The 30-acre, botanically rich Laurelwood Arboretum is situated in Wayne Township, in the northern part of New Jersey. Laurelwood is home to hundreds of types of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other uncommon species of plants and trees, as well as forest walks and gardens, animals, two ponds, and streams. The arboretum’s gravel pathways twist and intersect, making it a popular spot for runners, hikers, birdwatchers, painters, and photographers.
Laurelwood Arboretum, formerly a for-profit nursery, is now a public park thanks to a collaboration between the Township of Wayne and the nonprofit Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, Inc. View more.
Thanks to Dorothy and John Knippenberg’s kind contribution to the Township of Wayne, Laurelwood Arboretum is now a reality. In Pines Lake, Wayne, the Knippenbergs bought the 30-acre plot of land across from their house in the 1940s and 1950s. It was a thriving commercial nursery focused on azaleas and rhododendrons, known as Laurelwood Gardens.
The Knippenbergs was well known and admired for creating several hybrid rhododendrons and for their charitable contributions to the neighborhood. They wanted the land to be someday donated to Wayne Township so that it might be used as a public horticulture preserve. They transformed their nursery into an arboretum in the 1960s, adding meandering walkways, imposing trees, and vibrant specialty gardens.
After John’s passing, the land was included in the township’s park system. Dorothy kept watching over Laurelwood and tending to the plants. To help her manage the land and ensure that it would be a public park in the future. Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit company, was the official name given to this group in 2003.
Following Dorothy’s passing in 2007, Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum and Wayne Township signed a contract outlining their respective roles.
The Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum took up the horticultural legacy of the arboretum as their duty. This involves controlling earmarked public funds and the temporary staff employed by Laurelwood.
The Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, in collaboration with Wayne Township, maintain, run, and organize events at the arboretum, which is now open to the public. This arrangement has proven beneficial, allowing the arboretum to flourish and the community to become more and more active as volunteers, visitors, and sponsors.
Native Plant Demonstration Garden
Enjoy the Native Plant Demonstration Garden by leaving the Knippenberg Center and going outdoors. With the help of this horticultural feature, the center complex will have landscaping. There will be possibilities for programs on native plants in New Jersey and how residents can help the environment by choosing appropriate landscaping. Native plants are used in this 6,000-square-foot garden, which was created to provide ecosystems close to the center.
Some of the region’s greatest native plants for use in home landscaping may be found in the garden. Visitors to the area are guided by interpretive signs and brochures that provide information on the plants, their importance to the ecosystem, and their place in domestic landscaping.
The Sensory Garden
The parking area on Vale Road is not far from the Sensory Garden. Visitors of all abilities may appreciate nature in a special, barrier-free garden designed by the Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum. Wide wheelchair-accessible paths and elevated flower beds are part of its design, which promotes the use of all five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound.
The Sensory Garden’s layout takes into account the requirements of people with disabilities, but it also offers general public members volunteer and educational possibilities. The “learning circle” may serve as a sanctuary of solitude and a venue for educational events.
The gravel road known as Azalea Way runs beside Laurel Pond and has a view of it. When Pennsylvanian hybrid azaleas produced by Joseph Gable (1886–1972) are in bloom in mid-May, it makes for a breathtaking stroll. Among these are the Knippenbergs’ plantings of Othello, Snow, and sweet-scented Rose Greeley. A section of the hill is covered with orange deciduous Flame Azaleas.
South Rock Garden
At the arboretum’s southernmost point lies the South Rock Garden. A long time ago, Dorothy Knippenberg, who had a particular passion for rock gardens, established what is now known as the South Rock Garden at Laurelwood. Over the years, this showcase garden deteriorated, so the Watnong Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society worked with staff and volunteers to repair it.
As you enter the Pines Lake Drive West parking area, keep to the left to find the Wetlands Garden. The Wetlands Garden, which was generously provided by their next-door neighbors James Veale and his family in the summer of 2019, is where water collects on the ground’s surface following a particularly severe or protracted downpour.
The Pollinator Garden
On bee balm, a hummingbird moth. Just as you approach Laurelwood Arboretum from Pines Lake Drive W, the Pollinator Garden is situated in front of the Knippenberg Educational Greenhouse. The garden’s goal is to offer a variety of native plant life so that pollinators have food and a place to live. Insects and other creatures known as pollinators pollinate wildflowers and their food crops. Animals like bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, bats, and birds are examples of pollinators.
The Azalea Way is at its most beautiful in early May. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the arboretum’s enormous collection of rhododendrons. Wander down the quiet Dorothy’s Way among the grand trees that line the slope. Enjoy some of the unusual plants created by early hybridizers Charles O. Dexter, Guy Nearing, David Gable, and others that may be found on Ridge Road near Long Valley Road, such as R. ‘Paul Vossberg,’ which was produced at Laurelwood Gardens and given that name by Dorothy Knippenberg in the 1970s.
The Lilac Walk
Dorothy Knippenberg planted the first lilacs many years ago in different spots all across the arboretum. Additionally, she created a lilac nursery on the hilltop above the pond. After Dorothy passed away, Joan Scott-Miller, the horticultural manager, transplanted the lilacs from her nursery to create a Lilac Walk. In addition to continuing to trim, feed, and weed these vibrant shrubs, Joan and a committed group of volunteers have introduced new types in distinctive hues to the collection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my dog come along?
Yes. Leashed dogs must stay off the sidewalks. Dog excrement must be removed from the Vale Road parking lot.
Is there a cost to enter?
No, although gifts are always appreciated.
Where should I park?
There are two parking lots: one on Pines Lake Drive West and one on Vale Road.
If you’d like more information, visit their website or give them a call at (973) 831-5675. Another fantastic read.