The colorful arrangements of palm trees, desert petunias, crape myrtles and cannas that greet visitors in the heart of Bethany Beach are the brainchild of Chantal Douchard, supervisor of the town’s horticulure department.
Hired in March 2004 by Bethany Beach Town Manager Cliff Graviet and Public Works Director Brett Warner as part of Bethany’s beautification project, Douchard arranges for the planting of exotic flowers and trees, and also oversees all fertilization, irrigation, and pest and disease control. Douchard has one full-time employee and three seasonal employees reporting to her.
It is impossible to miss Douchard’s artistry when approaching the heart of Bethany Beach. She is responsible for the beautiful mixture of shrubs and flowers in a number of central locales in this beach community — in the medians of Route 1, Route 26 and Garfield Parkway, as well as in the medians of Wellington Parkway, Campbell Place and Ocean View Parkway. Additionally, Douchard maintains all of the trees and flower pots lining Bethany’s sidewalks.
“When I design a bed, I want a certain continuity,” she said. “I try to keep it beachy and consistent with the flavor of Bethany Beach. I look at it two-dimensionally first, and see what I have to work with.”
Gaining extensive knowledge about trees, plants and flowers from an agricultural school in Quebec, where she majored in Landscape and Commercialization of Ornamental Horticulture, Douchard tries to combine her horticultural expertise with her own creative ideas.
“I can use different and interesting plants, and I always try to do something that I have never done before,” said Douchard. “I use the design rules that I learned in school, and then use my own ideas to make it mine.”
Douchard has acquired experience in the horticultural field not only through her schooling, but also through her previous work at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, N.Y., and at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden.
The flower beds along Garfield Parkway showcase Douchard’s artistic flair — cannas, coreopsis, lavender, marigolds, petunias, geraniums, mandevillas, tulips, crocuses, palm trees, angelonias, vanilla plants, gauras and verbenas all provide a flourishing testimony to her talent as not only a horticulturist but also an artist.
“I really can’t remember exactly how I got interested in this field,” said Douchard. “I remember a picture my mother took of me. I was leaning over to smell some flowers on a table at home. We lived near Montreal Botanical Gardens, so I definitely grew up around flowers and plants.”
The Bethany Beach area is familiar to Douchard, as she has been vacationing here for the past five years. Explaining why she loves the area so much, Douchard said, “The climate here is just so great.”
Because of her affinity for the Bethany Beach locale, Douchard decided to purchase a home in Ocean View three years ago.
“I love my job, because I don’t even feel like I’m working,” she explained. “For me, being outside and listening to people admiring my work is so great. That’s what keeps pushing me, because I have direct feedback from everyone.”