In My Garden: Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, NJ

Vicki Johnson, Short Hills, NJ
Preservation Partner: Greenwood Gardens
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In My Garden, October 13, 2020

Vicki recently reported that "Greenwood Gardens proudly and breathlessly re-opened to the public on September 13, the final piece of the Main Axis – the Garden of the Gods – completed just in time to receive visitors. Since then, our timed advance ticketing has been selling out, due in no small part to both the limits imposed on personal activity by the pandemic and the gorgeously warm days of early fall." 

"Adding to the delights of the garden is the placement of antique ornaments held in pre-renovation storage. For example, on each side of the staircase leading to the Garden of the God’s romantic woodland setting, two concrete obelisks set atop elephants stand as sentinels, framing perfectly the bronze Boy with Waterfowl sculpture set in the center of the garden’s sparkling pool. The green-patinated fellow, surrounded by a pair of concrete putti and antique cedar trellises lovingly restored in-house, is well positioned for generations to come." 

In My Garden, September 15, 2020

NATURE, BEAUTY, AND HISTORY UPDATED: "At Greenwood Gardens, the excitement surrounding our reopening is palpable! Staff continued with the finishing touches throughout the 28-acre site, pruning bushes, watering beds, mowing lawns, sweeping pathways, and placing new benches," reports Vicki. "Contractors made final adjustments on the fountains in the Reflecting Pool Terrace and Garden of the Gods and also installed split rail fencing where boxwood hedges once created a safety barrier for visitors. There is always more to do, yet so much has been done!"

"What started as an aspirational goal in our 2017-2023 Strategic Plan is now a reality and was revealed to the public on Sunday, September 13! Visitors will now see a Main Axis completely renovated and revitalized, incorporating the landscape, hardscape, and ornamental elements from three phases of Greenwood’s history: the Day family era, 1906-1944; the Blanchard family era, 1949-2002; and the Greenwood era, 2003 to the present."

"Mr. Blanchard’s vision to provide a safe and beautiful sanctuary for the community to enjoy was prescient given our society’s current weathering of the coronavirus pandemic. While we might look back nostalgically at this intense and satisfying period of hard work, we now relish the opportunity to re-introduce our revitalized historic garden oasis to all who pass through its gates."

In My Garden, September 1, 2020

 "Renovating romance" at Greenwood Gardens is making progress! Vicki reports, "progress on the last major portion of our garden renovation continues apace! "

Soil preparation for new plantings around the Garden of the Gods pool

"With the basin of the Garden of the Gods pool now poured, landscapers are artfully installing plantings that will create a beautiful 'necklace' to encircle this romantic water feature." 

Installing preserved, numbered paving stones

"At the same time, pavers are returning to the surrounding pathway, each carefully numbered when they were removed to ensure their accurate re-placement. Soon, the centerpiece of the fountain, the oxidized bronze sculpture of the Boy with Waterfowl by Emilio Angela (1889-1970), will be reinstated to serve as the conduit for circulating water. Other decorative pieces will find their way to this unique setting, including antique urns, sculptures, original trelliswork, and teak benches. The addition of lighting will dramatically showcase the sculpture and trellis, paying spectacular homage to both the Day and Blanchard eras at Greenwood Gardens.

"We remain grateful that the past two years of planning and construction will culminate without impediment in a transformed site where the public can revitalize amid the ongoing pandemic. We invite garden lovers to visit us throughout our public season from September 13 through November 8 and to become members by October 31 to take advantage of our special offer of three complimentary months of membership."  


In My Garden, July 28, 2020

Greenwood Gardens' Garden of the Gods, circa 1965

HISTORY REFRESHED: "As planning was underway in early 2019 for the renovation of Greenwood Gardens’ historic Main Axis, landscape architect consultant Alan Summers became inspired by 1920s photos showing that trellis panels had occupied the spaces between the old columns ringing the pool in the Garden of the Gods. He proposed recreating and installing new ones as a means of maintaining this delightful Arts & Crafts style element," explains Vicki. "The idea was immediately embraced, though the cost to recreate the panels would be prohibitive. Luckily, the old panels, some of them reconstructed or rebuilt altogether at some point, had been tucked away for safekeeping, though they required additional work to restore them to their original beauty and strength."

"Since last fall and through the spring of this year, Joaquin Febrero, Greenwood’s facilities assistant (photo, above), has painstakingly restored and painted the cedar panels in our signature Southfield green. The eleven large panels, along with a set of smaller ones, will be installed later this summer once the main renovation is completed. We’re pleased to welcome these old friends back." Panel detail, right


In My Garden, June 30, 2020

Vicki reports that "A sense of excitement is in the air as Greenwood Gardens enters the final renovation stages of the Main Axis! This major capital project began last fall and, while the pandemic caused a few delays with contractors to make sure everyone was safe while working, we are very pleased to report that renovations are expected to be completed in time for our September reopening."

The D-shaped pool on the Reflecting Pool Terrace is nearly ready for water and awaiting placement of the restored statue of leaping dolphins. Photo: Rich Murphy, Greenwood Gardens Deputy Director

New trees, shrubs and perennials have been planted around the newly laid sod on the Croquet Lawn. Photo: Abby O'Neill, Greenwood Gardens Executive Director

Demolition of the old pool in the Garden of the Gods is complete and construction crews will begin building forms to pour concrete for the new pool this week. When renovations are complete, the Garden of the Gods will feature an “emerald necklace” of naturalistic woodland plantings encircling the renovated fountain and boy with goose sculpture. Flowering shrubs and perennials will add splashes of color amidst the rich foliar tapestry of deciduous and evergreen green shrubs. Photo: Rich Murphy

In My Garden, June 9, 2020 

"Increasing visitation is a central goal of Greenwood Gardens’ 2017-2023 Strategic Plan," explains Vicki. "To achieve this, we knew the next step was to create additional parking capacity. Happily, the conversion of an old tennis court and swimming pool into a new parking lot near the Carriage House that blends beautifully into the landscape is nearly complete. We gave special attention to minimizing the impact on the surrounding trees. Fortunately, fewer than ten trees in poor health were removed in the process and approximately twenty additional trees have been planted around the new lot." Greenwood Gardens founder Peter P. Blanchard III explains, “The newcomers will add not only beauty and shade but great diversity to the gardens’ flora. They include bur oak, paw paw, pignut hickory, weeping Alaskan cedar, and golden pagoda dogwood.”

The basalt outcrop, normally tan on the outside due to oxidation, reveals a bluish grey interior when broken. Photo by Rich Murphy, deputy director of Greenwood Gardens

"During excavation, we encountered a major obstacle that could have resulted in extensive delays. As Peter reports, 'Bulldozers ran hard up against bedrock, part of the ridge of an ancient lava flow known as the Second Watchung Mountain. A determined assault was made on the exposed rock and a giant machine resembling a pile driver was brought in to crush the rock prior to removal. It was decided, however, that this natural feature, an ancient outcrop and the only exposed bedrock in the garden, deserved to be saved so it can serve as a powerful reminder of the Greenwood’s geologic foundations and the very basis of the garden’s existence.' ”

In My Garden, May 12, 2020

Day Era Forecourt c. 1920

"As Greenwood Gardens undertakes major capital projects to enhance our historic site, we are simultaneously renovating extensive sections of the landscape. A primary example is the Forecourt Oval Garden which visitors encounter as they first approach the Main House after parking. The new design, inspired by the original pictured in this exquisite image from the Day era c. 1920, features Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Gracilis,' a compact, upright, tree form of Hinoki cypress as the evergreen accent for the border with its open pyramidal form and the native dogwood cultivar Cornus florida ‘Appalachian Spring’. This dogwood is a natural hybrid that was found growing in the wild on the Catoctin mountains in Maryland at Camp David, the presidential retreat, and was chosen for its disease resistance.
"By next week, the dogwoods will be underplanted with a variety of small-leaved evergreen rhododendron and the new lawn will feature graceful Pennsylvania sedge surrounded by a perimeter that will pop with colorful flowering winter heaths."

Planting the new cypress in the Forecourt Oval Garden

View of the renovated Forecourt Oval Garden looking toward the Main House. Both photos immediately above are by Rich Murphy, Greenwood Gardens deputy director.

In My Garden, May 5, 2020

"A New Vision Emerges, Reflecting Our History: 
The implementation of a garden landscape design is incredibly mesmerizing to see unfold! As a team of contracted gardeners works to translate the plan for the renovation of Greenwood Gardens’ historic Main Axis from paper to the ground, we have watched with great anticipation as the intended vision emerges, powerfully and intoxicatingly. The D-shaped pool, its graceful arc and cleanly delineated steps now fully formed, waits patiently for its basin to be filled with water and surrounding landscape adornments to be installed."

"The soil ringing the basin's outline has been painstakingly graded in preparation for a blanket of sod." 

"Two young but stately cherry trees were just moved into place on either side of the staircase from the Main Lawn down to the Reflecting Pool Terrace, standing at the ready to greet visitors.

"Now, from the virtual nursery of new plants stored temporarily at the west end of the Croquet Lawn, the gardeners select, one by one, the next specimen to be placed in the ground—artfully, yet, according to plan."

 In My Garden, April 21, 2020

"While scientists report that rainstorms have become more intense, Greenwood Gardens is implementing creative and effective ways to deal with storm water management as part of our ongoing construction and renovation projects.
"Following heavy rainstorms, wide streams of water flow from the higher elevations of the gardens, flooding our driveway and eroding vulnerable areas of the landscape. With the construction of much needed additional paved parking during the summer of 2019, it was critical to also address storm water runoff. A new rain garden, filled with iris, mallow, daylilies, ornamental grasses, winterberry, dogwood, and other beautiful, moisture-tolerant plants, was designed by landscape architects Robinson, Anderson and Summers, Inc. and installed at the top of the London planetree allée. This functional—and attractive—feature will increase the garden’s ability to temporarily hold and absorb water, thereby minimizing the environmental impact of storm water runoff."

"We were very excited to see new, fresh green growth in the center “bowl” of the rain garden this week! You can also see that the new ticket kiosk has been installed. For the whole new entry sequence, see the architect's rendering below."

In My Garden, April 7, 2020

Architect's rendering of new design for Greenwood Garden's main axis

"The renovation of Greenwood Gardens’ main axis continues to progress, even as construction and horticulture crews strictly observe government regulations and recommendations as a result of the ongoing worldwide health crisis.

Reflecting Pool Terrace, circa 1920s, during the era of the Day family

"We have taken great care to consult archival photographs from both the Day and Blanchard eras for inspiration and our new design aesthetic pays homage to the gardens created by these two families. For example, on the Reflecting Pool Terrace, the circular beds surrounding the D-shaped pool will be floriferous, featuring colorful perennials, annuals and shrubs that celebrate the Arts & Crafts history of the Day era. The concrete has been poured for the new pool and technicians are working on the plumbing and electrical installations."

A spring view of Reflecting Pool Terrace, before the current restoration

Vicki head shot2 web
Vicki Johnson, Greenwood Gardens

"We have taken great care to consult archival photographs from both the Day and Blanchard eras for inspiration and our new design aesthetic pays homage to the gardens created by these two families."