Duke Gardens with Friends

by - April 08, 2019

At the end of March, the kids had a day off school for a teacher workday. After seeing an Instagram post about a "Bloom Walk" in Duke Gardens, I gave the boys a heads up that we would be making a trip, and I tagged my friend Erika on the post, hoping she would see it and hadn't already booked her day. Friday morning she messaged me and we made plans to pack snacks and hit the road at about the same time. 

I have never seen the garden as busy as it was that day. The weather was perfect and the lots were completely full. We were directed a couple blocks away to a gravel lot. At the visitor center, there was a fountain and pool that took our kids no time to discover and get sprayed by. The universal love of all boys is water they should not be in. The fifth graders love it. The third graders love it. The two year old loves it. These boys could have reached for shiny coins and shiny fish in the water all day long. 

While Erika was busy keeping a latch on her baby's britches so he wouldn't fall in the water, I turned around to capture a few shots of the glorious tulips. 

I knew we wouldn't be doing a garden tour and trying to see all the blooms.  A garden visit with friends means kids entertain each other, and moms talk. After fishing our kids out of the pond, we walked over to the lawn for a long snack and soccer session. Before leaving, we walked to one last spot, the newish learning garden up by the visitor center. Right as we made it up the hill, a garden volunteer breathlessly waved me down and managed to get out, "Is that your kid? (heh-hehhh heh-heehhh) No balls in the garden, they aren't good for flowers." I have no idea if she had followed us all the way from the field or just spotted the kids as they exited the bamboo forest, but I was super embarrassed as I'd cautioned Scoops to not kick the ball outside of the lawn. I'm not even sure they were allowed on the lawn, but there were plenty other balls and frisbees that day. I can also say, I fully agree - balls are not good for flowers. Just ask all the broken plants in my own yard. Alas, a love of most boys' feet is kicking balls. Parental faux pas aside, we ran down the final garden stretch exploring the veggie and herb beds, doodling, watching big trucks across the street and checking out the chickens.

Let's end this with a few helpful tips for visiting a garden with kids.
  1. Check the website (if there is one) to find out what's in bloom and see if there are any events first since this might affect hours or parking. 
  2. Bring a blanket or beach towel, snacks and drinks. This is a good suggestion for garden visits with grownups too. Bringing food usually lets us stay and relax a little longer. 
  3. Discuss good garden behavior with your kids. Look at the beautiful plants and flowers, smell them, leave them for everyone to enjoy. Leave the pennies and fish in the ponds for everyone to enjoy. Leave the gravel on the paths. Leave your feet on the ground and not up on the wall, not on the plants, not in the water, not on your brother's butt.
  4. Bring age and location appropriate toys such as ball or frisbee (if allowed), sketch pad, camera, and dump truck. 
  5. If there is a water feature or if it has rained recently, there should be spare pants too. Last time we went to Duke Gardens, Wookie totally wiped out in the parking lot and ended up with a very muddy butt. This changed our post-garden lunch plans. Refer back to tip #2. 
  6. Set your expectations according to what will cause everyone the least stress. If you love to walk a couple miles to see all the things but don't have a crew of enthusiastic walkers, plan to compromise. Select a spot or two where they can goof around and you can photo-document the new species you find.

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