Sarah P. Duke Gardens is the beloved jewel of the University and the surrounding community. Visitors pass through its iconic gateways to witness the spectacular floral display of the historic Ellen Biddle Shipman Terrace Gardens; to take tea in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum; to stroll through the lush native woodland plant collection of the Blomquist Gardens, or to simply decompress as they travel to another part of campus.
Duke Gardens has many wonderful assets, yet a clear and meaningful visitor arrival sequence was lacking. Pathways lacked hierarchy and direction, accessible routes were poorly conceived, and the sacred green transition spaces between major garden zones were in danger of disappearing due to pressure for new displays.
The planning process employed rigorous stakeholder input sessions, from which the mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” emerged. Resulting recommendations tread lightly on successful historic spaces, improved wayfinding through landscape architectural cues, proposed new pathways to welcome visitors of all physical abilities, strengthened weak transition areas, and carefully blended 21st century garden themes, such as a food celebration garden, into the Gardens’ present menu of choices.