A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Duke Farms

Although I have lived close by for over a decade, I've never visited Duke Farms, the estate of the late Doris Duke. I finally had an opportunity to tour the conservatory today on an outing arranged by the Middlesex County Master Gardeners.

The conservatory was built at the turn of the 20th century. It is not a botanical garden, so nothing is labelled. Instead, it is divided into rooms that feature plantings from various countries and cultures.

This wonderful fountain greets you as you enter the conservatory. It is your introduction to the Italian Garden, so-called not because it features plants from Italy, but rather because the statuary is supposed to give you the impression that you are in Italy.

These are the Three Graces. Sorry, my lens fogged up when we entered the warm, humid building from the much colder outdoors.

Ah, that's much better! Here you can see Bird of Paradise and a Bottlebrush Bush (in the background). Next was the Colonial Garden with plantings typical of the southern US.

Next was a room filled with orchids that is called the Edwardian Garden because orchids were all the rage during the Edwardian era.

As I lingered behind the group to get some last photos, I could hear audible gasps as they passed through the door and into the next garden. I gasped too when I saw this:

The French Garden. Each flower is an individual tulip in a pot. This makes it easier for the gardeners to replace a plant if it fails. Right below my feet is a whimsical lion fountain:

The English Garden is divided into several sections. The first is the Topiary Garden. This little dinosaur was my favorite:

The little dolphin suspended from the ceiling reminded me of the whale in the Natural History Museum:

A rock garden:

Herbaceous border:

The next section featured herb gardens in the form of Elizabethan Knot Gardens.

I've never seen lavender grown as a standard before, have you? The last section was a Succulent Garden in the shape of a sunburst:

After the lushness of the previous gardens, it was almost a relief to step into the Desert Garden, planted with cacti and succulents typically found in the American southwest.

Will my Jade Tree get this big?

The next garden reminded me of a Straw Hat outing. Another Chinese Garden!

I love this pavement. The five petalled flowers are stylized chrysanthemums.

This is just one wall of the Bonsai Room.

The paving in the Bonsai Room is composed of river pebbles set on their edges. It makes a nice massager for your feet!

The Japanese Garden has a tea house:

and a Zen Garden:

I love this little fence!

Can you find the turtles?

Through this door, we entered the entirely different world of an Indo-Persian Garden.

It was lined with citrus trees . . .

. . . and included a rose garden.

Then it was back to lush green in the Tropical Garden:

I was fascinated by the stone paving. It "floats" above the water.

The path took us next into the Semi-Tropical Garden.

This is a Giant Bird of Paradise. It's huge!

It's blossoms are white, rather than orange.

This lady appears to be waving goodbye to us!

I hope the Master Gardeners will organize another trip when the weather is warmer so we can tour the grounds. I understand they are magnificent.

More photos from this trip can be seen on Flickr.


At 8:07 AM, Blogger Colleen said...

This was wonderful! Thanks for taking us on this tour. I can easily see why there were audible gasps as people viewed the French garden for the first time. Absolutely stunning!

I needed that on this cold, gray morning :-)

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Xris said...

Wow, it's like a museum of garden styles. I've never heard of it. Has it always been open to the public?

At 10:54 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Colleen, it was a wonderful relief after the awful cold spell we've had recently. We are all eager for spring.

Xris, it was open on a limited basis while Ms. Duke was alive. It has always been by appointment only. At least now you are allowed to take pictures. I don't think you were allowed to while she was alive.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh WOW! Thanks for posting these pics, Old Roses. I can't believe that all of that was indoors... I loved the pebble flooring in the bonsai room. And the suspended dolphin. And the starburst of succulents. And everything else, too!

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Kerri said...

What an absolutely fabulous place! This garden tour is a sight for sore eyes when all we have to look at here is snow.
No, I've never seen lavender grown as a standard before. It's interesting.
So many fascinating rooms! It must've been a very pleasant experience for you. Thanks so much for sharing all these wonderful pictures.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Kim, it's a huge conservatory built in a square with working greenhouses in the middle of the square. It's really fascinating.

Kerri, you're welcome! It was my pleasure. I'm glad we did it on Sunday while the weather was still nice. We are supposed to get a bad storm here this week and then my yard will be covered with snow like yours.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger ladyluz said...

What a magnificent place, Old Roses - much there to rival Kew Gardens outside London, or the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.

How I'd love to see the giant Bird of Paradise. Ours, which has just come into flower for the first time , is the traditional purple and orange.

Thank you for the lovely tour.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Petra Ross-Macdonald said...


I have added a lot of invites to your flickr photos of Duke Gardens, which I have just discovered. As a master gardener, you have photographed things from a viewpoint that no-one else has applied, and your photos would be a fabulous addition to the flickr group and the campaign to save the Gardens from closure and destruction.

I also cited this photoblog on the web resources page of the site.

It looks like your master gardeners really enjoyed their tour of Duke Gardens and would hate to see them destroyed in the name of environmentalism. Please consider writing an open letter to the Trustees. I would be happy to post it on the website and notify the press.

Petra Ross-Macdonald


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