Walking on the path through the Wetland Garden at UDBG, visitors might never suspect that such a natural and beautiful space was formerly the site of a dairy cow pasture at the UD Farm. After years of standing on the top soil, the cows created a hardpan, an impenetrable layer of soil that kept water covering the surface for extended periods of time after a rain. In the fall of 2008, the site was transformed into a thriving ecosystem that now reduces runoff, improves water quality, increases plant diversity, and supports wildlife. It also serves an important function as an immersive environment where visitors can fully experience wetland wildlife.
In partnership with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, this garden was designed with two bays, a low berm to capture water, and scattered stumps for structure and habitat. UD landscape design students created the planting design of trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers native to the region and Professors Chad Nelson and Doug Tallamy supervised the planting efforts of staff, faculty, students, and volunteers.
The Wetland Garden aims to strike a balance between ecology and aesthetics. For example, Rose-of-Sharon creates bright pops of color in the landscape while also providing an excellent food source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Visitors might also recognize River Birch, an iconic figure in most mid-Atlantic wetland natural areas. Although the goal of the wetland project was to improve water quality and enhance habitat, this site is also used for research and teaching related to water quality, soils, ecology, and horticulture.
Download the Wetlands plant list
Download the Wetlands Garden brochure
University of Delaware
DNREC Non-Point Source Program
DNREC Ecological Restoration Program
DNREC Division of Soil and Water Conservation
Kent County Conservation District