10 a.m. Arrive at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, Durham. There is a small parking fee, but there will be plenty of spaces. Access to the Gardens is through the Doris Duke Center, where you can pick up a map and ask any questions you may have of the friendly volunteer behind the desk. The first garden you will come across is the Page-Rollins White Garden, based on a classic English garden, and the Virtue Peace Pond, which often features the resident great blue heron as well as beautiful lily pads in the spring, summer and fall.
10:15 a.m. From the White Garden, head on the bridge across the forest to the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. One of the newest projects of Duke Gardens, the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden features “organic, sustainable garden displays and teaches about plants that provide people, animals, birds and insects with food and shelter.” The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden is a great place for kids, who will love the many species of chickens tucked into a corner of the garden.
10:30 a.m. Take a path – any one you choose! – to the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. The Japanese maples of the arboretum are particularly spectacular when they change color in the fall, the apricot trees begin to bloom in January, and the cherry blossoms are wonderful in the spring. Walk around the Garden Pond and keep a special eye out not only for native waterfowl, but for the exotic birds that have been brought to the pond by Duke Gardens. Winter may mean fewer colorful leaves and flowers, but the Chinese mandarin ducks and wood ducks that make Duke Gardens their home are colorful all year round!
11:30 a.m. On the other side of the Garden Pond you will find a path leading to the bottom of the Historic Gardens. Duke Gardens itself began as the Historic Gardens, and the terrace is “topped by a wisteria-covered pergola, the Terrace beds are filled each season with marvelous combinations of bulbs, annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs.” At the base of the terrace is a lovely fish pool, filled with water lilies and koi.
12:00 p.m. From the top of the terrace, continue on to the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Covering 6.5 acres, this garden only features plants naturally found in North Carolina. Forested, the Blomquist Garden is quiet and peaceful, and is an excellent place to see birds and other wildlife. The garden features a bird viewing shelter as well as meditation spaces.
12:30 p.m. Head to Geer Street Garden, 644 Foster Street, Durham, for a delicious lunch either inside the restaurant or on their spacious outdoor patio. The owners write that they “serve simple, down home food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.” Try one of their local, pasture-raised burgers ($10), or a Brie, Avocado, and Arugula Baguette with caramelized onions and aioli ($10).
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