Herbaceous Garden – History and Purpose

The Herbaceous Garden at the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens was created in 1986 to provide students enrolled in the herbaceous plant materials class an outdoor laboratory in which to study plants. At its conception plants were laid out in rows within rectangular beds. The garden was maintained by a group of volunteers. In 1989, this group redesigned the garden beds into a series of curvilinear beds with mulch paths. This garden iteration continued until the early 1990’s when an undergraduate student interested in landscape architecture redesigned the bed and paths with grass pathways. The grass paths were changed to brick in 2009, making the garden accessible to all. In 2013, three professional designers were invited to participate in a design charrette to redesign a more enticing entrance that would also facilitate movement between the Color Trial Garden and the Lepidoptera Trail. UD Landscape Design students, CANR and UDBG staff selected 1980 Plant & Soil Science alum Shipley Allinson's winning design that included a wooden pavilion, swale, new borders, and a stone path to the Lepidoptera Trail in the Native Plant Garden.

The role of the garden has evolved since its creation. In 2005, with a change in instructors for the herbaceous course, the garden was no longer the primary resource for students to study plant material. This change opened up many opportunities in the garden:  Flexibility and greater diversity in the plant palette; aesthetic focus; showcase for UDBG plant sale material; and provide extending the seasonal interest using woody plants and bulbs. The garden has become an outdoor laboratory in which students and researchers study plants, insects, landscape design, and plant pathology. It has also become a destination for students, staff, and visitors to study, relax, and enjoy events.