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The Sarah P. Duke Gardens

420 Anderson St, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA

Free to Visit
Open Now
Sat 9a-5p
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
    not Accepted
  • Wheelchair
  • Public
  • Outdoor
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“Could not be more beautiful”

Sarah P. Duke Gardens has been serving the Duke and Durham communities for more than 75 years.The idea of a public garden arose in the early 1930s, due to the vision and enthusiasm of Dr. Frederic M. Hanes, an early member of the original faculty of Duke Medical School.Dr. Hanes possessed a special love for gardening and was determined to convert the debris-filled ravine, by which he walked daily, into a garden of his favorite flower, the iris. In the previous decade, the land had been under consideration for creation of a lake. But funds were short and that project was abandoned. So the idea for a garden took hold.Dr. Hanes persuaded his friend Sarah P. Duke, widow of one of the university's founders, Benjamin N. Duke, to give $20,000 to finance a garden that would bear her name. You may read her letter of approval in the slideshow above. In 1935, more than 100 flower beds were in glorious bloom in the area that is now the South Lawn. They included 40,000 irises, 25,000 daffodils, 10,000 small bulbs, and assorted annuals. Alas, all were washed away by heavy summer rains and the flooding stream. By the time Sarah P. Duke died in 1936, the original gardens were destroyed. Dr. Hanes convinced her daughter, Mary Duke Biddle, to construct a new garden on higher ground, as a fitting memorial to her mother. Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869-1950), a pioneer in American landscape design, was selected to design the plans for both the construction and the plantings for the new gardens. Sarah P. Duke Gardens was dedicated in April 1939. We will celebrate the 75th anniversary of that dedication in 2014. Duke Gardens is considered Shipman's greatest work and a national architectural treasure. Most of the approximately 650 other gardens she designed have long since disappeared. Since that time, Sarah P. Duke Gardens has developed dramatically and beautifully. It now features four distinct areas: the original Terraces and their immediate surroundings, known as the Historic Garden; The H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, a representation of the flora of the southeastern United States; the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, devoted to plants of eastern Asia; and the Doris Duke Center Gardens, including the new Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.There are five miles of allées, walks, and pathways throughout the gardens. We hope you enjoy seeing the world-class horticultural design that has blossomed here through the decades.

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Reviewed by

  • 5 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
April 26, 2014

Great spot for a picnic lunch or afternoon stroll. Peaceful and tranquil. The gardens are free but you must pay for parking. Get there early or go during the week because the gardens close at 3:00pm on the weekends, for weddings.

3 people found this review helpful
  • Foodie
  • 242 Reviews
  • 217 Helpful
July 13, 2014
Rated 5.0

The gardens are the best. I walked through them every day my junior year to get from Central Campus to the quad and it's a very relaxing, beautiful way to start/end the day. It's also nice to just hang out in the gardens with friends on a nice day. There's lots of different sections, so be sure to do a full wander.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 5 Reviews
  • 3 Helpful
September 30, 2014
Rated 5.0

Beautiful! We could've spent all day there. The grounds are expansive with 3 separate type of plants and flowers. My husband and I loved it and wished we could've spent more time there!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 13 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
July 08, 2016
Rated 5.0

Big and beautiful. To have the best time check the weather before hand, and plan to spend all day

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Reviewed by

  • 22 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
June 18, 2015
Rated 1.0

Excellent gardens. Tranquil and stunning !

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The Sarah P. Duke Gardens

420 Anderson St
Durham, North Carolina
27708 USA
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Open now until 5:00 pm
  • Sun: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
  • Mon - Fri: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Sat: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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