Despite the late-winter dreariness, there is hope in the air — and in the ground.
As the first day of spring approaches, green tips and early blooms are appearing in gardens, and the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek are no exception.
Gregg Tepper, director of horticulture for the 37-acre project off Piney Neck Road, said, “With warmer temperatures arriving and increasing day length, I’m seeing many of the perennials planted last year in the Meadow Garden beginning to break the soil surface showing that spring will soon be here.”
The two-acre Meadow Garden, designed by internationally known Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, is the jewel in the crown of the DBG. When completely planted, the garden will be resplendent with 70,000 herbaceous perennials and grasses.
Volunteers planted 17,000 of those in September, under the watchful eye of Oudolf, according to DBG Executive Director Sheryl Swed.
This spring, DBG is seeking financial support for its next planting, which will include another 30,000 herbaceous perennials and grasses that volunteers will “hand plant” in late April and early May, Swed said. Oudolf will also be in attendance for that planting, she said.
In June, another 20,000 plants — grasses, to be specific — will be planted, thus completing the planting for the Meadow Garden.
Ray Sander, president of Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) said, “We call on our Delmarva neighbors and friends to support the second phase of the planting of the Piet Oudolf Meadow Garden.”
In order to raise the $100,000 needed to purchase those plants, a fundraising website has been set up at www.gofundme.com/DelawareBotanicGardens for those wishing to contribute to the purchase of plants for the Meadow Garden.
In addition to planting the Meadow Garden, the DBG will be moving ahead with the gardens’ “entry garden” — plantings that will surround the parking area of the property and will serve to welcome guests and introduce them to the beauty of the gardens.
“We want the parking area to be beautiful as well,” Swed said.
Funding for that project has yet to be completed. In December, the DBG received a multi-year grant from the Ellice & Rosa McDonald Foundation toward completion of the entry garden, as well as the Rhyne Garden, designed to capture and filter runoff from the nearby building and paved parking lot. Sander said $500,000 is still needed to get the entry garden ready for the planned June 2019 opening.
Building a botanic garden from scratch is costly, Swed and Sander said this week. Tepper noted at a recent board meeting that “When you start from scratch, without having some benefactor, their estate and their means, we have a steep financial challenge.”
In all, Sander said, the DBG needs about $1 million more in funding before opening the garden to the public, in order to pay for such things as a ticketing system, signage for the property and equipment on which to print materials to hand out to visitors.
The organization is actively seeking funding from a number of sources. In early February, DBG representatives sent out its first federal government grant application, to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program, to fund part of the Wetland Outdoor Classroom.