Southern Delaware is best known for its resort towns on the Atlantic Ocean. Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach draw thousands of vacationers every summer. Personally, I prefer the warm days and cool nights of early fall, after the summer crowds are gone. I’ve been vacationing in Rehoboth Beach for 25 years, for the beaches, for outlet mall shopping, for the wonderful restaurants, and more recently for riding the area’s awesome bike trails.
A new public garden will soon be another good reason to visit!
The centerpiece of the GardenComm Region II meeting on Friday, October 11, will be the newly opened Delaware Botanic Garden at Pepper Creek. This is a project I’ve been following for several years, and shortly after the garden’s location was finalized I had the opportunity to visit the site, 37 acres of abandoned farmland, creekside forest, and marshland. I wrote about it for my blog in October 2015 (see Big News in Southern Delaware) but I haven’t been back since then. Staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to get it ready for its public opening, so I’m excited to see the progress that has been made. This will be a rare chance to visit a new botanic garden in its earliest stages.
We have a full day planned, with an early start at Baywood Greens, a public golf course. The clubhouse has an excellent restaurant and hosts weddings and other events. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, with well-maintained gardens all around the clubhouse. When I was scouting locations this spring with Louise Clarke, she said without hesitation, “We have to bring the group here.”
From there, we’ll head to the Delaware Botanic Garden (DBG) for a tour of its gardens. The grand opening is scheduled for September 12, so we’ll be among the first visitors to see the new gardens. A meadow designed by Piet Oudolf has generated a lot of attention, and will be one of the highlights of our tour.
Lunch at Good Earth Market and Organic Farm is included in your registration. During the growing season, some of the food they serve comes from their own kitchen garden behind the restaurant. We’ll be choosing from a fixed menu, but please visit them another time for their creative and delicious selections. (A chilled cucumber soup with crab made me swoon this spring.) The property also offers lodging in the form of small cottages and a “tiny house” that attendees may want to investigate.
There are several excellent garden centers in the area, but we’ll only have time to stop at Inland Bays Garden Center, a small business that specializes in native plants. The owners will tell us a bit about the challenges of operating a small garden center in a resort area.
Among the private gardens we’ll visit are Mill Pond Garden, a private botanic garden and certified wildlife habitat created by Mike Zajic, founder of the DBG and former Director of Horticulture at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. We’ll also visit the charming town of Lewes to see the garden of Holly Shimizu, former Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. Holly’s property even has a tiny cottage that can be rented for a romantic getaway. We’ll end the day at my own garden in Rehoboth Beach, where we can relax and socialize before heading to dinner at a nearby restaurant (optional, not included in registration).
If you’re spending Friday night in the area, join us for a bonus visit to Pepper Greenhouses in Milton on Saturday morning. This sprawling, quirky garden center is known for its huge selection of rare and unusual plants, and it’s right on the way home if you’re driving north on Rt. 1 or west on Rt. 16. Those who want to linger just a bit more will then gather for a Dutch treat lunch at a local restaurant before heading our separate ways.
Early October is a wonderful time of year to visit southern Delaware. I can’t stress enough how much this area has to see and do, and you may want to spend an extra day. At a minimum, I would recommend walking around downtown Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. In addition to shopping and dining options, you’ll appreciate the beautification efforts of two volunteer organizations, Lewes in Bloom and Rehoboth in Bloom. And if you’re going to drag a partner or spouse to one of our regional meetings, this is the one! There’s plenty for them to do while we’re off touring gardens, from riding the bike trails to kayaking in the bay, visiting WWII observation towers, birding at Gordon’s Pond, or shopping at the outlet malls. Best of all, the ocean is still warm enough for swimming!
Registration is limited to 30 attendees. Don’t delay to make your arrangements because our meeting falls on the beginning of a holiday weekend. Finding lodging Thursday night should be easy but Friday night may be a bit trickier.
Click here to register
Meet the Author
John Boggan is a botanist, plant breeder, occasional garden blogger, and general know-it-all. He divides his time between his gardens in Washington, DC and Rehoboth Beach, DE. His latest project is breeding begonias that are hardy in zone 7. You can find his blog at DC Tropics.