For five months, 20 students in agri-science teacher Heather Hastings' Introduction to Horticulture and Landscape Design classes helped grow cardinal flowers, monkey flowers, Canada rush and wintergreen in the high school greenhouse. Then, in May, the plants were transferred to the demonstration site where they were replanted.
Hastings said her students had to turn a traditional greenhouse table into a mini-wetland. “They covered the table with a thick plastic that could hold water and then kept the plants moist. Because a marsh/wetland area will dry out, I made my students mimic this with their plants. They set a schedule for drying out the table that simply consisted of no water for several days at a time. They also had to control any greenhouse pests such as whiteflies. We used as many no chemical methods as possible,” she said.
It's the fourth year students in the high school's agri-science courses have participated in the Native Coastal Plant Demonstration Site Project that began in 2003.
“I can not say enough about what a great partnership this has been for me and my students. It's something that they can take away with them for the rest of their lives even if they aren't planning on pursuing a career in agriculture. I look forward to this partnership growing and continuing in the future and possibly expanding,” Hastings said.
UD's Sea Grant College Program, the College of Marine and Earth Studies, Sussex Conservation District, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, J.B. Landscaping and the high school joined forces with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary Inc. to create the garden in 2003. The partnership has overseen the demonstration garden project since then.
The goal of the project is to create a dune and adjacent native plant landscape, using native shrubs, grasses and perennials as a demonstration to homeowners that wet swale areas and drainage containment areas can be landscaped with native plants to benefit the environment. The area being restored is a little less than a half-acre and is 300 yards from a tidal marsh and the Delaware Bay.
By 2006, nearly 2,000 people had toured the demonstration garden.