Did you know there are several beautiful local garden destinations to visit right in our own backyard? If you are looking for a few wonderful gardens that are nearby, here are a few that are absolutely worth visiting!
The New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands includes a mansion plus 96-acre botanical garden in Ringwood State Park. The garden rests in what was once a private estate of over 1,100 acres. In 1966, the State purchased the estate, which now comprises more than 4,000 acres of parkland that surrounds the garden. The Winter Garden includes New Jersey’s largest Jeffery Pine, stunning Japanese Umbrella Pines plus non-native species such as an Algerian Fir and Atlas Cedar, typically found in North Africa.
The Terrace Garden is a series of 5 distinct terraces devoted to specific plantings such as azaleas and rhododendrons, peonies, day lilies and more. The Lilac Garden is home to an extensive collection of fragrant lilac cultivars, and The Crab Apple Vista is an alee of 166 trees that extend almost a half mile, positively breathtaking when in full bloom in May. Be sure to stop in the Skylands Manor—the stately Tudor Gothic, 45-room mansion designed by John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial and National Gallery of Art. Additional events such as concerts, craft fairs, plant workshops and more round out the list of things to do when you visit Skylands.
A National Historic Site also known as the Gifford Pinchot House or The Pinchot Institute, this was originally the home of Gifford Pinchot, the first Director of the United States Forest Service (USFS), 2-time Governor of Pennsylvania, and who many regard as the father of American Conservation. In 1875, Gifford’s father, James, purchased 3,000 acres of land overlooking the Delaware, which included a small waterfall on Sawkill Creek. James had been very successful in his wallpaper business, but came to regret the environmental damage forest-product industries such as his had done. He encouraged his son Gifford to go into forestry, and endowed the Yale School of Forestry—the first graduate forestry program in the country.
It was in the early 1920’s, when Gifford’s wife Cornelia, an avid gardener, began focusing her energies on developing the estate’s grounds. She worked with some of the most accomplished architects and designers of the time, creating the basis of the look of the grounds as they appear today. In 1963, the family donated the mansion and its surrounding 102 acres to the Forest Service, and 3 years later it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The official botanic Garden of Rutgers University and dating back to 1927, the garden is comprised of various horticultural collections arranged in garden settings over 50 acres of land. Here, researchers study which species and cultivars of plants do best in central New Jersey (like the Rutgers tomato—yum!). The gardens include one of the largest collections of American Hollies, a vast Shade Tree Collection, Water Conservation Terrace Garden and Ornamental Tree Collection. Go into the enchanting Bamboo Forest and you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world with towering bamboo arching overhead. Created in the 1940’s as a winter shelter for honeybee colonies, the bamboo grove includes a winding path with a bridge that crosses over a small picturesque stream.
The Gardens adjoin Frank G. Helyar Woods, a virgin forest that can be accessed via marked trails. There are unique gardens as well, including a Pollinator Garden, a Tribute Garden (a series of outdoor “rooms” available for a person, family or company to build in honor of someone they know or love) and a Rain Garden, whose purpose is to reduce storm water runoff from surfaces like driveways, parking lots and rooftops to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation of local streams. While admission is free, the gardens are self-sustaining and rely on volunteers, donations and public support.