Monday, September 15, 2014

Species Spotlight: Pink Banana

Photo by Kaitlin Henderson
By Kaitlin Henderson
 
You may not have noticed this this big-leafed plant earlier in the year, but it’s drawing attention to itself now. It’s a banana plant (Musa velutina, the pink banana or pink velvet banana), and the pink areas are its flowers and fruit!

Photo by Kaitlin Henderson
The pink banana is native to Southeast Asia, and you can find it in Duke Gardens' Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Despite being pretty far north of the tropics, it grows very well here in Durham. The plant dies back in the winter and grows back every spring, producing the bright flowers and fruits you can see right now. 

The fruit will be on the plant until the first significant frost, so you have some time to get out and see it – I definitely recommend stopping by, as it’s eye-catching and fun to look at. If you come back earlier in the summer next year, you can try to catch the earlier flower that precedes the fruit.

Photo by Paul Jones
The fruit is quite different from the regular grocery store bananas you might be used to. They are small and nearly filled with pea-sized seeds, making them generally inedible. Some people here at the Gardens have tried them despite that. Asiatic Arboretum curator Paul Jones described the taste as not inviting but not repulsive, either. Hope Wilder, assistant education program coordinator, said the fruit was very starchy and a little bit sweet, but she didn’t much enjoy how seedy they were. That’s probably why they’re mostly used as decorative plants rather than for food.

The Pink Banana is one of the smaller banana plants. The other ones grown in the Gardens are three or four times as large. The Asiatic Arboretum has several other banana species, including the hardy Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) that you can see along the path through the Japanese-style gate as you enter from the Rose Garden.

Blogger Kaitlin Henderson is a student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall Plant Sale Preview


By Erika Zambello

The 2014 Fall Plant Sale is only a few weeks away, and here at Duke Gardens we're gearing up for one of the best sales ever. To give you a preview, curator Jason Holmes selected some of his favorite plants that will on sale Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9 a.m.-noon (with a preview sale for Gardens members from 8-9 a.m.). Adding to the allure of this sneak peek, all plants featured in this article have been propagated from Duke Gardens!

First up, the toad lily. We will be selling multiple varieties with different coloration patterns, such as white with purple spots, purple with white spots, and variegated and unvariegated leaves. Toad lilies are shade lovers, and they will bloom in late summer and early fall. They are excellent attractors for pollinators, but they are also attractive to rabbits.

toad lily

This year Duke Gardens will also sell an unusual sage, which is shade loving and produces yellow flowers. Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae) grows to about 2 feet high, and it will bloom throughout the summer.

Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae)
The garden mums at the Fall Plant Sale are another unusual variety. They're perennials and will bloom in the fall year after year. The mums grow in full sun to light dappled shade, and they can grow to 2.5-feet tall. There are multiple colors available for sale, including pink, off-white, purple and yellow.

garden mum
The ginger lilies at the sale are difficult to find in regular greenhouses. Duke Gardens will sell two varieties, Hedychium greenii and Hedychium coccineum. The former has rare red flowers as well as reddish underleaves, and it will bloom throughout the fall. Reaching a height of 3 feet, this variety is a hardy plant. By contrast, the latter can reach impressive heights of 6 feet, with orange-red blossoms. Both grow in full sun to partial shade and are perennial species.

ginger lily
Last but definitely not least, the plant sale will include the iconic American beautyberries. These trees reach 8 feet tall, and in the fall they feature gorgeous purple berries. These berries are not only beautiful, they are magnets for natural pollinator and bird species.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

The Fall Plant Sale will feature these fun plants as well as many more. Stay tuned for further updates, and come check it out for yourself!

Parking is free during the sale, which will be behind the Doris Duke Center. If you'd like to get first dibs on plants by attending the member preview sale, and you're not yet a member, you can join in advance by calling 919-668-1711. You may also join on site the morning of the sale. Membership information here.

More information on our website.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Warblers of Duke Gardens


Blackburnian warblers migrate through North Carolina in the spring. Photo by Erika Zambello
By Erika Zambello

Every spring, brightly feathered neotropical migrants descend on North Carolina and across the United States, here for the summer to raise families on the plentiful food available in the warmer months. Warblers, with their blues, yellows, reds, oranges and greens, are little residents of Central and South America, who make impressive annual pilgrimages of hundreds and thousands of miles.

While many species of warblers move through North Carolina on their way to New England and Canada, many other species spend the summer right here in Duke Gardens. The common yellowthroat, with a yellow body and a black mask across its eyes, can be seen around the bird feeders in the Gardens and are indeed quite common. 

Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Erika Zambello
My personal favorite, the northern parula, is also a common sighting in the summer throughout the eastern United States. One of the most colorful warblers, parulas have blue backs with bright yellow and orange throats. Their signature white eye ring gives them the air of a cartoon character, and even when they are difficult to see their signature buzzy call alerts everyone to their presence.

Northern Parula. Photo by Erika Zambello
There are many of species of warblers, and visitors to the Gardens should keep their peepers peeled for black-and-white warblers, worm-eating warblers, and American redstarts, just to name a few. Though their colors are not as bright as their first visit in the spring, all the migrating warblers will pass through again in the fall, giving birders an opportunity to see those species that spend much of their time north of the Carolinas.


Pine Warbler. Photo by Erika Zambello
Missing the warblers when they migrate away in the fall? Don't worry, both pine and yellow-rumped warblers make their winter homes in Duke Gardens. Though the yellow-rumped warblers sport much more drab colors in the winter, pine warblers are still the brightest of yellows, like little droplets of sunshine against the white snow. They are most often seen on the feeders located in the Steve Church Endangered Species Garden.

If you've seen beautiful warblers this summer, or are looking out for them in the fall, be sure to fill out an eBird checklist of your counts! There have been more than 100 bird species recorded in Duke Gardens from 109 checklists, and we'd love to see yours!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Duke Gardens Photo Contest: Shapes

Duke Gardens Pergola. Photo by Orla Swift

Our latest photo contest centers on the abstract and yet everyday: shapes. We'd love to see your favorite shapes from Duke Gardens -- whether they be in plants, branches, structures, reflections, or anywhere else you can find interesting shapes.

Please don't be shy. This exhibit and contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's simply a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too. 

Here's the scoop: 

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too.  

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted at the Gardens.   

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 7 

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos. 

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons and other Duke Gardens-related gifts. Each entrant may only win one prize per contest (though he/she may win top votes and also a judge's award).

Photo by Erika Zambello

SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites. 

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.  

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.   

SEE THE ENTRIES: Once we've received our first entries, we'll post an album to Facebook and link to it here.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

 
Photo by Erika Zambello

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer 2014 Photo Contest: Water


Photo by Erika Zambello

Our newest photo contest centers on one of life's most important elements: Water. We'd love to see your favorite water photos from Duke Gardens -- either recent or from past seasons. It could be a large body of water such as the Asiatic Pond, a rainstorm, a fountain, or a tiny dewdrop.

Please don't be shy. This exhibit and contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's simply a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too. 
  
Photo by Erika Zambello

Here's the scoop: 

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too.  

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted at the Gardens.   

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 19 

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos. 

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons and other Duke Gardens-related gifts. Each entrant may only win one prize per contest (though he/she may win top votes and also a judge's award).

SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites. 

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.  

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.   

SEE THE ENTRIES: Once we've received our first entries, we'll post an album to Facebook and link to it here.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.


Photo by Erika Zambello

Thursday, June 5, 2014

June Photo Contest: A Rainbow of Color


Iris Fountain photo by Charles Twine

This late spring heat may feel oppressive, but it hasn't kept photographers from heading to Duke Gardens to see the what new pops of color have emerged.

We'd love to see your favorite photos -- whether they be from a day ago or past seasons. Our new photo contest is titled A Rainbow of Color. This theme is open to interpretation, so show us what a rainbow at Duke Gardens means to you. A bird's wing, a sea of flowers, one single colorful petal, an opalescent insect, visitors' clothing, an actual rainbow -- you decide! 

Please don't be shy. This exhibit and contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's just a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too.
  
Here's the scoop: 

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too.  

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted.   

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Thursday, June 26, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, July 1.  

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos. 

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons and other Duke Gardens-related gifts. Each entrant may only win one prize per contest (though he/she may win top votes and also a judge's award).

SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites. 

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.  

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.   

SEE THE ENTRIES: Once we've received our first entries, we'll post an album to Facebook and link to it here.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

Photo by Erika Zambello

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Make Way for Ducklings!


By Erika Zambello

The ducklings have arrived in full force this month! They're hard to miss if you take a stroll down to the Asiatic Arboretum pond, in part because so many mallards have had eggs this year. 

"I have six or seven different moms out with their ducklings of varying sizes," says horticulturist Michelle Rawlins, who cares for the arboretum's waterfowl. With so many ducklings it's no surprise that they can be found both in and out of the water, walking in the grass as well as paddling beside their parents.




In addition to the mallard ducklings, there are also some hybrid ducklings, Rawlins tells me. Born of the male hybrid duck - with a bright white chest - and a mallard mother, these ducklings have a color pattern all their own. Instead of sporting the yellow and fuzzy feathers of their pure mallard counterparts, these ducklings are almost all black with a bright yellow chest, Rawlins says. Like all ducklings, they are completely adorable.

Photo by Sarah Reuning

With so many baby waterfowl in the gardens this spring, it is important to remember that they are still wild ducks. 

"We want to encourage you to see them and watch them, but not to handle them," Rawlins cautions. 

Also, young ducks do not eat the same food as adults, and while Duke Gardens prohibits feeding the ducks anything but the nutritious duck food sold in the Terrace Shop (50 cents per bag), do not be surprised if the young ducklings do not eat that, either. Their parents will make sure they're well fed.

Photo by Sarah Reuning

Spring is an amazing time to be in Duke Gardens. Not only are the flowers in full bloom and the weather warm, but the wildlife residents start and raise their families. Ducklings are not ducklings forever, so come check them out before they grow up completely!

 Photo by Sarah Reuning

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.