Ever wonder why New Jersey is called the Garden State? Well, it is full of gardens. There are 25 public gardens in New Jersey. Beyond that, nature and flower lovers will find even more to see and do from the northern Delaware Water Gap and the Pine Barrens to the Cranberry Bogs and Cape May to the south.
Travel the state and you’ll find small and large public gardens that will take your breath away and calm you down with their tranquility. From daffodils to tulips to blossoming cherry trees, you’re sure to find a garden that will delight you.
It is hard to select favorites among the 25 public gardens in New Jersey. We managed to narrow it down to our nine favorite gardens in the Garden State.
1. Reeves-Reed Arboretum
Listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places, the lovely Reeves-Reed Arboretum, previously a country estate, is a beautiful and intimate garden of just over 13 acres. The child-friendly gardens are great for walking, bird watching, viewing the flowers, and enjoying the sculptures.
If you love daffodils, Reeves-Reed is the place to be in early April when 50,000 daffodils bloom in the Daffodil Bowl. In the height of the bloom, it is quite a sight. It was planted in as a response to 9/11.
You can take a self-guided tour at Reeves-Reed (pick up a map at the visitor center kiosk) or sign up for the 30-minute free guided tours on most Saturdays from April to October.
Pro Tips: Check the website before to find out what is currently blooming and to make sure it is not closed for a private event. Reeves-Reed has paved pathways, making it generally accessible (no wheelchairs are provided) and the small parking lot has limited accessible parking spots.
2. Laurelwood Arboretum
One of our favorite gardens, Laurelwood has peaceful paths, tons of flowering plants and trees, and outdoor sculptures. A sensory garden greets you at the entrance of the 30-acre garden. Nearby is a small wetlands garden. Follow the gravel paths to see the many different hybrids of rhododendrons and azaleas. Lilacs bloom in May on the aptly named Lilac Walk. Sculptures dot the trails and complement the flowering shrubs and trees.
Pro Tips: Much of the trail is gravel so accessibility can be an issue. The parking lot is small. There are many maps that show self-guided tours, including exotic trees, lilacs, and wetlands.
3. Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is our go to place for… irises! We love irises and Presby has a very impressive collection. Imagine 100,000 blooms, 10,000 irises, and 1,500 varieties in a small 6-acre area. It is a rainbow of colors. You’ll see types of irises that you’ve never dreamed of.
Presby is only open a few weeks of the year when the irises are blooming, generally mid-May to early June. As a result, it can get crowded, especially on the weekends during peak bloom.
Pro Tips: Check the website for the peak bloom. The gift shop has Iris-related gifts and mementos.
4. Leonard J. Buck Garden
Far Hills, Somerset County
The Leonard J. Buck Garden is an exquisitely landscaped 33-acre wooded garden with surprises at every turn. We love how the rocky outcrops are embedded with rare and exotic garden plants. In the spring, the contrast between pastel colors and the rocks is striking. Paths lined with wildflowers and the scenic landscaping around the pond make this garden a lovely experience. Although there are steps, the garden is accessible on paved paths.
Pro Tips: The main parking lot is small, you can also park at the lower lot if the main lot is full. Public toilets are available in the visitor center.
5. The Frelinghuysen Arboretum
Spread over 124 acres, The Frelinghuysen Arboretum is part of the Morris County Park Commission. The arboretum is huge with forests, woodlands, meadows, trees, flowers, and gardens. You’ll want to bring your hiking shoes for the trails.
Frelinghuysen is the place for tulip lovers with 150 varieties and more than 3,000 tulips. The lovely beds of tulips can be found around the Colonial Revival mansion dating back to 1892.
Pack a picnic lunch or take a moment to relax in the Adirondack chairs dotting the great lawn.
Pro Tips: There are no public restrooms currently. Porta Johns are available in the parking lot. Download a digital map before heading out. Use the cell phone guided tour for information on the gardens.
6. Willowwood Arboretum And Bamboo Brook Garden
Far Hills, Chester Township
Among the most peaceful gardens in New Jersey, Willowwood Arboretum and Bamboo Brook Garden are located side by side. You can only see a small slice during a day trip as Willowwood spans 136 acres and Bamboo Brook is 687 acres. One of the most relaxing places in all of New Jersey, the gardens have rolling fields, hiking trails, woods, and 3,500 varieties of native and exotic plants.
At Willowwood, we love visiting Pan’s Garden and meandering along the brook behind it. In the early spring, you’ll find daffodils dotted around the property. You can also see the landscaped circular pool, east lawn, and terrace at Bamboo Brook.
Pro Tips: The buildings are still closed to the public but there are Porta Johns. Download the digital map and use the cell phone tour for a self-guided tour.
7. Branch Brook Park
Every year, we go to see the cherry blossoms at Branch Brook Park in Newark. There are 5,200 cherry trees in the park, more than the 3,800 trees in Washington, D.C. The most scenic walk is along the Passiac River with the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the background.
Most people drive to the park and then walk along the river. There is a cherry blossom festival in Branch Brook every year with activities for young and old.
Pro Tips: Check the website for peak bloom and for the dates of the festival. It’s an easy ride from New York City (take the PATH and then a taxi or car service). We recommend going to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart while you are in the area. It is the fifth largest cathedral in North America.
8. Grounds For Sculpture
The Grounds for Sculpture is most known for its sculptures that dot the landscape, but many people visit to enjoy the wonderfully manicured landscape and gardens. The 42 acres are full of wildflowers, landscaped ponds, exotic trees, and much more. The paths are easy to walk and there are many places to sit and admire the view.
Pro Tips: There is a lovely cafe and a restaurant at the Grounds for Scultpure (reservations are required). If you want to learn more about the Grounds for Sculpture, check out New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret: 12 Reasons To Visit Grounds For Sculpture.
9. Greenwood Gardens
Greenwood Gardens is a 28-acre oasis less than an hour drive from New York City. As with many of the other gardens, it was a former private estate. In the late spring, the Saucer and Star Magnolias are a must see. The walking paths will take you past beautiful fountains, grottoes, and gardens. Take a moment to admire the massive chestnut trees. Or, wander by the Garden of the Gods, a lovely location to see the panorama of the formal gardens. If you are lucky, you’ll see the turkeys that roam the grounds.
Pro Tips: Greenwood is only open from May to November, though there are occasional events during the rest of the year. There is an admission fee and it is advantageous to pre-register for visiting.
Visiting The New Jersey Gardens
Check out the Garden State Gardens website for a list of all 25 public gardens in New Jersey.
You can do several of these gardens in a day if you have a car. Branch Brook Park, Reeves-Reed Arboretum, and The Frelinghuysen Arboretum are all less than 15 miles from each other. If time permits, you can venture further west to Leonard J. Buck Gardens. The Presby Iris Garden in Montclair is about 6 miles north of Branch Brook Park.
Willowwood Arboretum and Bamboo Brook are very large, so you’ll need a whole day for each of them. You can combine a trip to Laurelwood Arboretum with the NJ Botanical Gardens.
A trip to the Grounds for Sculpture could be combined with a number of gardens near Princeton of the Rutgers Garden in New Brunswick.
- Most of these gardens have walking paths and are easily walkable. The larger gardens (Frelinghuysen, Willowwood, Bamboo Brook) have hiking trails and hiking shoes are useful if you plan to do a longer trek.
- These gardens do not have cafes, so bring a picnic or try a place to eat nearby.
- With the exception of Greenwood, these gardens do not have entry fees and parking is free.
- Most of the gardens have tours that you can access via your mobile phone. Keep your eyes out for the signs.
These are our top nine gardens in New Jersey. Although, you cannot go wrong with the others that we did not mention here. Spring, summer, and fall, you’ll always find something blooming in the Garden State.
If you now have the itch to indulge in more greenery, check out these amazing gardens all over the world: