The Tobacco Heiress
Today is the birthday of the billionaire tobacco heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke who was born on this day in 1912.
When Duke was 46, Duke created an exotic public-display garden called Duke Gardens to honor her father, James Buchanan Duke. Drawing inspiration from DuPont's Longwood Gardens, the eleven interconnected gardens followed various themes focusing on a particular country or period.
Duke Gardens took visitors into an Italian courtyard, which featured a replica of Antonio Canova's sculpture, The Three Graces. Next came the Colonial Garden of the American South featuring camellias, azaleas, magnolia, and crepe myrtle. Then came the ferns and orchids of the Edwardian Garden, followed by the French and English gardens.
There was an exceptional Elizabethan knot garden, an American Desert, a Chinese Garden, A Japanese Garden as well as an Indo-Persian Garden which featured a Persian rose garden. The final gardens were Tropical and Semi-Tropical featuring vines, papyrus, and Bird of Paradise.
Clearly, Duke used what she had seen from her travels to design the elements in her displays, and Duke personally designed and installed the garden - sometimes working up to 16 hours a day. She donated the property to the Duke Foundation in 1960.
In 2008, sentiments about the gardens changed as some folks felt that the gardens "[perpetuated] the Duke family history of personal passions and conspicuous consumption."
The gardens remained open until May 25th, and then they were dismantled. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation said that,
"The day of the display garden is past. [The gardens] consume an inordinate share of financial and staff resources, they would require a very expensive modernization, and they no longer reflect the vision of Duke Farm’s future. A video record has been made for archival purposes."
With the closure of Duke Gardens, another arm of the Duke family legacy, the Duke Farms Foundation created new indoor and outdoor display gardens as part of Duke Farms, which opened to the public on May 19, 2012.