Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Durham, North Carolina USA
Click images to enlarge
Growing up in southern Oregon, most of my summer days were spent
exploring the ponds at my grandfather's farm. I became fascinated
with the variety of plants, animals, and insects that called
the water home.
Each year, I would set up aquariums on our front porch and fill
them with tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, snails, submerged grasses
and duckweed. Watching the slow metamorphosis of the tadpoles
into frogs and the larvae into winged adults was the beginning
of my obsession with water gardening. I studied every book I
could find in the school library on topics ranging from frog
life cycles to pond ecology, then forced my sister to listen
to my lectures on the subject - she was, and still is, very patient
After earning my bachelor's degree in horticulture from Oregon
State University in 2001, I was eager to learn more about the
aquatic environments that had captured my interest as a child.
I started working at Hughes Water Gardens in Tualatin, where
the knowledgeable staff taught me more about water plants, pond
fish, and how to create balanced and natural looking water features.
It was while working at Hughes that I was first introduced to
the amazing Victoria waterlily by grower
When I moved to North Carolina in 2005 to work at Sarah P.
Duke Gardens in Durham, I was thrilled to have the opportunity
to put everything I'd learned into practice in the display ponds.
Today, I work alongside volunteers (including John
Wyman and Jeff Prather) to plan, plant, and maintain our
three large water features.
One of my tasks has been to grow our Victoria plants
from seeds generously provided by Kit Knotts and Dave Brigante.
After seeing Kit's amazing display in Cocoa Beach, and Dave's
greenhouse brimming with Victorias at Hughes, I was thrilled
to try my hand at cultivating these special plants. Using Kit's
website as a guide, along with advice from Dave as well as Tim
Jennings at Longwood Gardens, I was able to successfully grow
Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' and Victoria 'Challenger'
for our display ponds using our newly installed heated water
tables as a nursery.
Tamara and Jeff Prather >
Doris Duke Center and
Virtue Peace Pond
Heated water tables
Our Victorias are showcased alongside hardy and tropical
waterlily hybrids as well as Euryale ferox, which we have
grown from the seeds of a plant donated to us last summer by
Perry's Water Gardens. In addition to these plants, we maintain
an array of marginal aquatics including hardy thalia, pickerel
plant, cattails, Mexican papyrus and lotus. However, our giant
Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' is by far our most popular
water plant. This summer its pads reached a diameter of 6.5'
(2m) -- most of our visitors don't believe it's real!
Arc Pool above
Virtue Peace Pond
Left -- Tamara cleans a pad
An exciting addition to our watergardens this season was the
IWGS New Waterlily Competition. Duke Gardens was chosen to grow
both the hardy and tropical waterlily hybrids entered in this
summer's contest. Visitors to the Gardens also had the opportunity
to vote for their favorite new hybrids -- a process that we hope
will encourage more people to become interested in and knowledgeable
of water gardening and the art of waterlily hybridization.
Another special project this summer was the construction of an
exhibit on the front terrace of the United States Botanic Garden
Conservatory in Washington, DC. I was asked to co-chair the planning
committee for our exhibit, and worked alongside fellow staff
members to create a space that gave visitors to the USBG an idea
of what they might see when visiting Duke Gardens. As part of
this theme, we constructed a small pond to showcase a selection
of aquatic plants featured at the Gardens. Joe Tomocik (from
Denver Botanic Gardens) and Kelly Billing (from Maryland Aquatics)
were kind enough to provide additional plants for the display,
which has been receiving rave reviews from the public.
USBG Exhibit Pond
Gallery of Images from Duke Gardens
N. gigantea 'Albert
When I'm not wading around in the ponds, I also enjoy writing
and photography. Last summer at the 2006 IWGS symposium in Florida,
I had the good fortune to meet the editor of Ponds Magazine.
Since then, I have enjoyed writing several articles for the magazine,
as well as providing photos for the publication. I feel lucky
to be doing what I enjoy most for a living, and to have the opportunity
to share my passion for ponds with others!
by Rich Sacher and Kevin Joyce
Sarah P. Duke Gardens Website