The Piet Oudolf meadow takes shape

Volunteers, led by DBG Horticulture Director Gregg Tepper, came out to prepare and plant the meadow's middle section during the week of September 5. Piet Oudolf then arrived to inspect the work and decided to build up and smooth out the elevated viewing mound. Thanks to the many dedicated volunteers who came from across the country and to our photographers: Ken Arni, Raymond Bojarski, Barbara Katz, Janet Point, Gregg Tepper, and all who contributed.

Spring is springing

Spring is springing at the Delaware Botanic Gardens. The Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst' is in bloom in the woodlands. Lavender-purple blossoms on this spring witch hazel naturally appear in February here, adding a clean witch hazel scent to the garden.

Insta-shrubs

Through the generosity of Longwood Gardens, nine mature shrubs raised in its trial gardens were transplanted at the Delaware Botanic Gardens on a mild February day. The Florida anise shrubs (Illicium floridanum) now surround the Delmarva Bay wetland on DBG's eastern side. When they were no longer needed at the Pennsylvania garden, Longwood offered them to DBG. Pete Irwin of Irwin Landscaping in Hockessin, Delaware, transported them to Dagsboro and installed them with the assistance of several members of the company's landscape team. Found throughout the coastal plain and the piedmont, the anise shrubs thrive in low riparian areas such as the DBG site along Pepper Creek.

Installation photographs by Raymond Bojarski. Closeup and site photographs by Gregg Tepper

Sussex Gardeners tour the site

Members of the Sussex Gardens enjoyed a November tour of the Delaware Botanic Gardens site, led by Director of Horticulture Gregg Tepper. Shown are Myra McCormick, Tish Klineberger, Jenifer Hagy, MaryLinda Maddi, Susan Yerg, Elsbeth Wahl, Joy Toner, Marty Last, Karen Coombe, and Betsy Hansot.

Members of the Sussex Gardens enjoyed a November tour of the Delaware Botanic Gardens site, led by Director of Horticulture Gregg Tepper. Shown are Myra McCormick, Tish Klineberger, Jenifer Hagy, MaryLinda Maddi, Susan Yerg, Elsbeth Wahl, Joy Toner, Marty Last, Karen Coombe, and Betsy Hansot.

A new tree grows in our garden

Members of the Barefoot Gardeners of Fenwick Island, DE., came out to the garden recently to plant a tree that they donated in honor of Arbor Day. The tree is a Halesia monticola, commonly known as mountain silverbell (athough it grows well in the sandy loams of the coastal plain). Left to right in back surrounding me are Karen Dudley and the local publisher Susan Lyons. Seated are Carol McCloud and Chris Clark, a photographer who is one of our volunteers.

Our unique Delmarva bay habitat

Here are some pictures of the east wooded wetland at our property. This is such a unique habitat, known locally as a Delmarva bay. It is only a few hundred feet away from the edge of Pepper Creek, and on the topography map it sits a mere 2–3 feet above sea level. Each time it rains it fills with water, but once the rain subsides the fresh water slowly seeps out over several days, and it stays as a low, perpetually moist area. This is a specialized habitat for flora and fauna alike.

The fern that thrives here is Woodwardia areolata, known commonly as netted chain fern. It is an indicator of areas that stay perpetually moist but not in standing water. Also naturally present are Viola blanda and Carex lurida. 

Because of this unique set of circumstances, we are also planning to feature a moss garden nearby. The orange flags note areas where I have trialed other native plants requiring consistent moisture.

Canada toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) spotted

This is Nuttallanthus canadensis, known commonly as Canada toadflax. Its lovely pale purple and white blooms occur naturally here in the part shade of our loblolly pine woodlands, where there are thin patches in the pine needles. It thrives in the sandy, acid soil and benefits from the high canopy where openings to the sunlight occur. This native annual, which is distantly related to snapdragons, has seeded about quite readily, producing attractive stands.

Spotted on site: Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst'

I found this winter-blooming witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst', at the Delaware Botanic Gardens site today. According to the supplier Forestfarm at Pacifica, "Lovely plum-lavender-ribboned flowers emit a spicy fragrance when they mid-winter on this large rounded bush with its dark-gray-green foliage (bright scarlet in fall) ... two treats to look forward to!"

Garden Professional spotlight

Gregg would not want to brag, so we are doing it for him!

He is featured in the Garden Professional Spotlight of the magazine published by the American Public Gardens Association. This feature will bring more public awareness to the Delaware Botanic Gardens and Gregg's role in building our new garden from the ground up.

Congratulations, Gregg!

Magazine photograph of Gregg Tepper by Ken Arni.

Clearing the Woodland Gardens

Work has begun on the western section of the Woodland Gardens. Thick sections of greenbrier are being removed to make room for future plantings of native shrubs and trees. This wooded edge will feature many of our native vines as well.

 

Before and after greenbrier removal. There is literally no shrub layer or new tree saplings starting as the heavy growth of greenbrier and heavy pressure from hungry deer prevent it from being established. With it cleared we can begin plans for re-establishing, which includes using an organic deer repellant until a deer exclusion fence goes in.

A large greenbrier thicket before and after the thicket was removed. The decaying wood stays put, as it provides a naturalistic aesthetic and is home to many insects and grubs on which the birds feed. The rotting logs and cut-up debris also stays put!

A highlight of my career

An immense highpoint to my horticultural career occurred this past week with meeting Piet Oudolf. We were very fortunate to have him visit the property of the future Delaware Botanic Gardens and agree to design the meadow. I found Piet to be warm, approachable and thoroughly engaging with a true love for plants! 

It was all possible because of the connection that my dear friend Barbara made through Facebook. I'm excited for the future! Thank you, Barbara!

Future home of many native trees, shrubs, and vines

The one green spot here is a native Ilex opaca, American holly. The rest is a clean slate in which to plant.

The one green spot here is a native Ilex opaca, American holly. The rest is a clean slate in which to plant.

Though void now of any shrubs or new trees, this will change as we reestablish the shrub layer with native blueberries (Vaccinium) viburnums, hollies (Ilex), and serviceberries (Amelanchier), to name a few. A slope that starts nearby and continues to the Pepper Creek is about 20 feet above sea level. A more noticeable descent—unusual in this coastal plain area—adds great interest for viewing the layers of the Woodlands.

The glory of autumn in the west-side Woodlands

Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) red maple (Acer rubrum), and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) team up to create an awesome color display! 

The shapes of the trunks contrast beautifully. The leaf color, the darkness of the trunks, the clear blue sky, and the dappled sunlight all add to this visual delight.