Returning the Park to Prairie
Research Triangle Park firm Syngenta finds inspiration in Blomquist By Annabel Renwick, Horticulturist, Blomquist Garden of Native Plants When Stefan Bloodworth first conceived the creation of a native grassland landscape at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, it was a bold concept. We knew that insects and birds would be delighted to encounter this new instance of an endangered ecosystem, but its wild appearance could also prove to be visually challenging for some garden visitors. The positive feedback to the Piedmont Prairie in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants has exceeded all of our expectations. Visitors from Duke, Durham and beyond have been highly supportive of this pioneering horticultural display, as have landscape architects, home gardeners, developers, homeowners’ associations, and staff from public gardens across the nation. It’s clear that the Piedmont Prairie is an ideal catalyst for the kind of community partnerships that are central to Duke Gardens’ and Duke University’s missions. During this past year we’ve shared our knowledge and seeds harvested from the prairie, consulted with many groups on native plant propagation, and presented our work on the prairie
at a wide variety of venues. Yet perhaps the most successful endeavor to date has been a collaboration with Syngenta RTP in Research Triangle Park, the technology hub just south of Durham. Following their construction of a new research facility in 2016, there was a strong drive from Syngenta’s staff to create a surrounding landscape that would not only attract pollinators and birds but that would reflect the natural environment of the North Carolina piedmont.
“It’s clear that the Piedmont Prairie is an ideal catalyst for the kind of community partnerships that are central to Duke Gardens’ and Duke University’s missions.” The first impression on seeing the RTP landscape from the air is via the approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The area consists of a mixture of pine, deciduous woodland and mowed lawn separated by roads and urban sprawl. There