Garden Visit: Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, NJ

It’s a miracle when the past survives long enough to see the future. Many beautiful places and structures exist only in photographs and beg the question, why wasn’t it saved: the original Penn Station, the Gilded Age mansions of 5th Avenue, and many old country estates that are now housing developments.

But that didn’t happen to Greenwood Gardens. It was saved by forethought and planning by the second family that owned it. Large estates are expensive to run and maintain. Houses fall into disrepair and gardens become overgrown. But the Blanchard family knew that they had a jewel and the only way to save it was to share it.

Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, and tucked in between Old Short Hills Park and the South Mountain Reservation, Greenwood Gardens started out as the Pleasant Days estate of Joseph P. Day, a New York City real estate tycoon, as his retreat to escape the chaos of the city.  He commissioned a massive garden with architect William Whetten Renwick that included terraces, fountains (many decorated with Arts and Crafts Rookwood tiles), formal gardens, and vistas of the Watchung Mountain range. And there was also a golf course.

After Day’s death, the property was divided, and part of the golf course became Old Short Hills Park. The main house and the gardens that surrounded it were eventually bought by Peter Blanchard Jr and his wife, Adelaide Childs Frick in 1949. They began work on restoring the gardens and adding to them. Peter Blanchard Jr died in 2000 and his son Peter Blanchard III and his wife Sofia, took over preserving the gardens per the elder Balnchard’s wishes.

For the next several years, the Blanchards worked with the Garden Conservancy to start the process to open the garden up to the public. Starting in 2003 and continuing to the present day, the garden has been a work in progress to preserve, protect, and be shared with the public.

Join us for a tour.

Photography by Joy Yagid.

Above: When you first come through the gate, the sycamore allée is on your left as you drive up the main road. The rows of sycamores form a very formal introduction to the gardens. While the garden has many formal elements, there are wild bits and whimsy if you know where to look.
Above: While the garden has many formal elements, there are wild bits and whimsy if you know where to look.
Above: Walking into the gardens from the parking lot, you come upon the main house. It is the third house to sit on the site and the one that the Blanchards built. It is in the Georgian Revival style and is not currently open to the public except for a small gift shop.
Above: The restored front gate garden opposite the main house.
Above: Looking out to the left of the main house, you have a stunning view of the Watchung Mountains.
Above: Western Blue Virginsbower, Clematis occidentalis
Above:  The Summer House is a small stone structure surrounded by four massive horse chestnut trees that provide ample shade. Even on the hottest days of summer, the Summer House provides a cool place to escape the heat.
Above: Chess piece statues can be found throughout the garden.
Above: A cascade fountain, which has yet to be restored, is a series of small terraces with Rookwood tile faces for the spouts. Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 in Cincinnati.
Above: Rookwood tiles are embedded in many of the fountains at Greenwood Gardens.

For more gardens to visit, see:

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