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.