Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell led a delegation of Delawareans to launch the first phase of the Delaware Botanic Gardens last week.
More than 175 supporters turned out at the site along Pepper Creek to tour and show their support for this first public garden in southern Delmarva. The site is near Ocean View.
“I’m so impressed with what you’ve done here,” said 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.
The initial phase of the garden, when it opens in 2019, will include a colorful natural meadow designed by the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, extensive plantings and pathways in and along the edge of the existing woodlands, a living outdoor wetlands classroom, and a temporary visitors center. A wide variety of gardens, water features, and structures will be added in future years, including a visitor center designed by the architecture firm Lake/Flato.
“Today marks the actual physical start of this project,” said Botanic Garden President Susan Ryan in opening the ceremony. “This site epitomizes the Eastern Shore and the Delmarva Peninsula, from our native trees, the plants, the smell of the marsh, the ocean. It just does not get better than this site.”
Rodney Robinson of RAS Landscape Architects, Wilmington, pointed out that most botanic gardens begin as parts of private estates. “This one started from the ground up—and is thus rare and even more deserving of appreciation for the work involved,” he said.
Longwood Foundation President Thère du Pont said that the foundation was “pleased to be able to provide a grant that not only provided start-up funds but also provided a matching grant that enabled them to get even more….” In November 2015 the Longwood Foundation awarded a $750,000 grant with a $500,000 match requirement that raised more than $1.3 million by September 2016.
Pennoni Associates, a regional engineering firm, has provided pro bono engineering assistance, including creation of the original site plan and all of the requisite work to secure approvals from the Sussex Planning and Zoning Commission and the Sussex County Council.
Bancroft Construction Company, Wilmington, has joined the DBG project as construction manager, following the recent completion of a major project at Longwood Gardens.
The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek is embarking on a ten-year, multiphase plan to establish a major public garden for southern Delmarva that reflects the unique coastal plain.