On the path to plans at Delaware Botanic Gardens

Jon Bleiweis | delmarvanow.com
February 29, 2016

Armed with a camera and an iPhone, Piet Oudolf worked his way through the newly formed paths of the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek. When something caught his eye, he'd stop, observe and record.


It was the second time the world-renowned garden designer visited the garden near Dagsboro. He's been charged with creating a meadow garden at the site. He was last there in October.
Since then, he has noticed quite few changes. Horticulture director Gregg Tepper and his team have begun creating distinct pathways, bordered by logs. Gathering points Tepper called birds nests, one big enough for a group to stand in rather comfortably, served as meeting spots along the trail.


"You can see a real difference in what they have done," Oudolf said.

Oudolf was walking well behind a group of board members and supporters for the garden, taking his time to find what would catch his eye. He came across a dead tree, whose orange hue provided a contrast on the otherwise brown ground.

He stopped to take photos. He wants as much context as he can, as he prepares to come up with a design.


"It tells you a story. The story of things coming and going, alive and dead," he said.
The first part of the site, which is still on target to open for the summer solstice of 2017 — June 21 — will be a year-round attraction. The tree, or other landmarks which might be seen in winter, may not be visible in the warmer months when plants bloom. It's something he keeps in mind while he walks.


He also stops to take video of what's around him. For Oudolf, video provides more context than a still photo can.


"You need to have as much as possible to remember before you start doing your piece," he said.


Feb. 29 marked the first time the charette — the group of designers and architects responsible for developing the site — met in person to discuss the project.

As Oudolf walked with Rodney Robinson, principal of Wilmington-based Robinson Anderson Summers, the landscape architect for the project, they pointed out spots where they saw potential for good views. One spot, in particular, provided a dramatic contrast of an open view, after being in a more confined part of the pathway.


"Now for the first time you can see the lay of the land," said Robinson, who last visited the site in December. "You can see some distinct trees. You begin to say, alright, let’s find spaces and views or orientations where we can vary the experience as one walks through the garden."
While plans are being made for the garden, the team keeps in mind where picturesque views may be and makes decisions accordingly.

Robinson believes the garden has potential to be unique and distinctive. Because the garden is on what he called "raw land," it won't be reflective of a former owner. Rather, it will be reflective of the area itself.

"You’re starting right at a blank canvas, in a way, and there’s all kinds of opportunities," Robinson said. "We just have to identify them, narrow them down and agree on what the vision is, and find a way to take it forward. It’s quite exciting."