Delaware Botanic Gardens awarded $750,000 grant from Longwood Foundation

The Longwood Foundation has approved a $750,000 grant to the Delaware Botanic Gardens to help it begin work on Phase One of the garden, located on Pepper Creek near Dagsboro.

The grant will be provided in two components: an immediate grant of $500,000, plus the remaining $250,000 when the garden has raised an additional $500,000 in cash or pledges. The two-for-one challenge expires March 25, 2017.

“On behalf of my dedicated board, our outstanding advisory council, and our hundreds of loyal members and supporters, we are humbled and honored by this Longwood Foundation Leadership Grant,” said Susan Ryan, president of the Delaware Botanic Gardens.

“The next 18 months will be our greatest challenge,” she continued. “We must start and complete the construction of Phase One of the garden. We must raise an additional $500,000 by March 2017 to qualify for the $250,000 challenge grant. We must begin the Piet Oudolf Meadow Gardens. And we must continue to attract members and donors to help fulfill our plans to open this inspiring garden.”

Based in Wilmington, the Longwood Foundation was established in 1937 by Pierre S. du Pont to support the people, environment and communities of Delaware and southern Chester County in Pennsylvania. It has made more than $2 billion in grants to date.

DBG’s Phase One, called “Open the Garden Gates,” will launch the first major features of the master plan. Included in the $4.1 million project will be construction of basic infrastructure and utilities for the 37.5-acre site and the creation of two major garden venues — the Meadow Gardens by the internationally acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf and the Woodland Gardens, with ADA-accessible paths.

In addition, the project’s first phase will feature an outdoor living classroom, including a wetlands habitat, as well as a temporary visitor facility housed in an all-season pavilion.

The news of the Longwood Foundation grant was greeted with accolades from officials throughout the state.

“It has been gratifying to watch this group of local citizens visualize a major public asset for our community and assemble a talented team of private and public leaders to make this vision a reality,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “I congratulate everyone involved for receiving this significant endorsement from the Longwood Foundation and look forward to seeing their continued progress.”

The grant, said Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf of Rehoboth Beach, “represents the Longwood Foundation’s commitment to the citizens of Sussex County. This generous award will enable the Delaware Botanic Gardens to start construction, but it also has a match requirement that will be met only if we all get behind this great addition to our community.”

“This project is a reflection of what makes Sussex County a great place to live and work,” said state Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th). “This public garden is being created by the citizens of our county, working with leading firms in Sussex and Delaware, and now supported by this Leadership Grant from the premier philanthropic foundation in our region.”

Carla Markell, Delaware’s First Lady, chairs the garden’s Advisory Council.

“Public gardens are indispensable to the quality of all of our lives,” she emphasized, adding: “We all recognize that the garden’s outdoor living classroom will be a major asset for the children in our region. The entire garden will be a stimulating venue for family activities. It will be a source of new jobs. It will be a place to enjoy and be inspired by the beauty of nature. It will celebrate environmental awareness and sustainable land stewardship.”

Casey Sclar, executive director of the American Public Gardens Association, added, “The receipt of such a prestigious grant shows that the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek is not only showing leadership, but it also possesses the momentum necessary to secure the environmental, economic and cultural benefits that only a public garden can offer. This grant and this campaign display both advocacy and philanthropic innovation at their highest levels.”

As Sheryl Swed, executive director of the Delaware Botanic Gardens, pointed out: “When we meet the matching requirement, the Longwood Foundation will have empowered the Delaware Botanic Gardens to raise $1.25 million. This combination of giving and establishment of an incentive for additional giving is a great example of the Longwood Foundation’s philanthropic leadership.”

All donations made before March 2017 will be counted toward the grant’s matching requirement.

“We hope that our supporters, existing and new, will join with us by giving back to improve the present and to create a better future for everyone who lives in or visits southern Delmarva,” said Ryan.

The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek is embarking on a multiyear, multiphase plan to establish a flagship botanic garden for Delmarva that manifests the values motivating all garden lovers everywhere — from the magnificence of nature to the role of horticulture in learning, enjoyment and health.

Founded in 2012 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Delaware Botanic Gardens is planned to celebrate the coastal plain with a sustainable garden that delights and educates visitors and inspires them to preserve Delmarva’s native landscapes, and to create a unique, inspirational and accessible garden for public benefit and pleasure.

Further information on the Delaware Botanic Gardens, including membership and donations, can be found at www.delawaregardens.org and at www.facebook.com/delawaregardens.