January-February 2017 | FIELD OF DREAMS

Former Delaware Governor and First Lady Jack and Carla Markell



Robbie Tarpley Raffish sits down with Carla Markell to discuss her love of gardening and her role with the Delaware Botanic Gardens

Written By: Robbie Tarpley Raffish | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

She may be the former Delaware first lady by the time this article is published, but Carla Markell is likely to be the first lady of Delaware Botanic Gardens for far longer. She has been a major supporter of the DBG, donating her time as chair of the Advisory Council. Here, she answers a few questions about where her passion for gardens comes from and where she sees the DBG headed. 

When did your interest for gardens develop? 

It's hard to say where my passion for gardens came from, but I know as a child I spent a lot of time outside in nature. My parents were very knowledgeable about the names of certain flowers and bushes and trees, so we would talk a lot about them. One particular memory I have is staying in a home that had an orchid room. I took on the job of spraying them, to make sure I kept the humidity level in the room up to a certain level. I loved that job!

What has gardening taught you?

One lesson I have learned is that you just have to jump in and try to not worry about making it perfect. In gardening, as in life, there is no such thing. The beauty is in the process and results. I get a thrill out of putting seeds in the ground and seeing them flourish. I take great pleasure when spring comes around, and I get to choose which plants to place in my outdoor pots.  It doesn't take long before the greenery fills the patio and doorways, signaling summer is here.  

How do you describe your own relationship with gardening today? 

I don't personally know a lot about gardening, other than I know what I like when I see it, and I appreciate the talent of professionals and those who have a real knack for it. I'm more of a “hack” gardener. When our children were little, we put in a vegetable garden. I was fortunate to have a neighbor who knew a lot about gardens, so he helped me dig and organize it. The kids loved going outside to pick fresh lettuces, raspberries, blueberries and snow peas. It made all the work worthwhile to see them so excited to go out and pick in the morning when they got up. 

How did you come to your role at DBG, and what are your hopes for the project?

This project has been very exciting for me to be a part of, particularly because there is such a dynamic team of wonderful people who are deeply committed. I'm more of a champion and an advocate, as the board and the executive director, Sheryl Swed, are driven and determined to make great progress!


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