There is quite a bit of contention when it comes to New Jersey’s nickname. The Garden State is perhaps most known for its beaches and cities alluring hipsters seeking NYC alternatives. Honestly, its flora and fauna don’t immediately stick out. However, New Jersey is home to several astonishing botanical gardens and arboretums. If you’re looking to be at one with nature, you’re in luck! We’ve rounded up the finest 19 New Jersey arboretums and botanical gardens.
Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center — Far Hills, NJ
The botanical garden at Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center is the brainchild of Martha Brookes Hutcheson. Known for being the first female landscape architect in the United States, Hutcheson hoped to enrich lives through horticulture. Today, the Morris County Park Commission owns the New Jersey botanical garden. Much of the landscape has been restored to its original 1940s appearance. You can enjoy the topography, perfectly curated inclusion of water elements, and walking trails from 8 a.m. to sunset year-round.
Colonial Park Gardens — Somerset, NJ
The Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden in Colonial Park is a must-visit attraction for rose lovers. In addition to the park’s beautiful selection of rosebuds, there is a perennial garden and an arboretum. Additionally, Colonial Park Gardens is one of the few New Jersey arboretums with a fragrance and sensory garden. At the arboretum, visitors can learn about many species and varieties of trees that are native to the United States. Also, trees native to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East are on display.
Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary — Short Hills, NJ
From dusk to dawn, you can walk the trails of the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of a variety of native NJ wildflower species, trees, and ferns. Additionally, you can spot natural geographic features like kettle moraines and an amphitheater. Stop by the bird sanctuary to spot migrating birds enjoying the arboretum’s tranquil aura. Check out the Stone House to view animal exhibits ranging from mounted specimens to live animals. The property also provides many educational opportunities for those interested in scout camps, family camps, and summer camps.
The Cross Estate Gardens — Bernardsville, NJ
Formal and native gardens, a wisteria-covered pergola, and a mountain laurel allee make up The Cross Estate Gardens. A self-guided walk allows visitors to view historic trees of special significance to colonists and Indigenous people. In addition to viewing large specimen trees ranging from the Silver Maple and Chinese Sequoia, garden patrons may take several hiking trails. These trails connect to nearby Jockey Hollow, Lewis Morris Park, and the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.
David C. Shaw Arboretum — Holmdel, NJ
At David C. Shaw Arboretum in Holmdel Park, you can experience 22 acres of varying species of ornamental trees and shrubs. The grounds devotes its horticultural display to encouraging nearby homeowners to incorporate the woody plants in their own home landscapes. Furthermore, the park also houses fishing and picnic areas, tennis courts, and 10 miles of trails for visitors to enjoy.
Deep Cut Gardens — Middletown, NJ
In the 1930s, Italian-American mobster Vito Genovese purchased the land that is now Deep Cut Gardens. The property is fashioned in a pseudo-Italian style reminiscent of Naples, Italy—where Genovese was born. Genovese gave landscaper Theodore Stout free reign in designing the garden. Although, he did have one requirement. He wanted a small replica of the Italian volcano, Mount Vesuvius, built in the rock garden. With its rich history and foreign architectural inspiration, Deep Cut Gardens is a Monmouth County hidden gem. Today, the grounds consist of 54 acres devoted to the education and enjoyment of the home gardener.
Essex County Rose Garden — Montclair, NJ
Over 500 individual rose bushes of nearly 150 distinct varieties call the Essex County Rose Garden at Brookdale Park their home. This garden formally opened in June 1959 and was taken over by the Master Gardeners of Essex County in the early 2000s. Whether you’re a fan of red, pink, yellow, white, bi-color, or other roses, you’re bound to find your favorite flower in this garden. We recommend you stop by in June when the flowers are in peak bloom. Although, with all the varieties, you can spot blossoms from late May through October—and sometimes even into November.
Frelinghuysen Arboretum — Morris Township, NJ
A decade after George G. Frelinghuysen married his wife, Sarah Ballantine, the pair commissioned Rotch and Tilden to design their summer home. The couple lived in New York City and vacationed at the home during the summer months. However, the family cultivated fresh vegetables and flowers at the property year-round. Eventually, the duo’s daughter—a member of the Garden Club of Morristown—sought to convert the Colonial Revival-style estate into an arboretum. Today, the property’s purpose is to provide continuing horticultural educational programs for the public. The grounds are free to explore and open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. Stay up-to-date regarding special events via the arboretum’s Facebook page.
Georgian Court University Gardens and Arboretum — Lakewood, NJ
In 1896, George Gould purchased 200 acres to transform them into a lavish country property. Fast forward to the present, the estate houses Georgian Court University, an arboretum, and numerous gardens. Some of the featured gardens include the Italian Garden, Sunken Garden, and Japanese Garden.
Here’s a fun fact: one of the campus’ gardens was the setting of a scene in the 1979 version of “The Amityville Horror.” You can take a free self-guided stroll through the grounds from 8 a.m. until dusk daily.
Greenwood Gardens — Short Hills, NJ
A private estate until 2002, Greenwood Gardens is in the Beaux-Arts style of the early 20th century. The beautiful 28-acres of landscaped gardens include formal Italianate water gardens, rustic stone summerhouses, wildflower meadows, and pristine woodlands. Besides Greenwood’s blooming flora, the area is surrounded by 2,100 acres of preserved parkland. Thus, the property is set in one of the most densely populated regions of the country. After a long renovation process, the garden oasis reopens on May 1.
Hunterdon County Arboretum — Lebanon, NJ
Once a commercial nursery, this New Jersey arboretum consists of several trees, shrubs, and annual and perennial plants. The Hunterdon County Arboretum also has eight trails that cover two miles of flat terrain. On the Memorial Trail, you may spot grazing deer. Marvel at dogwood trees on the Dogwood Trail. Seek animal hiding places and play in a castle on the children-catered Wizard Walk. Furthermore, the arboretum itself has approximately 20,000 square feet of display gardens for you to explore.
Leonard J. Buck Garden — Far Hills, NJ
The Leonard J. Buck Garden gets its name from the geologist who originally owned the land and first envisioned the garden. With the help of Zenon Schreiber, a Swiss landscape designer, the pair spent decades clearing and cultivating the land. Now a 29-acre woodland rock garden, it is at its stunning peak in the spring. This is when a variety of native and cultivated azaleas are in full bloom. However, you can still enjoy native and exotic plants year-round at this Far Hills garden.
Linwood Arboretum — Linwood, NJ
This next spot is both a newer addition, as well as the tiniest one on this list of New Jersey arboretums and botanical gardens. Less than an acre in size, the Linwood Arboretum came into being at the town’s city council meeting in April 2007. Interested in getting acquainted with less common flowers? The garden highlights uncommonly used trees and shrubs especially suited for landscaping suburban home properties. Due to this priority, there is a strong emphasis on plants that bloom in autumn and mid-winter.
New Jersey Botanical Garden — Ringwood, NJ
New Jersey Botanical Garden has a wide variety of floral collections. There is the Italianate Garden for those interested in Mediterranean plants. There is also the Lilac Garden for those looking for a fragrant experience. Moreover, the Perennial Garden is geared to those who wish to see a colorful seasonal floral display. These are just to name a few. In addition to its beautiful blooms, the gardens have tons of fun for children. Attractions include a scavenger hunt, a scale-model solar system, and the Family Woodland Hike. NJBG is open from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. during Eastern Daylight Time and 8 a.m to 6 p.m. throughout the Eastern Standard Time season.
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens — Montclair, NJ
The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens gets its name from one of the founders of the American Iris Society. Frank Presby owned a fine iris collection and was an iris hybridizer who hoped to give a collection of his favorite flower to Montclair’s newly acquired Mountainside Park. Unfortunately, Presby passed before he could do so. Three years later, in 1927, The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens was born. Today, the garden has one of the largest collections of iris flowers in the world. Presby invites patrons to visit during the annual spring bloom season, typically mid-May through the first week of June.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum — Summit, NJ
Up next on our list of New Jersey arboretums is the Reeves-Reed Arboretum, which started as a private estate in the late 19th century. The property would change owners several times, although each had a deep passion for horticulture. The first landscape was designed by Central Park co-designer Calvert Vaux. Then, the second owners installed a series of formal garden rooms, daffodils, a rose garden, and other collections of flora. Eventually, the last owners sold the property and planned for subdivision. However, these plans would never come to fruition. In 1974, the New Jersey arboretum opened its doors to the public. Notable features include a scree garden, herb garden, vegetable garden, and naturally occurring landscape features like a vernal pool.
Rutgers Gardens — North Brunswick Township, NJ
This 180-acre botanical garden has it all. Designed gardens, farms, plant collections, natural habitats, and a farmers market comprise this North Brunswick beauty. Attractions include The Art Rudolph Sun and Shade Garden, which boasts a gazebo, patio, and bubbling urn water feature. Another area, The Bamboo Grove, highlights a winding path and a footbridge over a small stream. Additionally, The Succulent Garden is beautifully displayed each spring but is housed in the greenhouses over the winter season.
Sayen Park Botanical Garden — Hamilton, NJ
Sayen Park Botanical Garden has the right balance for nature lovers, garden enthusiasts, and history buffs to indulge in its space. The garden’s history dates back to 1912—when Frederick Sayen and Anne Mellon Sayen procured the site. The couple built a ‘bungalow’ home in the Arts and Crafts style with Victorian interior design. The pair surrounded their home with plants obtained from their world travels. Species from China, Japan, and England comprise the principal collections. Additionally, the garden is home to more than 1,000 azaleas, nearly 500 rhododendrons, ponds, bridges, and walking trails. The property is open year-round from dusk to dawn.
Van Vleck House & Gardens — Montclair, NJ
The Van Vleck House & Gardens is a center for horticulture, education, music, art, and quiet contemplation. The estate was passed down and cared for by three generations of the Van Vleck family. Howard Van Vleck was the last family member to reside on the estate. He had an affinity for horticulture and hybridized rhododendrons. Now, this six-acre oasis has an Italianate Villa, azaleas, and—of course—unique rhododendrons.
Are you planning a trip to any of these New Jersey arboretums and botanical gardens? Let us know in the comments!