This past week, I traveled to New Jersey for a family wedding. Many adventures ensued, but one that was indeed memorable was my trip alongside my sister, Mary, to the New Jersey Botanical Garden at Skylands Manor. The garden, located in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is free and open to the public. It is a treasure to be savored, so leave plenty of time for your visit!
The Tudor Mansion was breathtaking. We didn’t go inside, but tours are available on the weekends. It was built in the late 1800s and was privately owned until 1957 when the home and land was granted to the state. The man who built Skylands was an attorney for the Rockefellers, and he bought many small farms to create the estate. Several rich men in the area built their own private railway line and station to accommodate their families traveling to Skylands!
Near the estate itself, we found many beautiful specimens of conifers, evergreens, yews, and an English oak.
The gardens were designed by one of Frederick Law Olmstead’s students. You could feel his influence in the graceful transitions and terraces, the use of natural vistas like the one above, and the abundant use of water elements.
My favorite garden was the octagonal garden. It was plain as far as plantings went, but features a lovely goldfish pond. Of course, I had to stop and say hello to the fish!
From the Octagonal Garden, we walked down a short flight of steps to a lawn. Flanking the lawn were azaleas and magnolias and other spring-blooming plants. This transitioned into my favorite area: a delightful rill, or a long, narrow trough of water. It was filled with koi. In its heyday, it spilled over into a shell-shaped basin in the garden below and must have been spectacular.
The statuary throughout the garden was extraordinary although in need of repair. The cherubs puzzled me; air punching someone? They are actually supposed to hold grapes in their upright hand and a wine goblet in the lowered hand, as depicted on the brochures for the gardens!
The group of four statues was enormous. The sign said they were copies of statues from the 1600s and erected in 1923. They also needed extensive repairs.
Swans were prevalent throughout the garden, including “Swan Boy”, whose expression cracked me up. His swan is missing his head….
The perennial gardens combined lush plantings in big masses of colors for great effect. The big round statue in the center is a well cover imported from Europe that dates back to the 1600s.
Lastly, the woods…there were acres of woods to walk through, including small garden rooms added over time. Vistas abounded of the fall foliage.
But the absolute best part of the trip? Spending time with my sister, Mary. Here we are in the gardens. I hope you enjoyed this tour through pictures of the New Jersey Botanical Gardens in Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA! Visit it sometime!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.