Duke Gardens’ Magazine
Issue 2023

A Generational Gift

Duke Hospital employee shares her lifetime love for Duke Gardens

Lesley Stanford never forgot how delightful it was to explore Duke Gardens as a child in the 1960s. So when she came to work for Duke Hospital 35 years ago, she quickly became an ambassador of sorts, extolling the gardens’ virtues to her colleagues, as well as her patients and their families. Stanford, a pediatric nutritionist, shared Duke Gardens’ many attributes that have inspired her to be a Gardens supporter.

Lesley Stanford

The Garden Next Door

“For patients who’ve got a long day, or patients who have lots of appointments, it’s important to know that there’s a botanic garden close by for their enjoyment. And I like to bring new employees over here if we get a lunch break, because really it’s not that far from where I work. You can just come over for a little short visit or for a walk after work. If somebody is an employee here and doesn’t take advantage after hours or on the weekend, they’re missing an opportunity. I like the fact that I can come here, and nature is just such a source of rejuvenation and rest and peace.

“When we’ve had coworkers who’ve lost a family member, I’ve made donations to the Duke Gardens in their memory. It’s something that’s important to us because we’re Duke, but also it will help others enjoy the Gardens. It’s a beautiful place to make a memorial gift, whether you love the gardens or whether you just love flowers, and then the family gets to learn about the gardens and maybe it’ll be a destination for them. What better place than to invest in than Duke, and the Gardens is the place to go. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful.”

Generations in the Garden

“I support Duke Gardens because I came here as a child and I’ve always loved it. Sometimes you put your money where your heart is.

“When I bring my grandchildren over here on Saturdays, we park at the hospital and walk over, coming through the Hanes gate, because they like the ducks. So the first thing we see is the ducks. They also like the chickens in the Discovery Garden, and that little Story Circle where you can sit and read a book. They take turns reading or telling a story. When my children were younger, they liked the little part of the Blomquist Garden that’s hidden away that’s got the Jack in the pulpits and the Venus fly traps. That was their favorite. And when I was a child, I liked the Terrace Gardens and the fish pond.”

Tree Ramble

Learning in Nature

“The other thing I like about the Gardens is I’ve been able to participate in some of the activities. As a Duke employee, you can sign up for something that happens after work. I’ve come over when they’ve had the tree ramble, and you walk through the Gardens and they tell you about the different trees. That’s nice, because I didn’t even go home. I just left work and walked over here.

“I have always come here and looked at flowers and looked at turtles, and I never thought about the trees. And the woman who took us on this tour, it was a small group, she just showed us things that were big and were foundational pieces. But I just never thought about that before. You think about the Japanese maples and the ginkgo trees, but you don’t think about the oaks and the pines and the big trees that have been here for so long.

“I have already signed up for the wreath-making class in December. I attended that last year, and we hung the wreath. And it’s just so wonderful, because you learn a skill but also you’ve got greenery that people don’t have access to at home. Some things you do one time and you learn something, and then sometimes you do one and you put it on your list and you sign up again. I think that’s what makes it fun.”

A Duke Legacy

“It’s such a gift to Duke employees and to the greater Durham area that we have Duke Gardens. It was part of the master plan of the Duke family. It’s a gift that originally the Duke family gave us, and everyone’s donations and gifts have sustained it.”

Wreath Making