Duke Stone is featured throughout the Gardens, especially in the walls and buildings of the Terraces. From a nearby quarry in Hillsborough, this "bluestone" was chosen by James B. Duke himself to provide the signature look for Duke University's buildings. Duke Stone is a type of metamorphic rock called phyllite. Originally slate, the phyllite was transformed by the heat and pressure of volcanic action and stained by weathering. Duke Stone is at least 600 million years old.
In 1945, the University trustees gave some oversight of the Gardens to Duke's Department of Botany, appointing a member of its faculty to also serve as Director of the Gardens. To protect the Terrace Garden from campus expansion, in 1959 the trustees set aside 55 acres of West Campus for Gardens development.
Gardens superintendent (later Director) Richard Fillmore hired William B.S. Leong, one of his classmates from the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, to develop a master plan for the development of the Gardens. Leong, a landscape architect and city planner for Boston, moved the main entrance to the Gardens from Flowers Drive to Anderson Street. Other parts of his plan that were adopted include the tree-lined walk to the new rose garden and the construction of a fern garden amongst the mature trees behind the Terrace Garden.
"Despite the gardener's best intentions, Nature will improvise." --Michael P. Garafalo
From the start, Sarah P. Duke Gardens has been shaped by the forces of nature. Much of the first garden was washed away in heavy rains; since then, ice, snow, hurricanes, and drought have left their mark.
People are also a force of nature. In an effort to control flooding in the Gardens, a lake was excavated. This created the Flowers Drive failure. A stately old magnolia tree at the foot of the Terraces was "loved to death" by people who climbed its limbs and carved their initials in its trunk.
Whether introduced accidentally or by design, invasive plant and animal species, once established in the wild, are able to out-compete their native counterparts. Often this is due to a lack of pathogens or predators in their newfound homes. Without the need to devote energy to ward off pests or predators, invasive species grow and reproduce rapidly.
Exhibits in the Perkins Gallery are sponsored in part by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation