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Historic Gardens

The Historic Gardens are where Sarah P. Duke Gardens began in 1934, with an iris garden in what is now the South Lawn. Alas, having been planted in a valley, the garden flooded soon thereafter. That event gave rise to the idea of the Italianate-style Terrace Gardens, designed by noted landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman and dedicated in 1939.The Fish Pool is located at the bottom of the Terraces, adjacent to the Leubuscher Rock Garden and the Frances P. Rollins Overlook. Surrounding the Terraces are smaller gardens, including the Walker Dillard Kirby Perennial Allée, Memorial Garden, Azalea Court, Butterfly Garden and Camellia Garden. The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) near the foot of the Terraces, a species once thought extinct, was planted in 1949.

Main Attractions

Terrace Gardens
Topped by a wisteria-covered pergola, the Terrace beds are filled each season with marvelous combinations of bulbs, annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs. Container plantings complement the landscape designs. You may have noticed that the wisteria got a brand new start at the pergola a few years ago. Read more about our Pergola Restoration Project.

Rose Garden and Roney Fountain
The Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden features no-spray and heirloom roses set among annuals and perennials. In the center of the Rose Garden is the Roney Fountain. Donated to Duke University in 1897 by Anne Roney, sister-in-law of Washington Duke, the fountain was restored and moved from East Campus to the Gardens in 2011. Read more....

Victoria water lilies and koi
In the summer, the fish pool is filled with hardy and tropical water lilies. One of the highlights is the Victoria water lily, with leaves up to 7 feet wide. In the pool, goldfish and koi are popular with visitors.