Though Delaware is indeed a Small Wonder, the natural landscape of the First State is beautifully diverse, from Wilmington's surrounding woodlands and wetlands to the grassy dunes of Dewey. In keeping with the spirit of the state's "Livable Delaware" program, the Department of Transportation has launched an initiative called Enhancing Delaware Highways. This cooperative program capitalizes on the beauty of Delaware's regional landscape heritage by making it a key feature of roadside rights-of-way.
Over 60 pilot sites throughout the state are paving the way for new management strategies. DelDOT has adopted a stewardship model for roadside acreage that is dedicated to beauty, safety, economy and the conservation of natural resources.
A rich diversity of native plants and blossoms along springtime woodland edges and in summer meadows, and bursts into brilliant foliage color in autumn. Arranged in naturalistic sweeps and patterns, plantings bring a bold beauty to roadside landscapes while reducing the need or regular mowing. Various design and maintenance techniques meet the different needs and opportunities of individual roadside settings and locales as illustrated in these examples from pilot sites.
Milford By-pass-Route 1
Native red cedars, warm season grasses and perennial flowers including orange Butterfly Weed and Black-Eyed Susan provide a colorful accent in this highly visible location. This summer meadow planting, established from seed, is appropriate for sunny open roadsides and provides an economical approach for large acreage.
Enhancing Delaware Highways is a cooperative project directed by the Delaware Department of Transportation, The University of Delaware, The Delaware Center for Horticulture and Rick Darke Consulting.
Iron Hill (Route 896 and I95)
Clusters of native deciduous trees including red les and sweet gums capitalize on Delaware's naturally vibrant fall color and are set off by a bank of evergreens. These patterns are the result of selective pruning and removal, and make the most of plants growing naturally on the site. Enhanced by additional plantings, existing native warm season grasses provide a unifying ground layer. This management approach results in an attractive, orderly roadside while preserving other rare and unusual native plants that occur on this Delaware Natural Heritage site.
Dewey Beach (Route 1)
Marshmallow, a native hibiscus, is a part of the traditional summer beauty of Delaware's coastal areas.
Management of this site has suppressed naturally occurring invasive growth of common reed (Phragmites) in favor of the marshmallow.
Seashore State Park (Route 1)
This colorful hedge comprised of winged sumac and ground-sel bush results from periodic cutting back of these two native shrubs. A narrow mowed strip of turf is maintained between road and hedge to provide a neat appearance.
An Egret Flies Over A Roadside Delaware Wetland
Roadsides planted with regional vegetation provide important habitat for native wildlife.
Photos courtesy of Rick Darke