If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

183B6D70-D1D0-40C1-98C6-54610F440B89I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.

Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?

I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.

Here are some other images from the day:

A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.


Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:


The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.


No, this wasn’t the house.


The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham


Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.


And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).







2 thoughts on “If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

  1. Hairy bitter cress is everywhere! My kid used to pick it and proudly present me with huge bouquets of the white flowers, which stink to high heaven. Among the many, many weeds which have invaded our garden, we happily do not count hairy bitter cress (knock on wood), though dandelions are legion. As are other insidious weeds whose names I don’t nor want to know…
    All that said, a winegrower buddy told us that some of the so-called organic treatments kill all kinds of bees and butterflies, whereas non-organic alternatives are more precise, targeting only the pest on the vines. He added that a treatment of his vines cost about €4,000, which, as he put it, would be a nice vacation. So he treated his vines only as needed. However, with big industrial-size operations, some paid-by-the-hour underling is going to spray whether the vines need it or not–he doesn’t get a benefit by not spraying and he could lose his job if he defers spraying and there’s an outbreak.
    All this to say the line between organic and not is very nuanced…

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