Delaware Botanic Gardens Makes Major Leap Forward Toward ‘Opening the Garden Gates’ in 2019

This month the Delaware Botanic Gardens on Pepper Creek took a major leap forward in its drive to become a landmark public garden in the region, and a tourist destination for Delaware

The internationally renowned Dutch garden designer, Piet Oudolf, whose planting design for New York City’s famed greenway, the High Line, draws millions of visitors each year, arrived in Dagsboro just after Labor Day to oversee the planting of the first phase of the Delmarva Meadow at the Delaware Botanic Gardens.  This is his first installation in the mid-Atlantic region. 

For the DBG, Mr. Oudolf designed one of his iconic perennial meadows using over 65,000 plants, primarily native varieties, each placed to create a landscape of year-around beauty with color, texture and movement.  Gregg Tepper, DBG Director of Horticulture, noted that “butterflies, bluebirds and goldfinches arrived to the meadow while we were still planting—a great sign that the meadow will not only inspire and delight people, but will attract the birds, bees and other pollinators so essential to our gardens and to our farms on Delmarva.”

Holly Shimizu, former Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden and Advisory Council member for DBG said that, “This garden will confirm the astounding beauty that can be achieved through the artistic, thoughtful and sensitive placement of beautiful plants in a meadow environment.

“Piet Oudolf’s design for the Delmarva Meadow is absolutely brilliant, and the planting that has just been completed brings that brilliance to life,” said Donald Rakow, DBG

Advisory Council member and Associate Professor at Cornell University and Fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Rodney D. Robinson, Advisory Council member and landscape architect and designer said, “The creation of this extraordinary Meadow Garden is a major accomplishment for any public garden.  I can't think of a better way to introduce the Delaware Botanic Gardens to the public.” 

Over five days, 17,000 plants were placed and planted by more than fifty volunteers working in teams, each led by professional horticulturists and landscape contractors, many volunteering their time for the opportunity to work with Piet Oudolf.

Barbara Katz, Advisory Council member and owner of London Landscapes, who worked with DBG Horticulturist, Gregg Tepper to plan and organize the monumental planting project, lauded “the exceptional enthusiasm, patience and skill of the myriad volunteers that created a laser-focused atmosphere, vibrating with positive energy.”

“Many horticulturists and landscape contractors not only shared their expertise but also made generous in-kind donations, to help propel the project,” said Executive Director Sheryl Swed.

Looking ahead, DBG Board President, Ray Sander said, “"When the public sees the beauty of this Delmarva Meadow, there will be a realization that having a Piet Oudolf Meadow in Delaware is the gardening equivalent of having Amazon and Apple select Delaware for their headquarters."  

The world is already taking notice. In a Washington Post article published this week, author and veteran gardening columnist Adrian Higgins recalled walking the site alone with Oudolf, “…the rock star from Hummelo turned to me and said: ‘The garden scene here is small.  But so much energy.  It’s unbelievable.’”

After visiting the Gardens, Mr. Higgins had his own high praise, “If cultural institutions were boxers, the DBG would be Rocky Balboa, an underdog with a seemingly uncrushable spirit.”

The Board of Directors of the Delaware Botanic Gardens hopes to ‘Open the Garden Gates’ in 2019.

A series of videos documenting the planting of the meadow can be viewed on the DBG website at delawaregardens.org  Other videos of the Gardens are on the DBG YouTube channel at youtube.com/channel/UCAvrTN_li6I2gDR6NswkvsA

The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek has embarked on a multiyear, multiphase plan to establish a flagship botanic garden for Delmarva that manifests the values motivating all garden lovers everywhere—from the magnificence of nature to the role of horticulture in learning, enjoyment, health and conservation.

Founded in 2012 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Delaware Botanic Gardens will celebrate the coastal plain with a flagship sustainable garden that delights and educates visitors and inspires them to preserve Delmarva’s native landscapes.

Further information on the Delaware Botanic Gardens, including membership and donations, go to delawaregardens.org and facebook.com/delawaregardens

Carla Markell Appoints Four Members to the Delaware Botanic Gardens Advisory Council

The Board of the Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) and Carla Markell announced the appointment of four new members to the DBG Advisory Council.  In naming the new members, Shawn M. Garvin, Barbara Katz, Sally Boswell and Diane Maddex, Markell, chair of the Advisory Council said, "As the vision of this world class public garden becomes a reality, we are honored to welcome these experienced new advisers to our team."    

DBG Executive Director, Sheryl Swed said, "We are honored that this exceptional project continues to attract the interest and support of thought leaders from across the region offering their experience and expertise to this landmark project."

Shawn Garvin, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has 25 years of experience in environmental matters and public health, most recently as Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator prior to his DNREC appointment.  He joins his two DNREC predecessors on the Advisory Council; David Small, now a Senior Consultant with Duffield Associates, and Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Having the participation and guidance of these three environmental leaders, will ensure that DBG achieves our vision, mission and commitment to preservation and land stewardship,” said Swed.                    

Barbara Katz, a widely respected landscape designer and landscape industry leader brings 30 years of experience to the Advisory Council, strengthening the DGB’s connection to leading professional nurseries which are important sources for the public gardens' creation. Katz was responsible for introducing world renowned landscaped designer, Piet Oudolf, to the Delaware Botanic Garden. Oudolf is designing the Delmarva Meadow, one of the major features of the DBG and his first installation in the mid-Atlantic region.  Katz has worked closely with DGB Director of Horticulture, Gregg Tepper, to identify and secure over 65 thousand plants that Oudolf selected for the Delmarva Meadow. Planting of the meadow is scheduled to begin in September.

Sally Boswell has demonstrated her leadership and commitment to conservation and environmental protection as an educator and nonprofit leader in Delaware. She brings more than three decades of experience in public affairs, communications, project management and strategic planning.  For twelve years, she directed the education and outreach program at the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.   “Boswell’s experience directing environmental education programs will be a great accelerator to DGB's education mission and the Dogfish Head Outdoor Living Classroom being built in conjunction with Envirotech Environmental Consulting.  We also look forward to benefiting from her extensive knowledge of the Delmarva region in support of public outreach and fundraising on behalf of the DBG.” according to Swed.

As a DBG Board member, Diane Maddex was a major contributor in the development of the Delaware Botanic Gardens’ branding, bringing her skills and aesthetic eye to the design of the website and publications. She is an award-winning architectural author and had a key role in attracting Lake/Flato, an architectural firm known for its leadership in ‘place-based sustainable architecture’ to the DBG project.  “A DBG Board Member the past several years,” Swed said, “we are grateful that Diane will continue to share her great knowledge of architecture and design as a member of the Advisory Council.”

Ray Sander, DBG President, said, "With the addition of these four outstanding professionals to the Advisory Council plus the previously announced appointment of Susan Ryan, our former DBG President, we go forward with a group of remarkable individuals who have achieved exceptional public and private sector accomplishments. As members of our Advisory Council they are bringing their intellectual firepower and energy to help create this wonderful addition to life on Delmarva -- the Delaware Botanic Gardens"

Upcoming events include a September 8th lecture by Piet Oudolf, including a preview of a recently completed documentary of Oudolf's work at Lewes Public Library; followed by a private reception with Oudolf at the Dogfish Head Inn in Lewes. The Annual DBG Farm Dinner at Good Earth Farm is planned for September 28.  Tickets for these events are on sale now at delawaregardens.org.

The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek has embarked on a multiyear, multiphase plan to establish a flagship botanic garden for Delmarva that manifests the values motivating all garden lovers everywhere—from the magnificence of nature to the role of horticulture in learning, enjoyment, health and conservation. Founded in 2012 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Delaware Botanic Gardens will celebrate the coastal plain with a flagship sustainable garden that delights and educates visitors and inspires them to preserve Delmarva’s native landscapes.

Further information on the Delaware Botanic Gardens, including membership and donations, go to delawaregardens.org and facebook.com/delawaregardens 

New president and board members for DBG

New president and board members for DBG

Raymond J. Sander was elected president of the Delaware Botanic Gardens at the March meeting of the organization’s board of directors. Susan Ryan, who led the group as president for nearly two years, passed the baton to Sander, who was serving as vice president and manager of the new garden's construction contracts.

"I am proud of our project and the accomplishments we have made over the last two years to get to this point,” said Ryan, owner of Good Earth Market and Organic Farm. “I appreciate the opportunity to have worked with so many talented people. On the eve of breaking ground, with a professional construction management team and most contracts and funds in place, this innovative project is well on its way to accomplishing the first part of its master plan in 2017.”

Sander announced that “a few of our stalwart board members have also justifiably asked to be relieved of their responsibilities. DBG says farewell to two board members who have contributed to many of our recent accomplishments. As treasurer, David Green has taken DBG from managing its finances in a checkbook to a fully automated accounting system managed by a professional accounting firm. He has overseen the CPA firm that has reviewed our financial records for two succeeding cycles.” The new president also noted that Diane Maddex, DBG’s webmaster, editor, and graphic designer, “recreated the DBG web site as an inspirational presentation of our project. Her creativity and long experience in the publishing industry have also been reflected in DBG's publications.”

Read More

Master plan prepared

Master plan prepared

A master plan presenting a detailed vision for the Delaware Botanic Gardens in Sussex County has been prepared by Robinson Anderson Summers, Inc., noted landscape architects in Wilmington, Delaware. The plan represents the contributions of RAS and the garden’s other team members: Piet Oudolf, an internationally renowned meadow designer; Lake/Flato, an award-winning architecture firm that promotes sustainable buildings; Pennoni Associates, a multidisciplinary engineering firm serving clients worldwide; and Bancroft Construction Company, whose related clients in the Mid-Atlantic region include Longwood Gardens. 

The public is invited to attend the release of the 32-page plan, to be held on March 30 at 6:30 p.m. and hosted by the Delaware Nature Society at its Ashland Nature Center, 3511 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, DE 19707.  Rodney Robinson, FASLA, LEED AP, and Allan Summers, RLA, LEED AP, key principals of RAS on the project, will provide an illustrated lecture on the garden’s scope and attractions. The event is open to the public without charge. Please Rsvp to DBG Executive Director Sheryl Swed at sherylswed@delawaregardens.org or call 202-262-9856.

To read the complete master plan, click here.

Read More

Dogfish Head to sponsor DBG's Living Outdoor Classroom

 Dogfish Head to sponsor DBG's Living Outdoor Classroom

When the Delaware Botanic Gardens opens, one of its most important features will be a Living Outdoor Classroom. This vital educational tool has moved closer to realization with the support of the Dogfish Head Companies, which has pledged $30,000 to create this learning center in the public garden being built along Pepper Creek. The natural area—centered on a freshwater intermittent wetland—will be named the Dogfish Head Outdoor Classroom.


Designed for visitors of all ages, this educational attraction was included in the garden plan to reconnect educators, children, and adults with nature. Studies show that natural spaces and materials stimulate imagination and spur inventiveness and creativity. Nature-based learning also calms and reduces stress while it promotes exploration and discovery.  


“We are thrilled to be able to contribute to environmental education in our region through this outdoor classroom,” said Mariah Calagione of Dogfish Head, the brewery and distillery in Milton that has brought national recognition to Delaware. “Motivating people to go outside more has become so important in our internet age. This feature of the garden will expand the area’s opportunities for learning about nature.”

Read More

The Delaware Botanic Gardens launches phase one

The Delaware Botanic Gardens launches phase one

Governor Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell led a delegation of notable Delawareans to launch the first phase of the Delaware Botanic Gardens on December 1. More than 175 enthusiastic supporters turned out at the site along Pepper Creek to tour and show their support for this first public garden in southern Delmarva.

“I’m so impressed with what you’ve done here,” said Governor Markell, who called the garden’s initial development over the past four years “an awesome job.” As he told the garden leaders—including President Susan Ryan, Executive Director Sheryl Swed, and Vice President Ray Sander—“You had a very compelling vision.”

Markell also called his wife, Carla, “a great cheerleader” in her role as chair of the DBG Advisory Council. Among her contributions to the project was persuading the noted landscape architect Rodney Robinson of Robinson Anderson Summers in Wilmington to take the lead in refining the garden's original site plan and in creating its master plan.

Read More

Delaware Botanic Gardens goes over the top

The Delaware Botanic Gardens has leveraged a $750,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation into $1.25 million to help it open Delmarva’s first botanical garden. The foundation challenged the nonprofit organization to raise a 2-to-1 match for a $250,000 portion of the grant. The garden went over the top of the challenge, amassing some $560,000 in less than a year, exceeding the goal by $60,000.

“To add to our achievement,” responded DBG President Susan Ryan, “we reached this amazing level with six months to spare.” When the Longwood Foundation, based in Wilmington, announced its award in November 2015, it set a deadline of March 25, 2017, for the garden to reach the matching requirement. “For this feat, heartfelt thanks are due our dedicated business and individual supporters, members, and volunteers,” added Ryan.

Well over half of the fundraising total was raised from pledges and pledge payments to support development of the garden. Another large portion represents grants from the Welfare Foundation ($75,000) and the Marmot Foundation ($40,000). The remainder originated in other donations, memberships, and event income.

The annual Good Earth Market Farm Dinner, held this year on September 15, brought in about $50,000. A challenge made at the dinner from Chuck Coltman of Bethany Beach, president of the Coltman Family Foundation, raised $31,000, including his $10,000 challenge. Sponsorships, ticket sales, and a silent auction increased the evening’s total.

Presenting sponsors for the farm dinner were Bancroft Construction Company, Banks Wines & Spirits, the meadow designer Piet Oudolf, Pennoni Associates, Robinson Anderson Summers, and SoDel Concepts. Other key sponsors were Coastal Tented Events, Good Earth Market and Organic Farm, and the Sussex County Land Trust. In all, 43 individuals and businesses served as sponsors for this popular local event.

“We are indeed over the top at this great accomplishment,” said Raymond J. Sander, DBG vice president and chair of its capital campaign committee. “These funds move us much closer to opening the garden gates. But beyond that, this phenomenal support shows how much people and organizations across Delmarva understand what a great addition this garden will be to our region and how much it’s needed.”

Other members of the DBG Capital Campaign Leadership Committee are Susan Ryan, David Green, Kathy Green, Sheryl Swed, Gregg Tepper, and Cam Yorkston.

Over the top! With six months to spare.

Over the top! With six months to spare.

DeWitt and Riska named to Advisory Council

DeWitt and Riska named to Advisory Council

The Delaware Botanic Gardens has added two new members to its Advisory Council, Henry DeWitt and Michael E. Riska.  The additions bring to fourteen the number of professionals who provide their expertise to further development of Delmarva’s first botanical garden. Delaware First Lady Carla Markell serves as chair of the Advisory Council.

The new members bring long service to the environmental community as well as nonprofit and financial management experience.


Henry DeWitt, of Henlopen Acres outside Rehoboth Beach, founded DeWitt & Associates, a company whose software is used by NASA ground networks to control satellites. In addition to currently consulting with NASA, he is a former commissioner of Rehoboth Beach who now serves on the Henlopen Acres Tree Committee. DeWitt is also a member of the Rehoboth Art League finance committee and is a former chair of its audit committee.

Michael E. Riska, of Hockessin, was awarded the Nature Conservancy’s Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award in 1997. He retired in 2011 as executive director of the Delaware Nature Society, where he had served since 1984, including directing its education programs. The Delaware Nature Society works to improve the environment through conservation, advocacy, and education.

As Carla Markell, Advisory Council chair, notes, “The Delaware Botanic Gardens is fortunate to gain the wisdom of these talented people. I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with Mike Riska as cochairs of the Ambassadors Group for Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside. Both he and Henry DeWitt are environmental leaders and hands-on gardeners who will only enrich the programs of this exciting new garden in our state.”

Read More

Delaware Botanic Gardens adds two new board members

Delaware Botanic Gardens adds two new board members

The Delaware Botanic Gardens board of directors has elected two new members, Ruth Rogers Clausen and Janet Meenehan Point.  The additions bring to ten the number of board members, who are working to open the garden along Pepper Creek in Dagsboro. An Advisory Council adds a dozen professionals to the project’s expertise....

As Susan Ryan, president of the Delaware Botanic Gardens, noted, “These individuals bring both a depth of gardening expertise and important managerial and marketing know-how.”

Read More

Longwood Foundation awards $750,000 to the garden

Longwood Foundation awards $750,000 to the garden

The Longwood Foundation has approved a $750,000 grant to the Delaware Botanic Gardens to help it begin work on Phase One of the garden, located on Pepper Creek near Dagsboro, Delaware. The grant will be provided in two components: an immediate grant of $500,000 plus the remaining $250,000 when the garden has raised an additional $500,000 in cash or pledges. This two-for-one challenge expires March 25, 2017. 

"On behalf of my dedicated Board, our outstanding Advisory Council, and our hundreds of loyal members and supporters, we are humbled and honored by this Longwood Foundation Leadership Grant,” said Susan Ryan, president of the Delaware Botanic Gardens. 

"The next eighteen months will be our greatest challenge,” she continued. “We must start and complete the construction of Phase One of the garden. We must raise an additional $500,000 by March 2017 to qualify for the $250,000 challenge grant. We must begin the Piet Oudolf Meadow Gardens. And we must continue to attract members and donors to help fulfill our plans to open this inspiring garden." 

Read More