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Chesapeake Native Plants: Road Trip!

One day, three destinations: Delaware Botanic Gardens, Inland Bays Garden Center & Adkins Arboretum

native white penstemon in bloom
Drifts of Blooming Penstemon in the Meadow at Delaware Botanic Gardens

Every once in a while, it's good to get out on the road to seek inspiration. The Chesapeake region is rich in gardens featuring native plants -- a great thing!

Delaware Botanic Gardens in Dagsboro, Delaware is a short drive from all of the popular beach destinations -- Bethany Beach to Ocean City, a three hour drive from Washington and two and a half hours from Baltimore. Visiting the Delaware Botanic Gardens is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a meadow of mostly native plants created by one of the world's leading designers, Piet Oudolf. Talk about pollinator power - this magical meadow buzzes away all day! It is art, horticulture at its best and fun, all in one.

If you don't know of his work, Piet Oudolf is a dutch garden designer who is widely credited with starting the naturalistic planting movement -- think large drifts of perennials perfectly suited to their locations and creating gardens as interesting in late fall as they are in spring and the height of summer. Since he specifically designs gardens with plants naturally suited to their location, lots of natives appear in his work. He is also known for the constantly changing tapestry of his designs. So what I saw two weeks ago in June is not what you may see next month.

The Botanic Gardens also include 12 acres of shaded woodlands with lots of wide meandering paths, sitting areas and a "pinery" featuring the five native pines of Delaware. There is also a tidal wetlands along Pepper Creek. One could spend and hour or the better part of a day. The garden is open Wednesday through Sunday. You can also time your visit to take advantage of monthly weekend tours by the Director of Horticulture.

Next, check out the Inland Bays Garden Center, a 2o minute drive from the Delaware Botanic Gardens. Along the way, you may find an antique store or two as well as a craft brewery. Open daily, Inland Bays carries lots of natives and many particularly suited to coastal areas. When you first pull up you will be greeted by a sunny display of annuals. Explore further and you will find the many, many native selections. These folks love native plants, love pollinators and love sharing their knowledge!

Last, but certainly not least, make sure to stop by the Adkins Arboretum off of Route 404. The Adkins Arboretum on Maryland's Eastern Shore features indigenous plants of the Chesapeake in acres and acres of wetlands, meadows and woodland trails. The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset while the visitor center has more limited hours. A visit to the Arboretum early or late in the day is all the more special. My favorite has always been the bridge over the pond at the entrance -- the cacophony of sounds soothes the gardener's soul! The miles of meadow and woodland paths are bonuses. Just 30 minutes from the Bay Bridge, it is so worth the visit!

native plantings parking lot Adkins Arboretum
Parking Lot at Adkins Arboretum

How great is Adkins? Even the parking lot inspires! To catch all three open, plan to visit Wednesday through Sunday. I know I am nutsy for natives but I think these three will appeal to just about anyone!

Happy travels.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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