Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hi there!

I've enjoyed communicating with you through this blog, and many thanks to those of you who have commented, both online and off, about what you like/dislike/would like to see talked about. This will be the last post for the Blomquist Blog. It's been harder for me to find time to post in recent months, and it just seems like the right time take a break. If you have any comments/questions about any and all things Blomquist and/or native plant related in the future, please feel free to e-mail me at Thanks, and remember to spend time in the woods! Enjoy!

p.s. If you want to keep track of the topics for the monthly "Walk on the Wild Side", you can still visit the "Wild Side" page of the Blomquist Garden website. Take care.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hot again!

Today is supposed to hit 88! Summer just won't accept defeat.

I wanted to supply a short recap of last week's tour in the Blomquist Garden. We talked a good deal about drought, it's affects on plants, ecosystems and economies, and how we as gardeners can mitigate the effects of drought in our own gardens. One of the things we covered was how to build soil that helps your plants withstand drought conditions. We recently completed a complete reconstruction of an area of bed space within the Blomquist with an eye for just this topic.

First, we removed all existing plant material and heeled it in elsewhere, then we added a custom mix of soil with a high organic material content (mostly composted leaf mulch). Next we added limestone to adjust the pH value to a level that is more hospitable to plant life (we were at pH 5.5 and we are aiming for 6.5-6.7) by adding eighty pounds of lime for every one thousand square feet of soil surface area. Then we added a fungal and bacterial granular inoculant. This introduces beneficial fungi and bacteria into the soil which interact with the plant roots to effectively increase the volume of soil from which the plant can harvest water. In times of drought, having specimens that can more effectively manage their water needs means less watering and healthier plants. Finally, we added our shade to part shade shrubs and perennials, and now we wait till Spring to see our results!

We were over at the State Fairgrounds yesterday sprucing up our native plant garden for the opening of the State Fair this weekend. If you come to enjoy the rides and low-fat food along the midway, check us out. We're just down the hill from the village of yesteryear and not far from the blacksmith shop in the gardening area of the grounds. Just ask for the North Carolina Native Plant Society garden. See you there!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What a great start to Fall!!! I talk to many folks who are new residents of NC, and they have been telling me "I didn't realize weather this nice existed!" Just when we were starting to think we'd be wearing shorts and tank tops in January, the heat wave broke, gave up the ghost, and left us to chop our firewood in peace. That last is a bit paradoxical, as the burning of firewood and its subsequent release of carbon dioxide fuels things like global warming and endless days over ninety degrees. LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA- can't hear you! (fingers in my ears)

I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow for our monthly Blomquist tour! We should have great weather, and apropos of the four inches of rain we received last week, I'll be talking about drought, and the different ways that drought puts stress on forest ecosystems. Please join me!

If you haven't visited the information kiosk in the Blomquist Garden lately, please do. My colleague Jeff Harward helped me construct some improved literature receptacles for a larger selection of brochures, etc. You can now pick up copies of our Duke Gardens magazine there, as well as brochures related to the Blomquist Garden, self guided botanical tours, and info about Durham.

Just bought some more great plants from our friends at Niche Gardens and the North Carolina Botanical Garden yesterday. Whenever I need native species that are hard to find, those are the two places I go. Please do the same and support these great native plant sources.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rainy Wednesday.... who would have believed it. Seems like months since we've had any rain, probably because it's BEEN months since we've had any rain. More rain today tomorrow. We've got a few hundred plants to plant that will have to wait a few days now for the soil to dry out a bit, but that's okay- I'll take the rain.

The monthly tour of the Blomquist Garden, called the "Walk on the Wild Side", will focus on drought, and what happens to forest ecosystems in times of prolonged dry weather. In honor of my talk, it will most likely rain next Thursday. See you at 11 at the Blomquist gatehouse.

I'm working this morning on a new entry for the Blomquist Plant I.D. Blog "Name That Native". I'll be posting entries for that blog through October, then I'll take the late- fall and winter off, and start back up again when Spring arrives.

If you read my last post, you may remember me mentioning a 5K race I was going to run on campus last Friday. I bring it up again to comment on aging. I ran a lot when I was in high school and college, and thought I was pretty good. I recently starting running again (could have something to do with just having turned forty in July, not sure though). At any rate, with a quarter of a mile to go in that race last week I was in the lead, only to get passed by a nineteen year old at the very end. Payback is a #$^%#. Twenty years ago, I was that kid doing my level best to put any old geezer racing against me in my rear view mirror. I even remember what it felt like to put your foot down on the accelerator and find that extra gear when it counted most. I tried that on Friday myself, but something went wrong with my transmission, and that gear was nowhere to be found. I'm taking this hunk of junk into the shop.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Holy Taxonomy Batman! Time flies when you're not blogging.... Lots going on. Plant sale this weekend from 9-2 this Saturday here at the gardens. Lots of plants to choose from- both native and exotic. I'm running in the Pauly Dog's 5k run on Friday evening on East campus- I'm skipping the hot dog eating contest. Never seemed a good idea to run in ninety degree weather and then wolf down as much of something as you possibly can. I'm a vegetarian anyway, and I've never eaten a tofu dog that I'd want another of. At the sale we'll have a special collection of piedmont native perennials for sale in the Blomquist Collection area- come see us!

Some fun improvements happening in the Blomquist Garden- we're about halfway done with a garden renovation near the entry gatehouse. We've pulled out the exisiting plants and potted them, and we've improved the soil and irrigation. yesterday we began installing some of the "bones" in the form of boulders, shrubs, ferns and sedges. Soon we'll add some decaying logs, and then the flowering perennials will come last. Check it out!

Can't think of anything else to say right now, except "Will someone please throw a few three day weekends into the calendar, and pronto! I'm fried" Thanks in advance for your cooperation, whoever is in charge of the whole weekend type thing. See you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a quick note- the latest blog post in my native plant i.d. blog is up- a good many goldenrods and others who are in bloom right now- check it out, you might learn the name of that plant you've been seeing on the roadside on the way to work. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I love three day weekends. Who was the @#$#^%$ who shortened them to two!?

A few notes.... we had a great "Walk on the Wild Side" last Thursday. Our topic was the early twentieth century Chicago area landscape architect Jens Jensen, and his impact on ecological landscape design. Lots of fun. As an ecology student interested in landscape design, Jens Jensen was one of my heroes, and he remains so today. I mentioned that I'd add a few links about him in a blog post- here ya go!

Jensen was a bigwig in the development of the parks and nature preserves in and around Chicago. Here's a link to an article detailing some of his legacy in that part of the country.

His book entitled Siftings is a treatise on the need for closer connection with our natural environment, among other topics. I read it twenty years ago, and still have fond memories of it.

Jensen was also enamored of working with his hands, and the peace and well-being that could be derived from a life of craftmanship. He took this love and translated it into a folk school in Door County, Wisconsin, an amazing spot to spend some time if you've never been. The Clearing is alive and well today, carrying on Jensen's love of all things handmade.

oh yes... the name of the author that I was struggling to remember during the walk who makes me think of Jens Jensen is Wendell Berry. My favorite book of his is one of his non-fiction essay collections entitled A Continuous Harmony.

one last thing... I've posted a photo gallery of the new handmade cedar railings in the Blomquist Wildlife Garden. Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I thought I might add a few photos to the blogosphere here. I am in love with the Wildlife Garden at the moment (for the tens of thousands of readers for whom this is their first Blomquist Garden blog post, we have a small themed garden within the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants which is called the Blomquist Wildlife Garden). At any rate, I spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day in the Wildlife Garden, usually pruning and weeding, but equally as often just looking. It's a wild space, and through the heart of it runs a small stream. I have been doing a good bit of very selective pruning lately to open small windows that a visitor can use to gaze up the stream course and see into another world. A healthy population of both green and cricket frogs have made the stream their home, and if you take a moment and sit on the northernmost bridge and look upstream, chances are you will see anywhere from one to five or six frogs in varying states of seeming repose. Some have only their bulbous eyes above water, peeking from within a blanket of detritus in the stream itself. Others are perched along it's banks at differing heights among the boulders. Yesterday Katherine called me to say she had seen a large Garter snake making his or her way upstream. I was there soon after, and the frogs had, predictably, gone into hiding, save for a brave soul peeking out from beneath a soggy Spicebush leaf in the water. For me, this is the essence of gardening; the creation of places where humans can revel in their ability to give succor to their own souls through the act of emulating nature, while at the same time creating a refuge where mother nature's wheel can continue to turn and we can be witness to it all.

I'm including a few photos of my froggish friends, their habitat, as well as some images of the new cedar fencing we've installed along the path in the garden. Don't forget the tour with Katherine this Thursday at 11:00. See you there!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Tuesday...

I mentioned in my last post our cooperative garden project at the NC State Fairgrounds with the NC Native Plant Society. If you click on this link you can see a few photos of the garden soon after it's construction. We'll be putting the finishing touches today on phase one of the cedar fence addition to the Wildlife Garden. I have enjoyed this project a great deal, mostly because we've done the whole thing "in-house", as it were. We harvested the downed cedar from my family's property in Northern Durham county, we cut, sanded and finished all parts of the fence by hand on-site, and we installed the fencing ourselves. The fact that the existing rails on the bridges in the Wildlife Garden (expertly constructed by Justin Waller) were made of local red cedar, and the existence of a young red cedar tree in the garden itself, influenced my choice to add another architectural element using this material. One of my favorite landscape architects, Jens Jensen, was an early advocate of the use of native species in the landscape, as well as a pioneer in the use of indigenous building materials in highly designed landscapes. Around here, there is no more aesthetically pleasing and useful indigenous building material than red cedar, if you ask me.
I love it's color, shape, feel, smell, and durability. Click on Jensen's name to read an interesting article about him, his philosophy, and the early resistance to focusing on native plants as preferred plants in the designed landscape. It's an interesting read, and offers up some interesting discussion topics involving native plant landscaping as well.

Don't forget about Katherine's "Walk on the Wild Side" tour in the Blomquist Garden on September 2nd. We'll see you then!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A few interesting things to mention....

Katherine and I worked at the NC State fairgrounds yesterday. The Duke Gardens has a cooperative venture there with the North Carolina Native Plant Society, in the form of a small native plant demonstration garden. This is a permanent display set among the many seasonal gardens that get built for the fair each year. We're in the process of improving and expanding our small garden, so be sure to check it out if you come to the fair this year. We look forward to seeing you there.
Also, the fifth installment of the plant ID blog from the Blomquist Garden is available now. This week's focus is on the genus Eupatorium, with five of the ten plants this week being from that group.
Finally, we've been sweating (or should I say swimming) in this ridiculous humidity this week to move ahead with the improvements to the Wildlife Garden. A new low cedar fence will edge the path and emulate the rustic design of the bridge rails in the garden. We hope to have phase one of these improvements done by the end of next week, and have the garden open for business again. See you soon!

p.s. I'm working with Google to figure out why Korean internet chat pornography folks have decided to use my blog (as well as the blogs of others) to spam info about their websites in the comment section. I keep deleting them, but each time I post a new entry, four or five new bogus comments show up. In the meantime, how about you (my two readers) add some legitimate comments to the mix ? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Hot day.. like liliputians under a hair dryer. Anyway, what's going on.... Oh yes- we had an excellent "Walk on the Wild Side" last week in the Blomquist Garden. our topic was all things related to some current renovations/improvements in the garden. We covered everything from deciding when to renovate a garden space, design considerations, opportunities for infrastructural improvements while you're tearing things up, soil building for fungi and invertebrate diversity, etc.
A number of you mentioned some thoughts about follow up info from the walk- soil building recipes, mycorrhizal fungi innoculants, and so on.... It's been a week, so I've forgotten some of the best queries. Please comment on this post with particular questions and I'll respond. Next month's tour(9/2) will be lead by Katherine Wright, the Blomquist Horticulturist. Her topic will be "How Wetlands Work", with an emphasis on ecosystem services, water quality maintenance, how different species have adapted to thrive in wetland soils, etc. Please join us! In the meantime, look for some new construction in the Blomquist Wildlife Garden beginning next week. We'll be installing some low cedar fencing along the path. The fence materials were harvested from Durham County (all Red Cedar branches) and we've been working the last month or so to turn those raw materials into attractive, functional, durable garden art. Enjoy!

p.s.- for those of you following the plant i.d. blog that Katherine is using to enhance her native plant knowledge, there is a new installment. If you have any plants you would like to see covered, or if you have photos of native plants you need help identifying, let us know through this blog and we'll see what we can do!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello. I've been out of the office, as it were, for the last two weeks. I know the two of you found it hard to live without my periodic pearls of wisdom, so here I am! I'll be back to posting a few times a week for a while. Today, I wanted to give you a heads up about Thurday's "walk on the Wild Side" tour in the Blomquist Garden. I'll be talking about the design and construction of some improvements to the garden that have begun and will continue through the Fall. We'll discuss everything from the initial impetus for starting to think about changes, to the conceptualization and design of said changes/improvements, finally ending with a vision of how the changes/improvements will make the visitor experience in the Blomquist Garden even better. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where is the time going? I've been a bit awol from the website and blog recently.... i do have a good excuse, though. Let me think a minute, I'll come up with something..... Okay, I've just been doing other stuff. I always get drawn into the boys swim season as it nears it's end in July. The DSSL (Durham Summer Swim League) championship meet was held last weekend in Cary, and now I'm in "swim meet withdrawal". It's time for my kids to start another sport that I can live vicariously through, and fast! The third installment of the "Name That Native" identification blog is up, for anyone that's interested. This week has a good representation of native vines, and next week will focus on piedmont savannah natives. A few engaging classes came through the Blomquist this week- I'll talk about them once I have a few photos to show as well. I'll be on vacation next week camping in Michigan with my boys, and then the following week I'll be in Cullowhee, NC at the NC Native Plants Conference. That's a fun one, if you haven't attended. Till next time!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The second installment of the "Name That Native" blog is up. There are now twenty species descriptions up there for your identifying pleasure. Enjoy! (stay cool)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't forget... the "Walk on the Wild Side" this Thursday. This will be another Landscape Design focused talk, with an emphasis on forms, color, texture and combinations. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we will NOT be talking about flowers. Since the green parts of a plant are around a lot more than their flashy flowers, I thought we'd talk about them for a change. Hope to see you at the Blomquist gatehouse at 11:00 this Thursday (7/1).
Tuesday..... well, it's not Monday. OK, so I wanted to fill you in on a new resource from the Blomquist Garden. Katherine Wright, my assistant in the Blomquist, is embarking on a plant ID effort to add to her native plant nomenclature knowledge. I thought it might be interesting for our readers to follow along each week and get the same plant lists to commit to memory that she does. We're doing this in the form of another blog called "Name That Native". There, you'll find a list of ten to fifteen new species each week. The entire list, no matter how long it gets, will be cataloged on this blog by week. Check it out when you get a chance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

check it out...

The humongous Lilium superbum (Turks' Cap Lily) I mentioned a short while ago in another post is now in bloom! It's over eight feet tall with twelve flowers. You won't see many, if any like it of this size in this part of the state. If you go the the "What's Blooming" page of the website, find the grid map and print it. Make a mark in J5- that's where the Lily is. I've got some updating to do of that page. It's swim season for the kids, so I've been busier than usual outside of my two jobs. I'll get on it soon.

As an aside, another Lily ,Lilium pyrophilum, is about to bloom in the carnivorous plant bog (F5 on the grid map). I've linked its name to a journal article about the species. Commonly called the "Sandhills Lily", populations of this species were thought to be simply Lilium superbum who had taken a bit of a wrong turn at Albequerque and moved too far east. It's now recognized as a distinct species, although very similar in many ways to the Turk's Cap lily. Ours are getting ready to bloom as we speak, so a bit behind the Turk's Cap.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One more thing...

I wanted to add a photo from the latest "Walk on the Wild Side". We discussed "weeds", what that term really means, how plants become known as weeds, etc. In the photo, we're examining what for all the world looks like a clear case of bio-mimicry, or an organism trying really hard to look like another organism. The plant in my left hand is Duchesnea indica, or Indian Strawberry. The plant in my right is Fragaria virginiana, or Virginia Strawberry. The Fragaria is a native species we would hunt for in the fields and wood edges to make wild strawberry jam. The Duchesnea is a non-native species that looks like Fragaria in almost every respect, but has a fruit you wouldn't want to eat. My guess is that part of Duchesnea's success at establishing itself in our gardens and becoming "weedy" has to do with effectively fooling animal foragers as to it's true identity and duping them into eating it and spreading Duchesnea seeds about. Very tricky, you sneaky little plant, you!

As an aside, look at the name after the italicized Latin at the top of each of the linked pages for the plants. Duchesne is the person credited with first describing the Virginia Strawberry, and as a result you'll notice his/her last name after Fragaria virginiana. The individual who first described Duchesnea indica, a Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Focke, obviously paid homage to Duchesne, the person who named the plant the Duchesnea tries so hard to resemble, by naming the plant after them.

If you're a fan of the good old U S of A, and you enjoy soccer, yesterday was a great day. I had to put that in there. The plant world obviously has a very special place in my heart, but the first thing I really enjoyed doing as a child was chasing a little round ball up and down a field. I still love it. Here's a link to a short video about the US win over Algeria in the World Cup yesterday.

The "Walk on the Wild Side" next week (7/1) will focus on design. We'll discuss texture and shape and how to combine a diverse group of native plants to create a garden where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I'm purposefully going to eschew flowers in this talk. Too often, folks cease to see and appreciate plants when they aren't in bloom. Plants are far more than their reproductive parts. In this talk, we'll try to get beyond this blatant sexual objectification and view the plants for all their other great, and often overlooked qualities. See you there!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Schools out, schools out, teacher let the mules out! Today is the last day of the school year for Ethan and Samuel. Once they stop crying and moaning about not having to get up early, bathe regularly, and go to bed, I'm sure they'll find something to do with their time. We'll see. Lot's blooming in the Church Endangered Species Garden these days. The photo included is a Dissected Beardtongue, or Penstemon dissectus. It's one of a number of species showing off as we speak. Check them out if you have time. If I don't sit down to type again before the weekend, have a good one, and try not to toss your children out the window after they've only been out of school for a day or so. September will be here before you know it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

wow- time flies! It's almost time for another "walk on the wild side" (tomorrow at 11:00) and I still haven't decided what to talk about. Since I'm doing a lot of weeding these days, perhaps we'll discuss what makes a plant a "weed", my general philosophy about weeds, and some of the "usual suspects" in the Blomquist Garden. Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 28, 2010

some notes from the wilderness...

Our Red Shouldered Hawks have babies! You can hear them calling when one of their parents bring them some grub. In a post from a week or so I ago I describe how to locate the nest in the garden. I'd like nothing more than to scale a nearby loblolly pine and get a glimpse of them, but the idea of falling eighty feet while being lacerated by an angry hawk does not appeal to me. The garden is bursting with birds right now. The goldfinches are feasting on the Columbine seeds near the Endangered Garden, and the waterfall in the Wildlife Garden is a perennially popular spot. Lots of fledglings about, chasing their parents and asking for regurgitated bugs, car keys, etc. The feeding stations are full as well with moms and dads trying to get some calories to fuel their never ending hunt for bugs to feed the babes. The Oakleaf Hydrangeas near the Blomquist pavilion and pond are quite striking (and fragrant) right now as well. You can see our information kiosk map with text online by visiting the Blomquist Website and pulling up the "Sneak Peek" page. There you'll see some images, one entitled "Blomquist Entrance Map". You can use that to locate all the special structures and exhibits within the garden. Print it and keep it to help find your way around. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I wanted to go back a few posts and give you a link to an album of photos from my recent trip to DC. There are a few photos from a ramble my wife and I took through the invasive jungle of Rock Creek Park, a picture of a tiny Fiat in Georgetown, resting near the Lincoln Monument in my dorky hat, and a view of the Museum of the American Indian from the grounds of the US Botanic Garden. The majority of the photos are drawings by a group of elementary and middle school children from New Jersey and California. They were part of the United Nations Environment Programme School Art and Essay Competition for World Environment Day 2009. The images were on display in the education facilities at the US Botanic Garden, and I found them compelling and beautiful. As I mentioned, the theme for the sketches was the idea of humans finding ways, through conservation, stewardship and technology, to save the planet. Some of these kids were nine or ten years old when the drawings were done, with the oldest being seventeen. I think you'll agree that they put their considerable talents to good use here. Included with the text here is an image of Abby Hird and Andrea Kramer of BGCI (Andrea is on the left). I interviewed the two of them during my trip about the work their organization is doing to, you guessed it, save the planet.

Friday, May 21, 2010


just updated the "What's Blooming" page of the website. It's been a few weeks since the last update- sorry about that. The computer I use for the web design is at home, so I do this in my spare time. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Almost Friday!

It's going to be a fun weekend- the boys want to go see Russell Crowe v/s King John in "Robin Hood", so hopefully we'll get to eat some popcorn and enjoy one of the world's greatest inventions: the movie theatre. Sunday we're having some friends over for brunch, so house and yard cleaning are in the near future no doubt. Time to mow the weeds, I mean grass. I'm also looking forward to Saturday, when we have our annual Duke Gardens staff barbecue in Bahama at my family property. The summer interns are starting next week, so we'll get to meet them for the first time at the party. Fishing, barbecue, volleyball, botanizing... always a good time.

A plant to watch for in the coming weeks in the Blomquist is on the rise, literally. There is a Lilium superbum (Turks Cap Lily) that currently stands at seven feet tall as of this morning. Last year it produced eight stunning orange explosions with black freckles. This year it seems to have taken it to a new level, and I fully expect ten to twelve blossoms and an ultimate height of over eight feet. I'm including a photo of one of last years flowers to get you interested. To keep tabs on it, you can find it near the waterfall amongst the Rhododendron maximum in the wildlife garden. To see exactly where that is, print the grid map from the "What's Blooming" page of the Blomquist Website and make a mark in J5. It will probably be another two weeks before it's in bloom, so take advantage of the intervening time to watch the flowers emerge. Whenever you see a plants name in a different color on the blog, click on it and it will take you to a page on the USDA website for that species. This is the site from which I verify all my nomenclature, provenance (where a plant originates from), etc. for all my record keeping. Scroll down to view a range map for the species, and then click on individual states to see in what counties that species is found in the wild.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey there!

My wife and I spent some time last week in D.C., one of my favorite cities. I needed to conduct a couple of video interviews for use in a short documentary I'm making about the conservation movement in the botanic garden world, and we needed some time away to enjoy each other's company. Our fifteenth anniversary is coming up at the end of the month, so a hotel in Dupont Circle was our getaway spot. Thursday was spent driving, and after arrival, filming. I met with Andrea Kramer and Abby Hird, both employees of the global organization Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Andrea is the director of BGCI operations here in the U.S., and Abby is a BGCI representative who works at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. The two of them spoke during the interviews about the work being done all over the world, and especially domestically by BGCI to realize the conservation potential of botanic gardens and arboreta. We met to do the filming at the United States Botanic Garden, and while I was there, I took a few photos from an artists wall of sketches by young people. I was particularly moved by a group of drawings from a group of elementary and middle school students from New Jersey who, it appeared, had been tasked with imagining how we might save the planet through collective action. I'll post photos of those sketches, as well as an image of Andrea and Abby in my next post. Friday, Erika and I walked from Adams Morgan to the Jefferson Memorial taking in all that is D.C. on a beautiful Spring day. Darlin, if you're reading this, I had a great time in D.C., and the past fifteen plus years have been the best of my life!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I wanted to add a post in honor of our Board members, and anyone else reading this for that matter, as a means to fill everyone in on some of the highlights inside and outside of the Blomquist garden during the last six months. Okay, now let me think....

Right, to begin lets talk about garden infrastructure. We now have proposals in place for us to consider from contractors interested in building our newest feature proposed in the garden, a covered footbridge. I'm very excited about this project, and the design process of this structure has been helped along by my colleagues here at the garden, most notably Paul Jones, Mike Owens, and Harry Jenkins. Here's an artist's rendition of what the bridge might look like:

It's been a great year for wildlife in the garden, and I don't mean Duke students. It's been three years since we embarked on a campaign to attract more wildlife diversity to the Blomquist, beginning with the addition of feeding stations for migratory and nesting songbirds, and continuing with a design focus on plant additions that attract a large variety of insect and bird pollinators, and culminating last year with the completion of the Blomquist Wildlife garden. Success in an effort like this can be hard to measure, but I'm happy to say that for the second year in a row, we have a nesting pair of Red Shouldered Hawks in the Blomquist, and we're pretty sure they have babies in the nest as I write this. These raptors typically will not nest in an area unless they have adequate prey available, so to have a pair of apex predators who feed on snakes, frogs and birds (hey, I 'm building a feeding station for ALL birds) and are happy and healthy and raising young on site says a lot about the ecological health of the area they've chosen to nest in. It's outcomes like this that I garden for. I've added a photo of a green friend from the Wildlife garden stream (she's got one eye out for bugs, and another out for hawks).

Conservation education and outreach has become an integral part of what we do in the Blomquist garden, and we've been fortunate enough to have formed some special partnerships recently. The most developed of these involves our work with Durham Public Schools and Easley Elementary School. Together with the Eno River Association, we put together a design for the construction of a native plant education garden at Easley, and after a fall and winter of periodic building it was formally dedicated on Earth Day this year. As our children spend most of their days at school, it seems imperative that we make those schools places where they will learn about and become champions for our embattled wild spaces. I hope to be involved with the growth and development of this garden for years to come. Click this link to learn more about this space that we've named the Easley Discovery Garden.

Photographs are portals into another place and time, and they can be valuable educational tools as well. During the last few months, a Blomquist photography project has come to full fruit that was begun four years ago. In conjunction with the Ladybird Johnson Wildlfower Center, we've made available the Blomquist photo catalog to any non-profit to use for educational purposes. That means anyone who works for an organization dedicated to the use, interpretation and conservation of our native flora can receive free digital copies of our images for use in their publications, websites, etc. In the past four months, I've noticed a huge increase in the use of the Blomquist Catalog by all sorts of folks who want to spread the word about the floral denizens of our fields and forests. You can view the catalog here. Images are being added 2-3 times per year, so check back periodically.

Finally, I wanted to mention the Blomquist Website as a tool for those who want to dive deep into what the Blomquist garden is all about. A significant amount of improvements have been made during the last few months, not the least of which is an improved "What's Blooming" page where you can, in real time, see photos of what's in bloom in the garden as well learn where those species are located in the garden and finally print a map from the same page where you can create your own self-guided floral tours. In the next few weeks I'll be adding an "Outreach" page
to highlight some of the community projects we're involved in, some of which include partnerships with the North Carolina Native Plant Society, The Southeastern Center for the Contemporary Arts (SECCA), St Phillips Episcopal Church in Durham, The Triangle Land Conservancy, and the list goes on.

Last but not least, ye old blog here is full o' information about what we do in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Become a follower, share a link to the blog with your friends, and help us get the word out about the good work going on in the woods!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

birds, birds, birds...

a few very nice bird sightings in the Blomquist Wildlife Garden yesterday. There must be a good number of migrants coming through right now, as all three of these species haven't been seen in the Blomquist Garden so far this year. Come to think of it, I haven't EVER seen any of these in the garden. The fact that I saw all of them bathing in the stream in the WILDLIFE garden tells me all that advertising I did in those popular bird magazines, the banner ads I placed on those popular avian websites, and those focus groups I conducted with our local feathered friends has really gotten the word out to the migrants on the wing. It seems our B&B for the wilder set, complete with all of it's creature comforts, has become quite popular...

anyway, all puns aside, the birds I saw yesterday were the Summer Tananger, the American Redstart, and the Black Breasted Blue Warbler. There were a pair of the Warblers- here's a photo of the female. Click the species names for images of these striking birds. The sound and sight of the moving water in the stream seems to draw birds to the Wildlife Garden like a magnet, so if you have some species you're looking for, and you think the time is right for them to be in town, check out the rest stop we've made for them in the Blomquist Garden. If you want to learn more about the Wildlife Garden in particular, visit the page named for it on the Blomquist Website. Enjoy!

A reminder- join us tomorrow at 11:00 for the "Walk on the Wild Side" tour in the Blomquist Garden. We'll be discussing native ferns, their history, and their landscape uses and functions. As always, you can learn about the tour topics on the website as well by visiting the "Wild Side" page. I'd like to invite any members of our Board of Advisors who are in town for our Board Meeting tomorrow to join me and my regulars for the tour. See you then!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A week or so ago, a couple of us took a trip down to Pickens, SC to visit my friend Tom Goforth at his nursery Crow Dog Ferns. Tom is a green-industry leader in the propagation of our southeastern native fern species from spores, and his nursery is a testament to his dedication to the appreciation and conservation of these ancient plants. Click here for a short slide gallery from the trip, including photos of his laboratory where it all begins. The "Walk on the Wild Side" tour this week will focus on native ferns, and I'll probably add another post before Thursday on the topic. Enjoy!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Friday!

Lots blooming in the garden- of special interest is the spectacular Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentuckea) blooming near the entrance to the garden (see the "what's blooming" page of the website for the exact location). It's a great ornamental tree, with nice from, a huge stature, beautiful bark, and spectacular pea-family flower clusters reminiscent of wisteria. Check it out before it's done! Also, I want to let you know that the "Walk on the Wild Side" for May (5/6) will focus on the Ferns of the Blomquist Garden. You can always find the topics for the previous and upcoming tours on the "Wild Side" page on the website as well. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I had a great time with the Woodcroft Women's Club on Monday night. I presented a talk on "Sustainable Landscape Design" with an emphasis on building landscapes that last and have a positive impact on the environment. There were a number of questions after the talk that I promised I would address in a blog post. First, we talked about what I feel is the best mulch to use- leaf compost. It's what mother nature puts down in our forests once a year, so it should be good enough for us. A source for leaf compost in the Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Southeast Durham is Area Mulch and Soils. They only deliver to a few places in Durham, so not a total solution. The Carrboro Public Works department also has leaf compost periodically that you can pick up yourself. Visit their site to learn more. I couldn't find any mention of it there, but the contact info is there to learn more about what they offer. Also, I gave a lousy definition of Greensand, a common ingredient in a number of organic fertilizers. Here's a better one. We talked alot about soil building, and how important it was to healthy plants. Here's an article that gives a good overview of the topic, albeit it's on a website trying to sell you stuff. Ignore the product placements, and you'll get some good info. We also talked alot about fungi and how important a good fungal colony in the soil was to healthy plants. Here's a short piece of information about how that works. Here's where you can get fungal innoculants for your soil through the web. I have used the Mychorrizal Landscape Innoculant on that page and have had great results. If there are any other questions I didn't answer from the talk, please comment on this post with a question and I'll respond. If you weren't at the talk and have a related question on the topic, feel free to add a comment as well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do me a favor.... give me some feedback about the Blomquist Website "What's Blooming" page improvements in the past few months. It takes a good deal of work to keep things updated online in a timely manner, and I want to find out if it's being used. Let me know if you like it, hate it, or think it could be tweaked a bit to make it better. Thanks!

Happy Monday! I wanted to update our readers (all three of you!) about an interesting event. For the past eight years, Duke Gardens has partnered with the North carolina Native Plant Society to conduct periodic "Plant Rescues" on natural sites slated for development. We bring a group of volunteers and staff to the area, where we proceed to remove native species that would otherwise be destroyed and take them back to the gardens. There we pot them up or heel them in and eventually they go into the gardens as part of our collections. Here are a few photos from a recent rescue showing the digging, the potting, and the finished product ready for fall planting. On this trip we rescued over a thousand individual specimens representing eight different species of native woodland plants.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A lot to talk about... This past Friday I went to Winston Salem with Jason Holmes, Katherine Wright and Tamara Kilbane (all fellow Duke Gardens staffers) to visit the Emily Allen Wildflower Preserve. This large backyard, situated on five acres beneath an impressive hillside canopy of Tulip Poplars, is quite a special site. Open to visitors by appointment, the garden is the work of decades of attention and dedication to our native woodland flora on the part of a special lady. Use this link to view a slideshow of images from our trip, complete with pictures of Emily herself (our tour guide), as well as a multitude of Trilliums, the star attractions in the garden this time of year.

On Saturday morning, Easley Elementary held their Earth Day celebration. A part of the party was the dedication of the Easley Discovery Garden, a joint venture between Easley Elementary school, The Eno River Association, and The Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Click here for a link to a slideshow of images from the celebration. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This weekend there will be a dedication for the Easley Discovery Garden at Easley Elementary. If you've been reading the blog during the past year, you may remember this project as a joint venture between the Duke Gardens, The Eno River Association, and Easley Elementary School in Durham. We've done a lot of work on the garden in the past year, and we hope to have most if not all aspects of our design completed by the beginning of the '10-'11 school year. The garden features native trees, shrubs and perennials, and will be used as a natural outdoor classroom for Easley instructors to teach students about soil, plant and insect life cycles, native ecosystems and the connection between our natural and cultural histories here in NC. We hope to partner with the North Carolina Botanical Garden through the Earth Partnerships for Schools satellite program they administer there. Easley teachers could attend seminars in effective natural history education and outdoor learning, which would help bridge the growing gap between schoolchildren and nature.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trying hard to keep pace with the blooming plants..... new photos on the "whats blooming" page of the website. If you are in the garden and see something blooming that's not on the website, let me know. Also, be my eyes and ears in the garden. The visitation is very heavy right now, and the chances for the plantings to be damaged are correspondingly high. If you see anyone off the path and in the planting areas (anywhere that is not a path or a structure), please kindly and politely inform them that setting foot off the path damages both the plants and the soil. Thanks for your help in keeping the Blomquist beautiful!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lots of new photos of plants in bloom on the "What's Blooming" page at the Blomquist Website. If you plan on taking pictures of your own, please respect the garden by staying on the path at all times. Thanks, and enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010


a few of us (Katherine Wright and myself) spent part of the afternoon yesterday at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in downtown Durham helping them with a community garden project. St. Phillips has a large community vegetable garden on-site that they use to donate fresh vegetables to local organizations. We were there to help set-up and install a drip irrigation system to water the crops this year. Here are a few photos from the event. Enjoy!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A note....

The best way to use the printable grid map from the "What's Blooming" page of the Blomquist website is to download it and then print it. In the upper right hand corner of the screen with the plant photos is the word "download". Click on the map, and when it pops up as a larger image click the download button and then print the file from your computer. Enjoy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I had a great tour with Obamikel Alston and his "Sustainable Landscape Design" class from Durham Tech this week. The class was offered in conjunction with the "Green Jobs" initiative created by the federal government. Obamikel, I'm sorry about taking the photo with your eyes shut!

It's Friday!!! The printable map of the Blomquist Garden I mentioned in my last post is ready to roll. Here's a peek at what it will look like. I'm adding it to the "What's Blooming" page of the website tonight. Print it, then make notations of what grids the species are blooming in, then take your own self-guided tour of the Blomquist-in-bloom! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What a weekend!

It doesn't get much better than a day like today. Seventy, breezy and sunny with birds galore a singin' to beat the band. Lots of plants coming into bloom this week! I'm adding new photos every day to the Blomquist Website "What's Blooming"page. In the next week, I'll also add a Blomquist Garden map with a grid that can be printed. I'll add grid locations to each photo so that visitors, with the aid of the map, can locate the area of the Blomquist Garden where each plant in bloom is located. Look for this map in the coming week on the "What's Blooming" page. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

oops- I forgot to mention that the Blomquist Garden is just a fixin' to blow up with blooms. Tonight I'll be adding photos of the plants in bloom or about to pop on the "What's Blooming" page of the Blomquist Website. From now until the end of May is the peak bloom time for the garden, so make time for a visit!
Wednesday is halfway to Friday!

Hi there! For those of you who attended my "Native Plant Design" talk at Fearrington yesterday, I wanted to add a link to where you can view the slide show online. Clicking on this link, you can go to a gallery of mine where you can see the show. I'm having an issue with the program lately that causes the slides to be loaded last to first. They are labeled in order, so to start at the start go to slide one and count up from there. I'll add this show to the "Media Center" page on the Blomquist Website in the next few days. Thanks to the Fearrington Garden Club for their hospitality!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

a note...

In light of my last post, I'd like to add some more info. As you may remember, Toby Hemenway was here a month ago to talk about Permaculture. In his book, Gaia's Garden, there is a chapter that deals with soil fertility and overall garden ecology that relates very well to our last "Walk on the Wild Side". The chapter entitled "A Gardener's Ecology" speaks to many of the same topics we discussed last week, and the book as a whole is a great resource whether you're an aspiring vegetable gardener or just want to create a healthy ecology in whatever garden you cultivate. By the way, no, I don't get a cut of any sales of the books I recommend- I just like them. I link them through the Regulator Bookshop website because I think it's important to support local businesses. Sure, I've shopped at the big book stores, but if I can get something at The Regulator, or at Barnes Supply, or The Playhouse Toystore, I try to do that. Keeping money in our community supports local jobs that pay local wages that buy local goods and pay local taxes which support local infrastructure...... Let's keep it local, shall we.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I enjoyed the "Walk on the Wild Side" last Thursday. We talked a lot about soil fertility, building healthy soil, and fertilizers. Here's a link to an article that basically sums up my position on how to create healthy soil, as well as why I choose organic fertilizers over synthetics. In case you didn't know, whenever I say "here's a link", I mean for you to click on the word "link", which is a different color than the rest of the text. See you soon!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Monday!

I had a great time at the "Your Natural Garden" Symposium this past Saturday. Thanks to all who came out to hear the presentations. My talk about "Natural Community Gardening" is now available on the web by clicking on this link. For some reason, when I uploaded the presentation it put the last slide first- just scroll to the bottom and go up to see the presentation in order. If you have any questions about the presentation, or anything I might have mentioned during my talk or during the workshop conducted by myself and Doug Tallamy, please feel free to post comments on this blog or send an e-mail to

Monday, February 15, 2010

A word about this past weekend...

We had a great lecture/seminar series this past weekend with Toby Hemenway from Portland, Oregon. As you will have read if you've been following the blog lately, Toby is a permaculture designer/teacher/writer who travels a good bit spreading the gospel of this great discipline of sustainable agriculture. I mentioned his book Gaia's Garden in the earlier post, and wanted to take the opportunity to name a few other volumes of interest on Permaculture:

Edible Forest Gardens by David Jacke

Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison et. al.

more rain today... I think I have moss growing on me.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I forgot to mention a book that I like in my next-to-last post. Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon is an intersting read for those who never took botany, or if you did, you've since forgotten alot of what you knew. I don't know anyone like that, no way....

Anyway..., it has a great chapter relating to our last "Walk on the Wild Side" on seeds and germination that then leads right into a discussion of how plant tissues grow into mature plants and so on and so forth.... Check it out!
It's snowing again! It's 7:00 a.m. as I write this, and I can imagine my boys at home looking out the window and praying to the gods of school closings while repeating the mantra "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...."

A note about the blog..

In the coming weeks you may notice a change. I'd like to go beyond simply reporting the news, as it were, and create an ongoing narrative of my opinions and observations about the experience of working so closely with these miracles we call native plants. Things I will avoid are

1) Observations that are overtly partisan in relation to things like politics/religion/Duke vs. UNC, 2) critical comments directed at other human beings, and 3)whining/complaining/moaning/groaning of any sort (unless I haven't had my coffee yet, in which case all bets are off).

I really enjoy writing, and I hope if you enjoy something you read here (or do not) you'll let me know. I can't thank you, my two readers, enough for your support to this point. Keep reading! I promise I'll say something interesting one of these days!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Holy frozen precipitation Batman! When will it melt?!

We had a great walk in the Blomquist Garden today. Twelve or so intrepid attendees braved the cold and the paths of half-frozen slush to listen to a discussion about what it is that brings plants out of their winter dormancy and makes them push up through the cold soil to reach the sun. If you attended and want to recap, or if you are simply interested, here are a number of links to articles covering topics similar to those we discussed today. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What a gift...

I'm sitting in my living room by the fire watching the snow fall. It seems like it's been ten years since we've had a storm like this, and I love it! So far we have eight inches in Bahama and it's not even lunchtime! The birds are out in force at the feeders in the wood's edge. To this point we've seen 3 species of sparrow, blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals, towhees, titmice, chickadees, flickers, juncos, mourning doves, and white-breasted nuthatches. They're about to eat through our last bag of sunflower seed. I think I saw some suet here somewhere.... If you're within walking distance of the gardens, visit the two feeding stations in the Blomquist Garden today. Chances are are you'll see birds there you haven't seen in a while, as the shortage of available food drives them to desperate measures (i.e. being seen with Homo sapiens).

If you'd like to learn more about attracting and sustaining a diverse cross-section of wildlife species near your abode without the help of a blizzard, consider attending an upcoming workshop at the gardens. Click here to learn more about "Your Natural Garden", a multiple-day symposium featuring yours truly along with other speakers including Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, an informative work focusing on the importance of insect diversity to the overall health and well-being of ecosystems and urban landscapes. Please join us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's new?

A few things here. A great symposium is coming up here at the gardens. Toby Hemenway is a sustainable gardening guru of sorts, and has written an excellent book in Gaia's Garden, a study of garden design for all types of spaces that includes edible plants, natural aesthetics and ecological sensitivity with an eye for long term sustainability. Toby will be here at the Duke Gardens from February 12th to the 14th lecturing and leading classes in this elegant landscape design method. To learn more about the symposium, visit this link. I hope to see you there!

Seeing things beginning to poke out of the ground? Our next "Walk on the Wild Side" will focus on what it takes for plants to wake from their winter slumber, what influences the timing of that re-emergence, and how human activity often influences that timing. Join me February 4th at 11:00 at the Blomquist Garden gatehouse. For directions to the gatehouse, visit the information desk at the Doris Duke visitor's center when you arrive at the Gardens. See you then!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey there,

A few interesting things to talk about. . . A colleague of mine, Paul Jones, sent me an interesting e-mail this morning. It seems the School of the Environment at Duke is hosting an environmental video contest with some decent ($$$) prize money up for grabs. If you like dabbling in the art of amateur film- making, and if you have something you'd like to say about protecting our environment, check out this link, and good luck! I'll be creating an entry, and I look forward to seeing yours!

If you like to read, and you like to eat as well, I have a book to recommend. The End of Food, by Paul Roberts is an interesting look at how our global food economy has evolved, who the power brokers are in this trillion dollar industry, and how the way we eat affects global poverty, the environment, and the sustainability of life on planet earth. As with all the books I mention on this blog, simply click on the title to see a summary of the book on the Regulator Bookshop page. Buy local!

Till next time!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's cold!!

The plants are looking less than happy about this weather, and I don't blame them.

Just wanted to make mention of a youtube video I recently uploaded. Johnny Randall from the North Carolina Botanical Garden was gracious enough to step in front of my camera and speak to the problem of invasive plants in our wild landscapes. Take a look by clicking this link. Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I spent a good bit of my holiday in northern Michigan surrounded by two feet of snow. Word to the wise: Honda Civics do not great snow vehicles make. Lots of time spent by the fire, and a good bit of time spent careening downhill while trying to keep up with my sons and nephew and niece on their snowboards. A reminder- Thursday's "Walk on the Wild Side"(1/7) for January will focus on winter interest planting and design for the native plant garden. Good to be back!