September 25, 2014

(CHESTER, NJ) ― New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher recently visited Willowwood Arboretum in Chester and encouraged public garden and arboretum visits this fall. He also reminded residents and visitors that fall is a great time to tend to home gardens with new plantings.

“People in the tri-state region are just a short trip away from dozens of New Jersey public gardens, each offering a unique and special experience,” said Secretary Fisher. “At the same time, these gardens offer numerous ideas for the home gardener. This is the perfect time of year to plant for a beautiful spring garden.”

New Jersey has more than 60 gardens and arboreta in 15 counties for the public to enjoy. Susan Lowry and Nancy Berner, authors of a new book, “Gardens of the Garden State,” spoke about what attracted them to the Garden State – the tradition of agriculture, heritage of garden making and plant collecting, and hundreds of garden clubs around the state. They presented Secretary Fisher with a copy of their book for the State Library.

“New Jersey’s extraordinary public gardens open your eyes to the state’s rich horticultural legacy and its cultural heritage,” said Lowry and Berner. “Reflecting a high level of plantsmanship and dedication to preservation and land conservation, the state’s treasure trove of gardens never fail to inspire and educate.”

One of the gardens the authors highlighted in their book was Willowwood Arboretum, managed by the Morris County Park Commission and the Willowood Foundation since 1980. The land was acquired by brothers Henry and Robert Tubbs in 1908 as their country home. Henry’s adopted son, Dr. Benjamin Blackburn developed the property into an arboretum which now covers 130 acres and has about 2,100 kinds of native and exotic plants, many of them rare. Willowwood is one of the state’s most comprehensive and longest continually operating arboretum.

“Public gardens are places of wonder, solace, knowledge and fun and are important New Jersey cultural resources,” said Lesley Parness, Superintendent of Horticultural Education for the Morris County Parks Commission and President of Garden State Gardens Consortium. “Among our member gardens are Gilded Age estates, 21st century LEEDS certified facilities, monocultures, large university settings and tiny, hidden treasure gardens. The range of plant materials in New Jersey’s public gardens is matched by the program offerings at these sites, including events and classes for people interested in plants, nature and the environment as well as the arts.”

Governor Christie has proclaimed October as New Jersey Fall Gardening Month, encouraging citizens to utilize this prime season to visit our state’s nurseries and garden centers and patronize landscape companies to beautify their homes, neighborhoods and businesses and ensure a healthy and robust spring garden.

Horticulture is a $445 million a year industry for New Jersey, ranking 9th in the nation in nursery, greenhouse, and sod sales.

“Our state’s many nurseries and garden centers always enjoy a good spring business, but the fall season is when homeowners should really be planning and expanding their gardens,” said Bob Heitzman, New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association Vice-President. “Autumn is the ideal season for planting to maximize garden success, and we applaud the Christie administration for bringing recognition to fall planting season.

The Department of Agriculture offers the Jersey Grown program to identify New Jersey-grown plants, trees, flowers, shrubs, annual bedding plants and Christmas trees, similar to the well-known Jersey Fresh branding program for produce. Jersey Grown also is used to identify local firewood, wood and black oil sunflower seeds for birdseed. To be called Jersey Grown, the item must be grown in New Jersey so it is accustomed to the state’s soil and growing conditions, is checked for quality and is disease and pest-free.

To find New Jersey gardens and arboreta and nurseries and garden centers, visit the Jersey Grown website at

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