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Hunterdon County Arboretum:
Treasure Trove for Horticulturists & Naturalists — Gardens of Discovery for the Rest of Us

Photography: Valerie Lykes
Courtesy of the Hunterdon
County Park System

Hunterdon County’s Arboretum is an unexpected treasure hidden just behind a parking lot and the Hunterdon County Park System’s headquarters on Route 31 in Clinton Township. It is a place to study the natural sciences or to quietly commune with nature. Encompassing 73 acres of diverse landscape, the 26,000 square foot display gardens lead to two miles of nature trails that meander from wetlands traversed by a raised boardwalk to groves of ornamental and exotic trees and shrubs and evergreen forests.

In 1953, George Bloomer started a commercial nursery on the property. He planted many of the native and ornamental trees and shrubs we see today: dogwoods, weeping cherry, willows, flowering crabapple, mountain laurel, azaleas and rhododendron.

In a letter to the editor that appeared in the Hunterdon County Democrat in 1972 when the property first became available to the county, Alden E. Aldrich of Milford wrote, “This land has a lovely stream and a beautiful pond that can do more to soothe our twentieth century souls than all the tranquilizers in the world. On this site Mr. Bloomer has planted a wealth of trees and shrubs that is unexcelled anywhere in this part of the country.” Mr. Aldrich goes on to say, “When New York’s Museum of Modern Art designed their sculpture garden I’m told that the only place they could get the plant material they needed was at the Geo. F. Bloomer Nursery. For its size this tract of land is probably richer botanically than any other in the central Atlantic states!”

Perhaps heeding Mr. Aldrich’s call to action, in 1974 the county acquired the 63-acre Bloomer nursery and ten additional acres. Over the next four years, the overgrown woods were cleared of underbrush, trails were delineated, a boardwalk was built over the wetlands area, display gardens were planted, and the former office and Bloomer residence was renovated to accommodate the park commissioners’ headquarters.

The extensive display gardens serve as educational tools. The continually changing beds of perennials and annuals are divided into theme gardens including an herb garden, rock garden, cut flower garden and butterfly garden. The arboretum is an “All American Selection” display garden providing the public with an opportunity to see recent AAS winners grown in the park’s greenhouses.

      

In 1979 the Deats family donated the cedar log two-story gazebo that is now the centerpiece of the display gardens. The 1892 gazebo was relocated from the Flemington Junction estate of Hiram E. Deats, whose ancestor, John Deats, revolutionized farming when he invented the Deats plow. Hiram E. Deats served as jury foreman at the Lindbergh Kidnapping Trial in 1935.

The gazebo is the oldest structure of its kind in New Jersey. In 1997, Doug Kiovsky, Assistant County Park Planner, restored the structure adding cedar support sections and ornamental carvings of a window view of nature, a sunburst to the east, and evergreen trees and acorns. The carvings, representing peace, knowledge, serenity and awe, decorate the lower level of the gazebo.

As the park’s unofficial historian, Mr. Kiovsky leads tours of the arboretum, usually twice in the spring and fall. They are a unique opportunity to learn about the history of the property and the people who created it from someone who loves the subject. Call the office for information about Mr. Kiovsky’s next tour of the arboretum.

The Furnas Section Natural Area, across Route 629 from the arboretum, is a 32-acre site given to the county in 1992 by neighbor and noted historian Joseph Chamberlain Furnas.

HUNTERDON ARBORETUM

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Location: 120 State Route 31, Lebanon, NJ

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Mailing Address: P.O. Box 2900, Flemington, NJ 08822-2900

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Telephone: 908-782-1158

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Website: www.co.hunterdon.nj.us. Click on Parks and Recreation

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e-mail: parks@co.hunterdon.nj.us

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Hours: The Arboretum is open daily dawn to dusk. The office is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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Admission: Free

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Special Programs: Call the office for details of the extensive selection of nature study and horticultural programs held at the Arboretum.

Copyright © 2007 Bucks County Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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