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Save Duke Gardens!

This weekend, the ladies and I visited the indoor displays at Duke Gardens in Hillsborough, NJ. You all know I’m kind of a Doris Duke freak. I’d heard about the display gardens for years, but had never seen them. Then I read in the paper that, as part of a “new vision” for Duke Estates, they will be dismantled forever in less than a month. So we made plans to visit. It took Ms. Duke more than six years to build these gardens — Italian, Colonial, Edwardian, French, English, Chinese, Japanese and Indo-Persian designs juxtaposed near desert, tropical and semi-tropical environments.

The foundation says that the gardens no longer fit into Duke Estates’ goals for being a green organization, but I don’t think this is what Doris would have wanted. Go here to find out more and if you can, please send a letter.

Photos after the jump.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Click through to see larger versions (for some of the flowers, totally worth it!).

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  1. Wow! It’s gorgeous. While I’m sure it’s time and labor and water and electricity and fertilizer intensive to keep that going, I can’t help also feeling that if it’s destroyed, folks will look back on it later as a terrible mistake.

  2. It’s completely labor/energy intensive to keep it going, but if their purpose for re-tooling the entire estate is to become sustainable, why not use the greenhouse as a working example? I mean, it’s not a matter of money to retrofit; the Duke Foundation has millions.

    The Kew Gardens in England (which I recently wrote about in a How Stuff Works article) is a good model.

  3. Those pictures are amazing! My mom and I were just talking about the gardens when we drove past there last week, but I hadn’t heard they were getting rid of them. (Not that I read the paper or anything.)
    I think I’ll try to go soon with the baby, since it looks breathtaking. It sounds like it’ll be a shame when it’s no longer here, doesn’t it?

  4. You have to make reservations (it’s free, though) to go, fyi.

  5. Thanks for the link!

  6. Don’t trust the website for reservations! Call the number. 908-722-3700

    I’m amazed they got 50K people a year through there with a broken booking tool and one person on the phones. Shows how popular it was… is.. WILL BE if you protest and spread the word! It’s very easy to send an email at

  7. Duke Gardens have been a place that I have visited many times and have enjoyed the different displays representing many cultures throughout the world.
    Why are we going to loose such an important icon in our state?
    By tearing down the current display garden a living art piece which is absolutely irreplaceable will be lost forever. And what will happen in the future? Lots of money will be spent to build a new “modern” garden that will never approach the magesty that is being torn down!!! …. And in the end it will probably loose money so they will have to sell the land to contractors —who once again will build MORE NEW HOUSING! or maybe some more boxy warehouses. What a waste of such exquisite land. I urge you to reconsider this decision!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. People should research a bit and get all of the facts. The way I understand it, the Display Gardens in the main Greenhouse will be closed because they spend a lot of energy (electrical, etc) maintaining that Greenhouse. It is not energy efficient. But they will be moving as much as possible to a smaller greenhouse on the property and other plants will go to other places. They will not actually destroy the plants. The whole restructuring will actually open the Duke Farms grounds to more open exploring. Previously restricted areas will become accessible to the general public. This is a good thing. Instead of limiting users to specific areas of the grounds on structured tours, more of the grounds will be open. One cost will be the closing of the main Greenhouse that was the focus of the one tour.

  9. James, please visit the gardens and use your eyes to see the facts. We are not talking about Codiaeum and Ficus in pots. There are 70-year old tropical trees in those gardens. Root systems will not let them be moved, even if you could get them out the door. This lovely Ceiba speciosa is 25 feet tall. And don’t pretend these are greenhouses with plants in. The Gardens are bridges, ponds, fountains, walls, paving and plants, combined into a work of art.

    As for energy efficiency, if the eleven Trustees of a $2 billion foundation claim they can’t heat a greenhouse sitting on 2700 acres of farm/woodland with a closed-carbon-cycle method, they deserve to be held up as a SHAM of environmental leadership.

    Why not also ask the eleven Trustees how their $500,000 p.a. 5th Avenue offices are heated, and how many gardeners could be employed for their collective $1,386,858 in annual compensation ($2100/hour each)? All these numbers are from the DDCF tax returns.

    One cost will be the closing of the Gardens that Doris Duke spent 6 years building in honor of her father. Trustees should show some respect for the source of the money that they use to bolster their own image and importance.

    Another cost could be that the Environmental movement as a whole is blamed for the unnecessary destruction of a beloved legacy. Do NOT let that happen. Eleven individuals alone are responsible: Joan E. Spero, (President), Nannerl O. Keohane (Chair), John J. Mack (Vice Chair), Harry B. Demopoulos, Anthony S. Fauci, James F. Gill, Anne Hawley, Peter A. Nadosy, William H. Schlesinger, John H.T. Wilson and John E. Zuccotti.

  10. While I’ve never been to the Gardens, I have been on the property many times in places that others don’t have ready access to. My wife works for DDCF and knows more about the facts than the average visitor.

    One thing people need to get straight is that Doris Duke didn’t care enough about the Display Gardens to state her wishes for them in her will. She specifically stated what should happen with Rough Point and Shangri-La, but practically nothing about the Gardens. If she cared that much about them, she would have set specific instructions regarding them. She did not. The people who don’t want them shut down care more about them than she seemed to.

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