Durden’s Duke

Durden's Duke
Durden's Duke

For the 100th anniversary celebration, the staff at the Duke Mansion sought to rejuvenate, enhance, and renew the surrounding gardens on the four-and-a-half acre property to its full potential and original pulchritude. Enter nationally renowned local landscape designer, Laurie Durden. This three-year long project began with Durden’’s elaborate master plan.

Included in the design was a series of enchanting garden rooms, strolling paths, and three new pedestrian entrances designed to better connect the Duke Mansion to surrounding Eastover, thus making them more inviting for the public to enjoy. The plants incorporated in the garden design are all indigenous to this region, or would have been found in a garden when the mansion was built.  

The team, led by Duke Mansion and Lee Institute President Cyndee Patterson and her extraordinary vision for the potential of the property also included The Providence Landscape Group, Joddy Peer, Arborscapes, and countless local craftsmen who have installed a total of eight gardens to date, with plans of adding several more this winter. The entire project is projected to be completed in the spring of 2016, although Durden mentions “a garden is always a work in progress.”

She earned her undergraduate degree in Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Durden then worked for a nationally-known interior designer and graphic design firm in New York City. She then realized her true calling and attended the prestigious Landscape Architecture Masters Program at the University of Virginia. Durden spent her three years of graduate school drawing inspiration from the many natural and built landscapes surrounding Charlottesville.

After completing the first year in her Master’s Program, Laurie had the opportunity to complete an internship at Dumbarton Oaks, a historic estate in the Georgetown Neighborhood of Washington, DC. There, she received an incredible hands-on experience working in the property’’s vast and breathtaking gardens.

Fast-forward twenty years, and Laurie is widely known across the South for her ability to transform outdoor spaces into custom-designed gardens and landscapes that are fabulous yet functional for any client and place – be it residential or commercial. Her gardens are detail-oriented; options are carefully considered and decisions are made to enhance her creations both aesthetically and functionally.

Durden’’s capacity to visualize the mature garden and place young, small plants accordingly is a great strength.

It is among the many reasons she has attracted the attention of major publications including the likes of Garden & Gun.

Durden draws inspiration from her travels and documents anything she finds: an interesting paving pattern or exquisite drain cover she stumbles across may be just the finishing touch of one of her projects. Durden is also constantly inspired by her favorite local gardens: The Elizabeth Lawrence Garden and all of the gardens at Winghaven, The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, and the new gardens at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

For Durden there is no “typical” project. She works diligently to create landscapes that are very specific to the client and site. There are, however, several favorite plants that can be found in many of her designs, including Boxwoods, Sweetbay Magnolias, Hydrangeas, and ferns due to their resiliency to the brutally hot, humid and lengthy Charlotte summers. Green is Laurie’s favorite color to play with in her designs.

“”There are so many different shades and textures of green. Evergreen plants are used to build the ‘bones’ of the garden and I consider the color as the ‘jewelry.’””

Durden’’s go-to colors for her designs typically consist of white, blues, and purples, but she has been recently enjoying experimenting with other color palettes.

According to Durden, “there is no “magic moment,” that gardens are finished; they are always a work in progress.” Gardens are constantly evolving with the seasons and designed to be enjoyed for many, many years.

For a bit more info: www.ldgardendesign.com