Piet Oudolf, a renowned Dutch garden designer, recently found himself overlooking the transformation of an old soybean field into a spectacular botanical garden in Dagsboro, Delaware. This project was unlike Oudolf’s previous projects, which included the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the High Line in New York.
The project began in early 2015 when Barbara Katz, a landscape designer from Bethesda, met with the garden’s director of horticulture, Gregory Tepper, to discuss the plan for the meadow. Although it was a long shot, Katz reached out to Oudolf on Facebook and he ended up expressing an interest in the project.
Oudolf decided to take on the project, mainly because it was going to be a public area and he was excited by the possibilities. In the past, Oudolf has typically designed private gardens for wealthy clients, but he prefers to have his work seen by a larger audience.
The project started with the two-acre meadow being planted with 17,000 perennials and grasses by a team of volunteers. The entire attraction, which is expected to open in 2019, will consist of a total of 37 acres, including a pavilion, a parking lot, and a creekside woodland. And of course, Oudolf’s fully planted meadow, which will consist of a total of 65,000 plants.
Currently, the area is run by two employees and its president, Raymond Sander. They’re hoping Oudolf’s creation will attract people from all over the country, since Dagsboro is seen as more of a “stop along the way” rather than an actual destination.
While the project is exhilarating, it also poses many challenges. Oudolf carefully mapped out each of the 17,000 plants, which consist of almost 60 different varieties. Each plant has to be considered in relation to the surrounding plants. It’s instrumental to consider the herbaceous compositions in order to know how they will develop and grow in the upcoming seasons. The planting of the custom-grown plants alone took several days.
Immediately after the flowers were planted, butterflies as well as bees, which are responsible for cross-pollination to help 90% of wild plants and 30% of crops grow, could be seen settling on the flowers, which will fully mature in 2 to 3 years.
In a statement about the slowly growing site, Oudolf said, “The garden scene here is small. But so much energy. It’s unbelievable.”