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A Day in Duke Gardens

A Day in Duke Gardens

A Day in Duke Gardens

Whether you're a budding botanist looking for new species, a bird watcher in need of a new habitat, a restless soul looking for a place to stroll, or a family trying for a relaxing picnic, Duke University's Sarah P. Duke Gardens provides an oasis. Covering 55 acres, with five miles of walkways, the gardens are a space of learning and enjoyment. They are free and consist of four distinct gardens, each of which is detailed below.

Historic Gardens

The Historic Gardens, as the name suggests, were the first area planted, back in 1934. Five years later, to combat flooding, Duke Gardens' early horticulturalists created an Italianate-style terraced garden, which is the heart of the area. Covered in perennials, annuals, and bulbs, the terrace is one of the most popular parts of the garden. A rose garden, koi pond, and a number of smaller gardens surround the terrace.

  • TIP: Stop by the Terrace Café at the top of the terrace for lunch, coffee, and snacks. 

Doris Duke Center & Gardens

The Doris Duke Center is the welcome center at the gardens, but it is also an entryway to a beautiful setting that often hosts weddings, concerts, and special events. Behind the building, you will find the Angle Amphitheater, peace pond, pavilion, and a woodland garden. This area also houses the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, a place where visitors can learn about vegetable gardening, composting, and take hands-on classes.

  • TIP: The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden is a great spot to take a break or enjoy a snack at the large grouping of shaded picnic tables.
  • TIP: Every summer, Duke Performances hosts a concert series at the Angle Amphitheater called Music in the Gardens. See the schedule and buy tickets at the Duke Performances website.

H. L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants

Duke Gardens also provides visitors a chance to explore the region's native wildlife. The Blomquist Garden includes over 900 species of native plants, along with some of the wildlife that lives in them. There's even a bird viewing shelter to give you a place to observe it all. In addition, you'll find a garden of endangered plants as well as a carnivorous plant collection.

  • TIP: As you explore the Blomquist Garden, listen for the calming sounds of running streams and bellowing frogs.

W. L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum

The Asiatic Arboretum covers 18 acres with the flora of Southeast Asia. Meander along stepping stone pathways, arched bridges, and water features as you take in the sights of Japanese maples, ginger lilies, and other Asian plants. There is also a garden pavilion and teahouse nestled into a hillside.

  • TIP: Check the Duke Gardens calendar so you can attend a Japanese tea gathering in the teahouse.

General Garden Tips

  • Start with a stop in the Doris Duke Center to pick up a visitor guide and map, and get helpful tips from the staff.
  • Two hours are recommended to get a good glimpse of each of the four main sections of the garden. If you're not on a tight schedule, meander off the main paths and relax in hidden nooks throughout the garden. Whatever your timeframe, the staff can recommend how to make the most of your visit.
  • Dogs are allowed in the garden if leashed, but are restricted from certain areas; watch for signs throughout the gardens.
  • Enhance your visit with a guided trolley or walking tour. Visit the Duke Gardens website for details.
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