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Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Listed under Gardens in Durham, United States.

  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Photo of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Photo by Donna Dawson
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Gracing the campus of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, often spoken of as the “Crown Jewel of Duke University.” Recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the United States and renowned both for landscape design and the quality of horticulture, this 55-acre garden attracts more than 300,000 visitors from all over the world each year. Within the gardens are the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, the photogenic Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, and the splendid formal terraces, the site of hundreds of weddings (and even more proposals) on campus. The gardens are a memorial to Sarah P. Duke, wife of Benjamin N. Duke, one of Duke University's benefactors.

In the early 1920s, Duke University's planners intended to turn the area where the Sarah P. Duke Gardens are currently located into a lake. Funds for this project ran short and the idea was subsequently abandoned. The gardens then officially began in the 1930s, when Dr. Frederick M. Hanes, a faculty member at the Duke Medical School, persuaded Sarah P. Duke to give $20,000 to finance the planting of flowers in the debris-filled ravine. By 1935, over 100 flower beds consisting of 40,000 irises, 25,000 daffodils, 10,000 small bulbs and assorted annuals graced the lawns. Unfortunately, the heavy rains of that summer and the flooding stream completely washed away the original gardens. By the time Sarah. P. Duke died in 1936, the gardens were completely destroyed. Dr. Hanes was able to convince Sarah Duke's daughter, Mary Duke Biddle, to finance a new garden on higher ground as a memorial to her mother. Ellen Biddle Shipman, a pioneer in American landscape design, was chosen to create the new gardens. They are considered by many to be her greatest work.

Written by  Donna Dawson.

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