April 25, 2011

Picnic at Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the botanical garden adjoining the Duke University campus is my favorite garden for its beauty and its memories: it was the location of our wedding last June.

We were supposed to get married in the angle amphitheater (pictured below) on a balmy 96 degree evening. A quick rainstorm came through and we were moved to the tent at the Doris Duke center in the background, which cooled things off a bit and I'm told means good luck. It also made for a photographers dream lighting, the picture above is from our post-ceremony portraits in the garden (copyright Diane McKinney Photography).

So Brian and I finally got a free day together, and not having been able to get out of town for a few months, I grabbed by sun hat and we made the 30 minute drive over to Duke Gardens for a picnic among the spring flowers. We found a grassy spot overlooking a pond under a snowball viburnum.


It was the perfect time to enjoy the gardens, and there was so much to see! Duke Gardens has 4 main garden areas: The Doris Duke Center Gardens (where the angle amphitheater is), The H.L. Bloomquist Garden of Native Plants, The Terrace Gardens, and the Culberson Asiatic Areboretum.

Trillium (unsigned species)
Although there were interesting plants to be photographed everywhere, the terrace garden was the star of the show, with late-blooming tulips and early-blooming Allium. The plant combinations in this area are beautiful and inspiring, with mixes of early-season annuals, perennials, shrubs, and bulbs.

In another stunning area, walking through the largest garden by far, the Asiatic Arboretum, I always discover interesting new plants.  Perhaps this is because the gardens are always adding to their collection, with trips to China and Japan. With a lake as its center piece, and a traditional tea house on the shore, the beautiful details transform the North Carolina landscape into a lush Eastern paradise.

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linerifolium' (Spider Azalea)
Illicium henryi (Henry Anise)

Duke Gardens is our special place to get a way for a while outside of Raleigh. Along with a bit of sun and relaxation, I always come away inspired by the unique plants and beautiful designs. With the memories we've made and continue to make there, I'm sure it is a place we will make a point to visit often throughout our lives.

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."  ~John Muir


  1. Gorgeous place and that wedding photo is wonderful...

  2. Your wedding photo is beautiful. This garden seems lovely. I loved looking at the plants - the spider azalea is so unique! Thanks for showing us this wonderland.

  3. Oh my mercy, your wedding photo is ethereal- just gorgeous. Sounds like you had a fun day, too! Everything is very lovely!

  4. Looks wonderful! How nice that you can revisit the wedding spot so easily and that it's A HUGE AWESOME GARDEN!! :-)

  5. What a gorgeous bride you were and what a sublime venue for a wedding! Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos with us!

  6. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. Reminds me I have yet to visit Duke Gardens this spring!

  7. This has a been a garden on my list to see for a long time...and it isn't that far away. Reading your post makes me want to go even more now. Your wedding photo is amazing. And I think a picnic is the garden is a perfect way to spend the day!

  8. I love Duke Gardens. We went in May a couple of years ago, I remember because the magnolias were blooming. We live near Jacksonville, but we still try to get up to Raleigh-Durham a few times a year. There are some pretty things to see!

  9. What a magnificent setting and what an incredible diversity of bloom.

  10. What a beautiful setting for a wedding! Your wedding photo is gorgeous and perfect.


Thanks for taking a walk in our garden.
Your comments are always appreciated.