New Jersey Botanical Garden celebrates 20th anniversary

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

    RINGWOOD — On September 15, the New Jersey State Botanical Garden will celebrate 20 years of service to the public. NJBG, the volunteer support group for the Botanical Garden, will host a rededication ceremony and groundbreaking for the Carriage House Visitor Center restoration. Among the guest speakers will be José Fernandez, Director of the NJDEP's Division of Parks and Forestry. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. on September 15, 2005; a reception will follow. The following weekend, September 17 and 18, there will be a public celebration from noon to 4 p.m. each day. There will be free hot dogs and sodas for garden visitors on Saturday, and on Sunday guests will leave with a gift of spring bulbs. Free garden tours will be available at 2 p.m. each day. On Saturday at 1 p.m. the garden's new scale-model Solar System exhibit will be dedicated. The State of New Jersey purchased the property which is now the Botanical Garden in 1966 as the very first purchase of the "Green Acres" land-preservation program. On September 15, 1985, Governor Thomas Kean dedicated it for use by the public as the New Jersey State Botanical Garden. In the early 1990s, NJBG volunteers worked to add the property to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The gardens contain many unique features, including Skylands, the property's 45-room Tudor Revival mansion, an extensive collection of statuary, historic trees, formal gardens, perennial beds and an heirloom collection of lilacs. Skylands was originally a gentleman's farm. Clarence Lewis, who bought the property as a summer home in the 1920s, had a passion for botany and brought back many unusual specimens from his journeys around the world. A prominent New York lawyer, Lewis entertained such friends as Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, Ethel Barrymore and J.P. Morgan at Skylands. He was a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden and chose Samuel Parsons, Jr., a protégé of Frederick Law Olmsted, to lay out his estate. Today, the Garden boasts many mature specimens which date back to Lewis's time, and Head Landscape Gardener Rich Flynn uses Lewis's original planting plans to ensure the authenticity of the site.