The garden in bloom (above). Joe-pye weed is one of many
native species visitors may see (below).
Photos by Wendy Carey
The University of Delaware’s native plant demonstration garden has received a landscape design award from the Delaware Nursery and Landscaping Association.
The garden is located at the College of Marine and Earth Studies’ (CMES’) Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del. It was created in 2004 by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, the University of Delaware, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary to demonstrate how coastal Delaware residents can include native plants in their home gardens.
“People weren’t familiar with the color, shape, texture, and variety that natives can bring to a home landscape,” said Wendy Carey, coastal processes specialist with Delaware Sea Grant. “You can go native and still have a beautifully landscaped yard.”
At the project’s outset, Carey turned to UD alumnus Christopher Valenti, owner of JB Landscaping in Lewes, for help with design. Valenti developed the initial landscape design and continues to collaborate on the garden’s layout and upkeep.
It was the garden’s outstanding landscape design that the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association recognized. The group is a nonprofit that serves the state’s horticultural-related businesses and the companies that supply them.
Thousands of people have visited the garden, whether through guided tours at the university’s Coast Day event or through free self-guided tours throughout the year.
Visitors learn that native plantings are attractive alternatives to traditional nursery stock because they require little maintenance and are specifically adapted to heat, drought, and soil stresses common to coastal areas. Native plants also provide important feeding, nesting, and resting habitat for many birds and animals and can add variety to a garden, creating a compatible extension of the natural ecosystem.
A wooden path and informational brochures and signage help guide visitors through the garden. White rose mallows, blue mistflowers, red chokeberry, and many other plants bloom throughout the growing season. Natural coastal Delaware ecosystems such as a meadow, woodland, a freshwater wetland, and a dune system are modeled throughout the garden as well.
Additional support for the project has been provided by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sussex Conservation District, Cape Henlopen High School, and North Creek Nurseries.
For more about the garden, including directions, visit www.deseagrant.org/nativeplantgarden.
To learn about Delaware Sea Grant, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more on CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.