New gardens love to get wet

Native plants, trees planted in Millsboro
May 29, 2013

If you haven't noticed, Delaware is flat, and land here does not feature the rolling hills of other states. All of this flatness leads to flooding.

Volunteers, citizens and environmentalists gathered in Millsboro May 21 for a rain garden workshop and planting event. Hosted by town officials, the day featured presentations on the benefits of rain gardens, and after the workshop, the 25 participants headed outside to get their hands dirty planting gardens.

Designed by Sarah Hilderbrand, education director for Environmental Concern of St. Michael's, Md., the gardens featured native plants that like the get their feet wet.

Hilderbrand chose blue-eyed grass, columbine, soft rush, black-eyed susans and silky dogwood trees to provide year-round color.

She said three rain gardens are planned for the Millsboro Civic Center, but only two were built during the workshop. She said the gardens act as sponges to suck up excess water from the parking lot and roads.

"You will only see water in the rain gardens after it rains," Hilderbrand said. The rest of the time, it looks like a normal garden.

In addition to containing runoff, the gardens also provide food for wildlife and landing places for butterflies and bees.

Environmental Concern partners regularly with the Center for the Inland Bays and its 1,000 Rain Gardens for the Bays project, and with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, water conservation officials and towns.

Frank and Carol Jarboe of Millsboro attended the workshop to learn the benefits of rain gardens.

"My wife brought me," said Frank with a chuckle and his trademark grin. "We like to garden, and at home we do try to control runoff on our property."

Jarboe said the course provided a refresher and gave him some ideas. The Jarboes are members of Millsboro Garden Club and help maintain a garden in the Labyrinth at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Millsboro.

Peggy Hepburn of Ocean View and Sande Taylor of Elkton, Md., worked as team, with Hepburn digging the holes and Taylor placing the plants.

Hepburn has worked on other CIB rain garden projects and enjoys spending the time outside.

Taylor, a master gardener with the University of Delaware cooperative extension, said the workshop is designed to educate people about rain gardens, no matter the experience level.

"Now that I've taken the course, I am confident enough to do a rain garden on my own property or help others with a rain garden," Taylor said.

For more information on rain gardens or the center's 1,000 Rain Gardens for the Bays initiative, go to