We took a road trip to our native NJ to celebrate Mother's Day with my mother who lives in Plainfield, NJ, my hometown. My mom is quite incredible at 91 years of age and we were thankful and happy to spend this special day with her.
We took an extra day hoping to visit friends, (Sara and David) who live in Somerville, NJ, after a short trip to nearby Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. What we didn't know is that they were also planning to visit as it's one of their favorite walking places. We received a call while we were on our way there, and amazingly, found out they had just arrived in the parking lot. We had a great time chatting while we walked around. It's great to re-connect with dear friends, we don't see often as we live 6 hours apart. (Sara and I attended high school together, so this long-lasting friendship is extra special.)
Duke Farms is an estate that was established by James Buchanan "Buck" Duke, an American entrepreneur and founder of Duke Power and the American Tobacco Company. Starting in 1893, he began piecing together 40 farm properties for his 2,800 acre estate, planning to reshape Duke Farms in the image of his native North Carolina. All of the estate's hills and nine lakes are man-made. At 3 times the size of Central Park, the estate has 22 miles of trails winding past fountains, lagoons and sculptures; 810 acres of woodlands; and 464 acres of a grassland bird habitat. Duke dug into the flat land to create a terrain of lakes and hills; the buildings were as ornate as the property was big. He also experimented with a hydropower system that later was the basis for what became an electricity empire. When Duke died in 1925, the property and his fortune (estimated in excess of $300 million) went to his only child, 12-year old Doris Duke. She moved it at age 15 and began restoring the estate which became her main residence. Ms.Duke died in 1993.
The property is now managed by the Doris Duke Foundation (DFF). After a 7-year, $50 million dollar makeover, "Duke Farms" was opened to the public in May 2012 as a wildlife and nature preserve offering daily free access to visitors (except Wednesdays). It's considered one of New Jersey's richest natural habitats with 1,000 acres of forest, meadows and prized orchids. The property includes over 300 species of plants, including 30 endangered species and 230 varieties of birds, such as the bald eagle and the great blue heron and features an "eagle-cam." Invasive plants have been removed from 830 acres, allowing native species to thrive.
The Farm Barn, built in 1906, and used to house horses was remodeled to become the orientation center, using the latest green building standards. It houses a display room with a continuously running video about the Duke family, the farm's early start and wall displays.
The property is maintained exclusively for walkers, bikers, artists and photographers —no wedding photos, film crews or music or dogs are allowed. Cars are restricted to a 400-vehicle parking area; a shuttle runs along a paved trail to drop off and pick up visitors along its route. Anything that's taken in must be taken out. A solar panel farm provides all of the electricity used on the grounds, collected rain and runoff provides non-potable water, marshy trenches act as natural water filters and a 400-plot community garden encourages area residents to grow their own vegetables in what's considered to be one of the largest community gardens in the country.
The old hay barn burned down in 1918. Doris Duke left the high stone walls and set marble sculptures of human figures inside. These are still visible and accessible to the public.
Orchid displays remain a popular feature of Duke Farms.The Tropical Orchid Garden is filled with a wide variety of orchid species from tropical regions along with some orchids that have been cultivated at Duke Farms throughout its history. All the flowers in the collage below were taken in the Orchid Garden. (NOTE: This blog post was done in Mars Edit an off-line editing program for Mac computers; unlike posts done in Microsoft's Live Writer for PCs, the images are not clickable to view larger.)
And closeups of yellow orchids . . .
Many white orchid varieties . . .
More orchids in pink and lavender colors . . .
Various shades or orange and dark reds . . .