This article was first published in April 2018; it has been updated.
Tucked away in between Old Short Hills Park and the South Mountain Reservation, is a little known gem of a garden. Greenwood Gardens, a former private estate, is one of Essex County’s least known outdoor spaces.
The garden is now open for the season. Note however, that the garden is embarking on important improvements to the historic site, and so until further notice is open Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with last tickets sold at 4:00 p.m.
There are also a plethora of fun and educational events taking place this spring; learn more here.
Greenwood Gardens started out in 1906 as Pleasant Days, the then country estate of millionaire Joseph Day and once encompassed 79 acres including Old Short Hills Park and surrounding areas now occupied by homes. After Day’s death, Peter Blanchard Jr. purchased the property, now 28 acres, and renamed it The Greenwoods” for his family home. On Blanchard’s death, and with the help of the Garden Conservancy, Blanchard’s son, Peter Blanchard, III, formed the non-profit, Greenwood Gardens, to preserve the space.
After going through an extensive renovation to stabilize, update facilities, and make most of the garden safe for the public, the garden officially opened to the public in 2013.
The gardens are open from spring to late fall, with some events happening in the winter when the grounds are closed. Highlights include the tea house and surrounding gardens, the summer house, which is framed by four massive horse chestnut trees at the corners, and the sycamore alle near the main gate. The Garden of the Gods is a beautiful round space with columns and ferns which has a stunning vista of the formal gardens and the main house. Another very notable feature are the Beaux Arts Rookwood tiles that still decorate many of the buildings.
Want to do more than just passively stroll? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The gardens put on many educational classes and events. You can learn about bees, herbs, planting, painting, yoga, composting, the history of the gardens, birdwatching, and photography to name a few. In the fall, they have their annual family friendly harvest fair that brings in local foods, music and games.
Greenwood Gardens is located at 274 Old Short Hills Road in Short Hills, NJ. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students with ID, and free for 12 and under and members. The gardens are currently closed due to extensive tree damage from recent storms. For the latest information on the gardens’ current state, please visit Greenwood Gardens – Visit.
(Editor’s note: Joy Yagid teaches photography at Greenwood Gardens).