FAQ: What is the Memorial Garden and how can I support Duke Gardens through a planned gift?

Our most common questions (and answers) about preserving your legacy at Duke Gardens

Photo by Kathy Julian

The Memorial Garden at Sarah P. Duke Gardens is a beautiful and peaceful area where the life of a loved one is remembered and celebrated. Although it sits on two acres in our Historic Gardens, between the Rose Garden and the Hanes Lawn, the Memorial Garden has the feel of a private wooden retreat. A winding path leads from the courtyard up a wooded hill to a cul-de-sac bordered by lush plants and flowers. Along either side of the path are limestone bricks engraved with the names and stories of those whose ashes are buried there.

Our office is often asked how to have ashes buried in the Memorial Garden and the various ways to support Duke Gardens through a charitable gift so we thought it would be helpful to share some of these frequently asked questions (and answers) below.

1.  Can I have my ashes (or the ashes of a loved one) buried in the Memorial Garden?

Yes, with a signed Memorial Garden agreement and your completed gift of $25,000, ashes can be buried in a biodegradable urn (provided by the family) or can be placed directly in the ground. You may also choose to preserve the ashes and have a marker placed in your designated spot.

A representative from Duke Gardens is more than happy to tour the Memorial Garden with you to show you the available locations. A signed Memorial Garden agreement will secure the burial location you have chosen.

2. If I am married, can my spouse have his/her ashes placed next to mine?

Yes, your spouse or other family members may have their ashes buried next to or near yours.  A gift of $25,000 per individual is required to be eligible for burial in the Memorial Garden.

3.  Can we hold a service at the Memorial Garden?

Yes, you are able to have a burial service at the Memorial Garden. Because of the Garden’s design, space is limited. Often, families will have a larger memorial service that compliments the more private and intimate burial service held at the Memorial Garden. Duke Gardens will work with the donor or donor’s family to find an appropriate date and time for the burial.

4.  What are some of the ways I can make my gift?

A new gift of $25,000 per person to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Endowment Fund makes you eligible for a burial spot in the Memorial Garden. Gifts can be made through cash, appreciated securities or through a planned gift, such as a charitable gift annuity or bequest.

We are happy to work with you and your financial advisor to determine the right choice for you. Regardless of how your gift is made, Duke must receive your gift in full before ashes are interred in the Memorial Garden.

5.  Is my gift to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Endowment tax deductible?

Yes, a portion of your gift is tax deductible. Duke University estimates that the non-deductible, fair market value of goods or services for the opportunity to be buried in the Memorial Garden is $500. Please consult with your own tax advisors and legal counsel to determine how your gift will affect your individual tax and financial situation.

6.  Are there any requirements for making a planned gift (such as a charitable gift annuity or a bequest) to the Memorial Garden?

Yes. In order to reserve a space in the Memorial Garden with a planned gift, a donor must adhere to certain guidelines. Please contact our office for more information about deferred giving to Duke Gardens.

7. Who should I contact for more information about the Memorial Garden?

For more information, please contact:

Kate Senner, Director of Development & Major Gifts for Sarah P. Duke Gardens at (919) 684-5579 or by email at kate.senner@duke.edu.

TAGS: Charitable Giving Strategies On Campus at Duke Sarah P. Duke Gardens

About the author

Anne Sherman

Senior Associate Director of Gift Planning for Duke Health Development


Anne works with Duke Health donors who are interested in making a charitable gift to Duke and helps them navigate any tax or legal implications associated with the gifts. Prior to joining the gift planning team, Anne served as the assistant dean of academic advising at Duke Law School as part of the Law School’s Offices of Academic and Student Affairs and worked in the Law School’s Career and Professional Development Office. Earlier in her career, Anne worked for the college fund at the University of Chicago and practiced employee benefits law at firms in Chicago and Raleigh. Anne received her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, graduating with honors, and her undergraduate degree from Duke. Anne and her family enjoy Duke Athletics events, and she actively volunteers in the Durham community.