The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is A Flowering Gem

Daffodils are just the start of the spectacle at Reeves-Reed Arboretum.

Summit’s Reeves-Reed Arboretum offers visual treats 365 days a year, but May is prime flower-viewing month. Here, an expanse of Knockout and Rugosa roses.
Summit’s Reeves-Reed Arboretum offers visual treats 365 days a year, but May is prime flower-viewing month. Here, an expanse of Knockout and Rugosa roses.
Photo by Laura Moss

We get it. There are those among us who love nature, but are not up to digging, planting and pruning. No worries. The Garden State has dozens of public gardens, parks and arboretums to provide inspiration. One such gem is Reeves-Reed Arboretum, a glorious 13-1/2 acres of blooming bliss in Summit.

The arboretum, free to the public 365 days a year, is popular for its spectacular daffodil garden (some 30,000 blooms each spring), but it’s much more than that. Fashioned after the Great Lawn in Central Park, the landscape is a masterful mix of garden spaces, rock-pool gardens, woodland trails and more.

The land was originally the late-19th-century country estate of John Horner Wisner and his wife, Isabella, who planted the first cluster of daffodils. They hired noted landscape architect Calvin Vaux, who plotted open lawn space, trees, shrubs and meandering pathways. The second owners, Richard and Susie Reeves, planted more daffodils and, in 1925, added a rose garden and an azalea garden. The third and last private owners, the family of Charles Reed, added the herb garden. In 1974, local citizens helped the city of Summit purchase the estate; now it’s open for all to enjoy. The garden’s peak season is May, when the property is full of blooming dogwoods, azaleas, crab apples, lilacs, and more than 18 varieties of roses, which will be increased to 50 this summer. Two full-time gardeners tend to it all.

The number of annual visitors has increased from 28,000 in 2009 to 101,000 last year, says executive director Frank Juliano. Many come for the award-winning educational programs. Each year, these programs dispense a dose of nature to more than 10,000 children—from Summit public schools, but also from Newark, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Paterson. “We provide a hands-on, nature-rich experience,” Juliano says. “For some, it’s their first nature experience.” Lessons include digging, planting and harvesting, and even cooking what is harvested. “It’s an experience the kids will carry with them forever,” Juliano says.

The Arboretum also hosts garden tours, concerts and art exhibits. Juliano’s favorite is the twice-yearly sleepover for 40 families, complete with tents and late-night nature walks. “Can you imagine pitching a tent here?” Juliano asks. “I get all giddy about it.”

For more information on Reeves-Reed and its educational programs, go to its website.

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