Horticultural attraction grows in Sussex County

37-acre Botanic Gardens opens for season

By Logan B. Anderson
Posted 3/20/22

DAGSBORO — The Delaware Botanic Gardens’ roots in Sussex County grew a little deeper this week, thanks to the generosity of local businesses and its other supporters.

The …

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Horticultural attraction grows in Sussex County

37-acre Botanic Gardens opens for season


DAGSBORO — The Delaware Botanic Gardens’ roots in Sussex County grew a little deeper this week, thanks to the generosity of local businesses and its other supporters.

The horticultural destination celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by kicking off its 2022 season with the official opening of its new restroom facility.

“It’s the combination of funds from the public and private sector and from donors that has enabled us to do this,” said Ray Sander, president of the Delaware Botanic Gardens Board of Directors.

The new facility is part of a multiphase plan that will bloom into an event and visitor space at the gardens near Dagsboro.

With help from the Bethany Beach-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, Delaware Botanic Garden officials, along with the garden’s staff, supporters and local leaders, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new restroom building.

The 800-square-foot building is clad in cedar siding and extends into the wooded area behind the garden’s current welcome center.

The building features many environmentally and garden friendly features. Along with a living wall of plants, the building has a 1,000-gallon rainwater catchment system. The rainwater is collected in a cistern, fed by a special “water chain,” which drains from the roof. Incorporated into the design, the system captures rain from the building’s roof and directs it into the large tank with the use of chains.

“A few years back, there was a presentation made at the county council about what could be done with this piece of property that we owned and they talked about this botanical garden. I rode down here and I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be a good project.’ I can now say that we are all pleased with how it has turned out,” said Sussex County Council President Michael H. Vincent.

“This is a great place to come see things, walk and enjoy Sussex County.”

Fifth District County Councilman John L. Rieley praised the horticultural group’s perseverance.

“I remember a presentation from some folks that were painting a picture of botanical gardens. It was so wonderful that it didn’t seem possible,” Councilman Rieley said on Thursday. “Vision coupled with persistence equals greatness.”

While addressing the large crowd gathered to celebrate the new DBG season, Mr. Sander said that one of the best things about the facility is not the plants that it showcases, but the community it cultivates.

The restroom facility’s sleek modern design was born from the fruit of that community.

One day after a Pilates class, Sheryl Swed, executive director of the Delaware Botanic Gardens, was talking with her instructor, Jennifer Edmonston, about the organization’s need for a bathroom facility. Ms. Edmonston, a supporter of the garden’s efforts herself, said that her husband would be happy to help the group.

Scott Edmonston is the president and principal architect of Bethany Beach-based SEA Studio Architects.

Ms. Edmonston talked with her husband, and he added it to his to-do list. The couple donated their services to the DBG for free.

“It’s a remarkable milestone for the long-term health and sustainability of the gardens. We’re proud to be a very small part of that,” Mr. Edmonston said on Thursday during the building’s dedication.

The garden’s board of directors chose Wanderson Noriega’s WN Builders to construct the facility. Nickle Electric, Aquatech Water Specialties and Waggoner Welding also worked on the project.

“It takes a committed contractor to do this. They may not have done it pro bono but they ate a lot of costs along the way and they deserve a ton of credit for making this building,” Mr. Edmonston said.

With construction complete, the Delaware Botanic Gardens staff will soon begin to plant a rain garden on both sides of the new building.

The seeds for what would grow to be the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek were planted in 2012 when a group of volunteers came together to fill a need for horticultural education and exposition in Sussex County. The group formed a board of directors and a nonprofit agency germinated. The group worked with Sussex County leaders to find a location.

The Sussex County Land Trust had the perfect patch of ground — a 37-acre former farm on Pepper Creek close to downtown Dagsboro.

The land trust board granted the garden group a 99-year lease for $1 a year.

“I think we’re up to $8,” Russ McCabe, who was a member of the Sussex County Land Trust board when the lease was issued, said with a laugh on Thursday.

“This represents something that wouldn’t have been imagined of 30 or 40 years ago. I think it is perfect,” Mr. McCabe said. “You are preserving and promoting our heritage but you are also preserving our future.”

Now that the restroom facility has blossomed, the botanic garden board will move on to its next project. Later this year, the organization expects to break ground on the Annette Pennoni Meadow Pavilion. The planned facility will have a concession area and a large space for events and weddings.

For more information, to volunteer or to learn how to support the Delaware Botanic Gardens, visit delawaregardens.org.

The facility is now open for visitors weekly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

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