I thought you might like to come with me to explore Willowwood Arboretum. Although I drive past often, I had never visited the place till yesterday. What a wonderful surprise! The arboretum consists of 130 acres of meadows, pastures and gardens nestled in the Hacklebarney Hills of Morris County in New Jersey.
In the seventeenth century, the property was part of a large French Huguenot farm. Over the next hundred years, the remaining woods were cleared and in 1839 the fields and pastures were purchased by the Kenneday family and named "Paradise Farm."
In 1908, the property was bought by a pair of brothers, Henry and Robert Tubbs, for use as a weekend retreat where they could indulge in their horticultural interests.
The brothers were born in Pennsylvania, and had a love of gardening and botany instilled in them during their childhood. As young men, they both took jobs in New York City. They discovered Paradise Farm during a weekend jaunt in the country, bought it and renamed it "Willowwood" because of the large weeping willows which lined the driveway.
When their mother, father and sister visited the farm, they loved it so much that they all stayed on. Willowwood became the new Tubbs family residence. Over the next 40 years, Henry and Robert Tubbs transformed the farm into a beautifully landscaped collection of rare and distinctive plants. Their design philosophy was simple -- "Nature is the guiding hand."
The design of Willowwood was influenced in part by Martha Brookes Hutcheson, one of the first female lanscape architects in the country. Hutcheson owned the adjoining property, Bamboo Brook. Her European travels informed her designs, which may be seen in parts of Willowwood as well.
Henry and Robert Tubbs had many connections in the world of plant exploration, and Willowwood was the recipient of plants from numerous expeditions, including those of the famous plant explorer E. H. Wilson. Some original specimens that found their way to Willowwood include the Davidia, Lace Bark Pine, Waterlily Magnolia and Chinese House Lemon. The arboretum is justly proud of a champion Metasequoia which was grown from seeds collected in China in 1947.
Willowwood includes a beautiful cottage garden, formal gardens and a shade garden which I will show you later this week or early next week. Most of the photos here are of The Stone Barn, which is also called The Myers Center. It is a beautiful structure, built of local Roxbury Puddingstone, circa 1790. Today it is used for meetings, programs and rentals. As you can see, it is wonderfully landscaped with many lovely plantings of ivy, bamboo, laburnum and lilac. There is also a wisteria arbor nearby.
Willowwood is beautifully maintained by the Morris County Park Commission. For more information, visit their website.
300 Longview Road
Chester Township, NJ 07930