Tag Archives: Delaware Center for Horticulture

The Delaware Center for Horticulture: Urban Greening and So Much More

Friday, August 8 was a gorgeous, sunny day in northern Delaware and perfect for the First Year Fellows to visit The Delaware Center for Horticulture’s (DCH) headquarters and greening projects throughout Wilmington.

DCH Garden'

Stone railings from a former Wilmington bridge accent the DCH headquarters garden

The DCH is a multifaceted organization involved in projects that include park improvements, life skills and job training, local prisons initiatives,  youth development and gardening experience, and of course, environmental and economic improvements in public landscapes. The Fellows met with Ms. Pamela Sapko, Executive Director, and Mr. Lenny Wilson, Associate Director of Development. Despite the construction of a $3.5 million green renovation and expansion to the buildings, the offices were relatively quiet. Ms. Sapko and Mr. Wilson said this is not uncommon—not because The DCH staff isn’t busy, but because their work is often out in the “field.” The field being the entire state of Delaware, with an emphasis in and around Wilmington.

Mr. Wilson took the Fellows on a driving tour of spaces where The DCH has worked on projects, including the a variety of right-of-way areas, an ACME parking lot, and several community gardens.

Burton-Phelan Garden

l to r: Lenny Wilson, Hazel Brown, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, Andrea Brennan, Keith Nevison

A reprieve from blocks of row houses exists on the corner of 10th and Pine Streets.  What is now the Burton-Phelan Garden was once a space used for illegal dumping and drug trafficking. The Fellows were lucky enough to meet Hazel Brown, 87, the garden coordinator. She was working at the garden with a group from Habitat for Humanity, who had just installed an attractive cedar fence on the backside of the garden. An inspiring person, Hazel recently began working with The DCH to tame the garden as it had become unruly over several years.

12th and Brandywine Urban Farm

One of our last stops was at 12th and Brandywine Urban Farm, which won the 2010 Garden Club of America Founders Fund award, which is accompanied by $25,000, and a Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2012. The Urban Farm exists to provide access to healthy food in an area of Wilmington where access is limited. A farmer’s market is hosted at this site every week and community members can rent a raised bed to grow and harvest their own produce.

The Delaware Center for Horticulture is a extraordinary community organization and a valuable asset to the city of Wilmington and state of Delaware. The Fellows are looking forward to volunteering for The DCH over the next two years!

The First Years Visit the Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) is not all about plants.  Not really.  This was the message we took away from our day spent learning about its current projects with Executive Director of 16 years, Pamela Sapko. This message was no accident; it is ingrained in the Center’s new Brand Strategy, based around the tagline, “People and Plants.  Growing Together.”

Why is this? It is because DCH is interested in outcomes, real, people-centric, community-building, crime-reducing, youth-developing outcomes.  Plants are just the medium for this great act of social intervention.

Don’t misunderstand me.  The plants are important.  They bring beauty to otherwise desolate concrete deserts, punctuating the urban freeways with spires of colour and rafts of texture, dancing in the wake of thundering juggernauts.  However, it is what the plantings can do that counts, and this is what DCH is really cultivating.

We are shown an Urban Farm that brings 18 families together to grow food for their own tables.  Eighteen families of children will know what it is to eat home grown vegetables in a neighborhood with 40 convenience or liquor stores but not a single supermarket; and it doesn’t stop here.

We see a whole block lifted by the efforts of one woman.  A small community garden surmounted by a vast mural in every conceivable color squats where once three derelict townhouses stood.  This interloping effort has gathered its own family around it: a row of window boxes extends 12-15 houses down the street; a double row of trees is passing through its ungainly teenage years, shortly to mature into an elegant avenue.  This is a street with a proud community, the drug dealers have been moved on, it is safe again.  It took one woman in her eighties with a passion for where she lived, who knew to look to the DCH for assistance.

Others needing help include people transitioning from prison back into their home communities.  One of the biggest predictors of reoffending is the availability of suitable transition to employment. Just as it would a struggling tree in an inhospitable urban landscape, DCH provides a period of stability and training for these vulnerable adults. It nurtures and supports, enables roots to be put down, trains, guides and prunes off the rougher edges where needed.  It helps them contribute again, in their own community.

Horticulture is a powerful medium to help people, linking us to nature and resonating with long forgotten memories within each of us.  DCH is keen to promote its message that people are the heart of what it does and horticulture is how it does it.  In our tour today, we saw that it really is about People and Plants. Growing Together.


Photography by Aubree Pack