Astride the western ridge of the Watchung Mountains and overlooking a vast preserve of forest and meadow, Greenwood Gardens is a contemporary garden rooted in the Arts & Crafts and Classical approaches to garden design, with Italianate garden terraces, grottoes, meandering moss-covered paths, allées of sycamore and spruces, ornamental trees and shrubs, and wildflower meadows, among other features, occupying over 28 acres.
Just 45 minutes from Manhattan, Greenwood Gardens is removed from the sights and sounds of modernity. It is a place where people can come together to spend time and relax – whether the definition of relaxation be sitting on bench or practicing yoga in the open air. A visit to Greenwood Gardens can renew your mind and spirit through tours, workshops, and other educational programs.
Visitors to Greenwood Gardens will enter along the Sycamore Allée and continue past a cluster of rustic Arts & Crafts cottages to the parking lot. The first feature encountered is a legacy of the Day era, an extraordinary hand-wrought iron-grill gate created by master iron craftsman Samuel Yellin. Housed in the East Pavilion, the nine-foot-high gate depicts a menagerie of flora and fauna, from birds of paradise and parakeets to vines and ferns.
Connected to the East Pavilion is the red brick Georgian house built by the Blanchard family, which serves as an orientation center, its Colonial-styled center hallway opening onto an overlook terrace, where period climbing roses grow on and around a pair of wooden pergolas. From here drop three terraced gardens: the topmost Main Terrace, with waterside iris and carrex blue zinger (Carex flacca); the Croquet Terrace, with boxwood hedges; and the culmination, in the Garden of the Zodiac, where twelve pairs of classical columns are arranged in a demilune around a former reflecting pool.
Where recently the Garden of the Zodiac’s perimeter was planted with evergreen shrubs, now pink peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) and white goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius / pratensis) thrive, as well as spikes of cream, pink, and bronze foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) and an intermittent haze of blue and white catmints (Nepeta grandiflora) and sages. A bronze sculpture of a boy holding two geese by Emilio Angela has been reinstated in the center of the pool surrounded by clematis and roses.
Footpaths and gardens to the south and east of these main terraces lead to a pair of round perches inspired by the Belvederes built during the Arts and Craft period in Britain. The Summerhouse and Teahouse are constructed of local sandstone with copper coursings around cone-shaped roofs. Their interiors feature walls and ceilings studded with blue, green and brown seashell-shaped Rookwood tiles and floors paved with pastel-hued Fulper tiles manufactured nearby in New Jersey.
Three-foot-tall limestone chess pieces—knight, pawn, queen, and king—line the horseshoe steps leading to the upper level of the Teahouse and the South Axis garden. Here dwarf iris (Iris lacustris), pink dianthus (Dianthus caryophyllus), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and small ornamental onion (Allium aflatunense) may be found nestled near four huge stone frogs. Granite Foo dogs are placed at opposite steps to the Teahouse, while an Oriental paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) with little yellow flowers serves as a centerpiece connecting the walkway and the two stone follies.
The Blanchards’ taste for formal garden design may be seen as a visitor follows the Grape Walk toward the foot of the Water Cascade. From here one views the European inspired allée of plane trees and maples and two ponds that are home to swans and waterfowl—both the creation of Peter Blanchard, Jr.
At the terminus of this view, adjacent to the ponds and punctuating a field of wildflowers, is a fabulous wrought iron gate designed by Carrére and Hastings for the Frick residence in New York. All the outer edges of the Garden, in fact, will be devoted to natives: sugar maple (Acer saccharum), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), oaks, hickories, native dogwoods, native azalea, Virginia sweet spire (Itea virginica), native hydrangeas, native wild trillium (Trillium erectum), Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans), Virginia blue bells (Mertensia virginica), and coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea).
Tucked away in the southeast corner of Greenwood Gardens is a barn and pasture that has been on site for more than a century and is home to goats and a variety of farm birds. Note: The Barn Complex is closed to visitors.