Duke Gardens’ Magazine
Issue 2023

A Prescription for Happiness

Duke Gardens Becomes a Second Home for a Duke Hospital Resident & Family

by Sunny Gu

My name is Sunny Gu, a fashion illustrator and a first-time mama. Since we moved to Durham for my husband’s nephrology residency training at Duke Hospital in summer 2021, this is our favorite place to visit. We didn’t know about Duke Gardens before our move. We knew Duke has multiple campuses that would be great for a family walk, but the garden is the gem we discovered later. I’m in love with the beauty Duke Gardens offers year-round.

Baby on Grass

We moved to Durham when our son Skylar was 3 months old.  The relocation and strict fellowship program were stressful for my husband, Xuexiang “Shawn” Wang, with a heavy workload and responsibilities. And I was newly postpartum. At home, we were chasing one task after the other, and it felt like running in a hamster wheel during that phase. But whenever we visit Duke Gardens, everything slows down. We walk, talk, laugh, share stories and communicate emotions that we just couldn’t find the energy to exchange at home.

Thanks for giving this first time mama free nature therapy, and relieving stress for this busy dad training in the hospital. You nourish us and keep our marriage strong.

My illustration is mainly focused on fashion and beauty. I’m a huge flower and animal lover; they play an important role in my art.

While caring for an infant 24/7, I didn’t have time to create. But walking in the garden refueled my creativity and inspired me to imagine themes for future artwork when I have the time.

My clients include Condé Nast, Vogue and Teen Vogue magazines, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomingdales and Prada, among others.

During autumn, there are all kinds of treasures on the garden floor. It’s always a good idea to take a stroll at the garden. I simply love the look of wonder in Skylar’s eyes. Thanks for showing Skylar the beauty of nature and the changing seasons.

As Skylar became more mobile, Duke Gardens was our favorite place to let this toddler crawl, practice to walk, and explore safely all by himself.

Over the past two years, we have explored every single corner of Duke Gardens and enjoyed each of them immensely. Skylar’s favorites are the different textures of the pathways, the duckies and the turtles.

One day after the rain, we watched a mama turtle dig up a deep muddy hole and lay her eggs. It was so impressive! I hope some turtle babies safely hatched.

We loved visiting the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, especially since Skylar turned 1. It was one of his favorite places to visit. He loved to say hi to the chickens every time we walked by!

The drop-in programs on Thursdays are super fun. Learning from our experience, we started to bring rain boots and a change of clothing, because he loves to water the vegetable gardens. He needs the watering can to be refilled at least 10 times.

The staff working at the Discovery Garden are super friendly and so cheerful when communicating with kids. Skylar enjoyed learning about earthworms, making crowns out of autumn leaves, touching and carrying different kinds of pumpkins and gourds, stacking wood and rocks, and much more.

The pond, the fountains, the bridges, the little library—we enjoyed them all. Skylar had just figured out how to open and shut doors when we discovered the library. Since then, he had to open and shut all the doors every time we walked by.  

This summer, we moved and settled down in Charlotte for my husband’s job relocation. We already miss Duke Gardens so much. Thanks for everything—the beauty, the memories we created, the inspirations, the kindness we encountered… We will see you again soon.