking through the trails, be on the look out for carnivorous plants, which are growing throughout the gardens.
If you are bringing kids with you, you might want to stop by the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. There, you can learn about gardening at the historic tobacco barn and see chickens and beehives.
Throughout the Asiatic Arboretum, there are plenty of places to relax by a babbling stream or small waterfall. Don't leave the gardens without visiting the Meyer Bridge or seeing the Pine Clouds Mountain Stream.
The Historic Gardens are a great place to stop for a picnic, or read a book. There's plenty of big magnolia trees around if you want a break from the sun.
Bob and Carmen Parente and their two young sons had been waiting to see the garden for 15 months.
"As soon as I asked them if they wanted to go today, they said, 'Sure! Let's go,'" he said. "They missed it also."
For many visitors, walking through the garden unmasked is a truly a breath of fresh air. Miyung Lundy traveled from South Carolina to see the gardens.
"Whenever I come visit my daughter, before I even go to her house, me and my youngest daughter, we always stop here first," she said.
The garden's executive director, Bill Lefevre, said that they originally thought that the gardens were only going to be closed for three weeks. Those weeks turned into months.
During the shutdown, 30 staff members continued tending to the garden.
"We really learned how much we missed them once they were not able to be here," Lefevre said.
Last winter was very wet and mild, which led to overgrowth, and the staff had to do lots of pruning and cleaning.
"It just feels so good to have people back and I'm sure the visitors are happy to be back," Lefevre said. "You can just tell by the looks on their faces."