Progress at Delaware Botanic Gardens

 Delmarva Daily Times/Delmarvanow.com, November 4, 2015
Jon Bleiweis, jbleiweis@dmg.gannett.com

2015 has been a milestone year for the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek. Work has begun to prepare the 37.5-acre site for surveying, as well as for paths in the Woodland Garden. On Aug. 13, final approval was given for an updated master plan for the site, located off Piney Neck Road, just outside Dagsboro's town limits. More recently, a world-renowned designer of naturalistic meadows agreed to design a portion of the gardens.

In this week's Q&A, Sheryl Swed and Raymond Sander, executive director and vice president of Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek, talk about more milestones, why the garden is needed and what's next.

Why is the garden needed in coastal Delaware?

Sander: The garden is going to be a demonstration for people to see how native plants can be beautiful and what they bring to the balance in the whole ecological network. Part of the things that we’re experiencing with the dying off of certain species is attributable to native plants being fazed out of gardens and nature. By clearing those native plants, insects, birds and other animals are starting to die off. We have to understand the role that native plants play in the whole ecological balance. This will be a good demonstration project for homeowners to see the beauty of native plants so they can take those examples back to their property and start planting natives, not just ornamentals that don’t really belong in this area.

How was the spot at Pepper Creek chosen?

Swed: We looked at about eight other properties but as soon as we saw this one, we knew it was the one. It was so exciting to find this, but I think the most important feature is we have waterfront. It’s just amazing. It was a soybean field so it’s all flat, except for the wooded area.

Piet Oudolf, known for his work at the High Line in New York City and several other gardens around the world, recently signed on to design a meadow garden at the site. What does that mean?

Sander: It’s like having Pelé on your soccer team. He has such a fantastic reputation in the garden world. It’s someone whose gardens people travel around the world to see. Someone put him in touch with us and he was intrigued by the idea of a coastal plains garden and the idea that this was an organic thing of people coming together to create a public garden. That was our biggest get so far.

How will the project impact economic development in the area?

Sander: Studies have demonstrated that it will create jobs, create opportunities in this section of the county, which has been, at times, passed over. Dagsboro is a great town, but it’s right now a pass-through. We’re going to make Dagsboro a destination and make this part of the county a thriving economic engine for the whole region.

What's next for the garden?

Sander: We’re hoping to hear from the Longwood Foundation about a grant in middle to late November and we have six other grant applications out. We’re starting our capital campaign. The groundbreaking we hope to do in the spring of 2016. That’s probably the next major milestone.

Copyright © 2015 Delmarva Daily Times

Photograph: Sheryl Swed and Raymond Sander flank DBG President Susan Ryan.