A&E Report Spotlight: The Delaware Botanic Gardens - A Treasure For The State And The World.
Located off of Piney Neck Road in Dagsboro, Delaware, the Delaware Botanic Gardens has a distinct mission—to create a world-class, inspirational, educational, and sustainable public botanic garden in southern Delaware for the benefit and enjoyment of all.
And when the Board of Directors say “all”, they mean it. All, as in all of the entire world. When the multi-year, 37 acre, project is completed, it will serve not only as a natural treasure for Sussex County and Delaware, but it is predicted to draw visitors year-round from across the United States as well as internationally.
Each year, through the combined efforts of experienced leaders, partners and hundreds of volunteers, the public garden grows closer to completion with each passing season.
In this recent episode of The A&E Report, host Michael Sprouse made his third annual visit to the grounds of the Delaware Botanic Gardens during their first public event called “Sip and Saunter” for a first-hand view of the progress to date and to speak with some of the key creators and supporters of the gardens including internationally renowned Dutch garden designer, nurseryman and author Piet Ouldof, celebrated landscape architect Rodney Robinson, and Delaware Senior State Senator Tom Carper.
Three topographical attributes of the 37-acre site will guide the gardens and buildings: a 25-acre flat uplands plateau highlighted by an innovative meadow, a 12.5-acre sloped woodland with freshwater wetlands, and 1,000 feet of waterfront with tidal wetlands on Pepper Creek. Added to these will be a fourth environment: a freshwater pond on a section of the plateau.
Piet Oudolf has designed the spectacular meadow incorporating broad bands of native grasses and seasonal flowering blooms which will form the sweeping center of the site and the gateway to the Woodland Gardens. Herbaceous plant species native to Delmarva and surrounding areas will be featured in a breathtaking design. The open garden will also support thousands of pollinators, butterflies, and birds. One of the primary objectives of this space, located in the Atlantic Flyway, is to encourage the bird population and the insects they need to survive. Additionally, a portion of the Meadow may be set aside for butterflies and hummingbirds.
One of the garden’s most striking natural features is a relatively undisturbed, heavily canopied, stratified forest, whose 12.5 acres stretch along the site's southern boundary and slope gently down to the 1,000-foot frontage on Pepper Creek. The forested wetlands offer natural venues for ferns and moss and it will showcase the unique plants and wildlife that thrive in the moist habitat.
A large bog like area—one of the most threatened of all habitats throughout Delaware and the East—will act as a safe preserve for vanishing species and propagate many highly endangered native plants. A pinery will demonstrate the richly diverse textures and colors of the five pines native to Delaware, with a shrub and herbaceous layer of plant species unique to the acidic habitat.
Other planned features of the garden will be a freshwater pond surrounded by a garden of hardy aquatics and hundreds of riparian plants that appeal to the many species of wildlife in southern Delaware. Children’s Discovery Spaces are also being developed to enhance children's exploration and discovery of nature. Demonstration and display gardens, walking trails, garden galleries and more are also included in the long-term plan of the gardens.
Sheryl Swed, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Delaware Botanic Gardens, was thrilled with the response to the “Sip and Saunter” event. “It was our first public invitation to the gardens for our members and others who have helped us reach this point. More than 130 people were in attendance and they loved being there. We’re very appreciative to Dogfish Head Brewing for generously donating all of the wonderful food and beer,” she told Sprouse. “It was good for DBG on many levels, plus, it gave us a sense of how to accommodate a crowd of more than 1oo people,” Swed continued.
Swed also accented the importance of continued support from the public in terms of volunteering and donations. She told Sprouse that they “will be planting 34,000 more plants and grasses in June to complete the meadow. The cost of the plants for the meadow alone came to more than $300,000. We have a special Go Fund Me account on our website where the public can donate to help us with the cost. We are also very appreciative of our volunteers. We have about 200 now, but we always can use more. And while volunteers for planting are very important, we also are looking for volunteers for all aspects of the project. For example, in the future, we’ll be looking for docents to lead tours.”
Raymond J. Sander, President of the Delaware Botanic Gardens, told Sprouse that they currently have “300 members who donate every year simply because they share the dream of the completion of the gardens.” “This is the year,” Sander added, “that we went from plans, photographs and drawings to an actual implementation of that dream. As the dream becomes real, we really need the continued support of the community and our civic leaders as we continue to move into the final delivery stage.”
The next on-site public event for members will be the Garden Dinner to be held on September 6th this year. Current plans call for a controlled soft public rolling opening beginning in the Spring of 2019 with the goal of educating volunteers and members how to interact with and maintain the gardens in preparation for their Grand Opening to the public which is slated for September 2019.
Raymond told Sprouse that Master Dutch garden designer informed them that with the help of Mother Nature, the meadow garden will be at peak for the public viewing in September of 2019. “When Piet speaks about the garden,” he added with a gentle laugh, “we listen.”
For more information about the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek, including how to become a member, make a donation to the DBG and/or their Go Fund Me Account, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit them online at www.delawaregardens.org.
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