My Favorite Secret Gardens
It’s March and like many a March in NJ, it arrived with a snowstorm, sleet, fog and bitter cold. March in the northeast is one of the worst months of the year. It is tauntingly close to spring yet it beats us down with storm after storm, cold, gray days and mud - dreadful mud.
The winter months are always bad for me. I love being outside and its hard to capture the world around you when much of it is covered in patches of snow and muck. In the past I’ve taken my floral work indoors but my heart is in the garden.
We are a good 30-45 days before the first spring blooms arrive but it’s close enough to plan. It’s beginning to warm a little and daylight savings is here so the sun is up longer. While I don’t want to tempt fate, I feel like we are close enough to the end.
I am lucky that I live surrounded by such beautiful gardens. NJ is a treasure trove of cultivated spaces and arboretums and we are close enough to NYC or PA to drive to some of their amazing ones as well. I look forward to updating this list later this year, after I’ve visited some of the others on my list. There is a whole world of beauty around us — it’s important to enjoy it:
Far Hills, NJ
Willowwood Arboretum is a wonderful garden that I discovered when I first moved to Long Valley. I was photographing families and children back then and I was always in search of places to shoot. While the Arboretum is off limits to commercial photography without a permit, they do allow people to capture images of their flowers. I started out by taking my kids there for long walks down their meandering paths and I soon found myself drawn to the cottage garden, meadows and orchard. It’s a spectacular place for many different kinds of plants and flowers and while I love it in any season, my favorite time to visit is during the summer when the English garden is in full bloom and the black eyed susan’s welcome you to the garden.
Cross Estate Gardens is truly an undiscovered gem. It’s located down a narrow, meandering road between Mendham and Bernardsville, NJ. Because it’s so hard to find, there are never many people there. Cross Estate has a lot to offer but it’s stone walls and walkways are truly make it shine. The gardens date back to 1929 and are maintained by a devoted group of volunteers. The wisteria that blooms along the trellis near the entrance are a wonderful welcome to the garden.
Kennett Square, PA
Longwood Gardens is not in NJ and it’s not small or secret but it is one of the most spectacular gardens in the area. Part of the duPont estate, the gardens are breathtaking in their vistas. I had the opportunity to visit last year during the tulip festival and I look forward to making the trip again.
Bring comfortable shoes, a camera and a water bottle. The gardens are quite large and there is so much to see that you will want to make sure you walk through every section.
New York, NY/Greenwich Village
The Jefferson Market Garden is a tiny jewel box of a garden located where 6th avenue and Christopher Street meet in NYC. It’s a wonderful little spot with lots of places to sit and enjoy the views. It’s nestled behind the Jefferson Library, a beautiful old building that was once home to a prison. This garden has really sprung back to life in the last 10 years or so. I lived down the street from it in the late 90’s and while nice, it was not nearly as lovely as it is today. While NYC traffic is just a few steps away, it still feels as though you are hidden in a secret place surrounded by beauty when sitting here.
I’ll be visiting these and others in the upcoming months. I look forward to sharing some beautiful images of the flowers and scenery.