Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Language of Flowers

Yesterday I went with some friends to the New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Ringwood State Park. I'd never been before, but its been on my list ever since hubs and I saw the entrance when we vistited the State Park a few months back.

The Garden sits on property that Francis Stetson assembled from pioneer farmsteads back in the late 1800's. Stetson was a New York lawyer involved in the incorporation of railroads and U.S. Steel.

He was a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden and named his country estate Skylands Farm.  He kept a mansion made of native granite, a working farm with more than 30 out-buildings, gardens and a lawn that doubled as a 9-hole golf course.

In 1922 Skylands was sold to Clarence Lewis, an investment banker and a fellow trustee of the New York Botanical Garden. He tore down the original mansion and replaced it with the Tudor style home there today, also made of native granite.

In 1966 New Jersey purchased the more than 1,000 acres from Shelton College which had used the property as a campus, and in 1984 Gov. Kean designated the central 96 acres surrounding the manor house as the State's Official Botanical Garden.

The weather yesterday was gray and chilly, but thankfully the rain held off. We'd gone specifically to see the lilacs because they're supposed to be at their best mid-May.

There are over 100 varieties of lilac in the Skyland collection, and are definitely one of my very favorite flowers. Trees? Shrubs? Technically I think they're shrubs, but they grow to look like trees.

Lilacs make me think of my back garden in England. We had a purple lilac, and a white lilac, and the scent when you stepped out back was incredible. I used to snip the blooms and set them on my kitchen table.

I need a lilac tree.

It's funny how a particular plant or flower can invoke a memory. Iris are the Tennessee State Flower and we saw some of those yesterday too. They also make me think of my childhood and the amazing iris bed my mother grew every spring. It sat at the corner of our yard and the iris grew nearly as tall as my nine year old self. We had iris in our backyard pond in the UK and I can't help but remember that favorite space too, whenever I see a purple iris.

Something about pansies peeking out of a stone windowbox makes time stand still for a second or two~

I love a secret garden path~

Not knowing what's around the bend~

Statues nestled into quiet corners~

And wildflowers perched along a woodland path~

We took a stroll through crab apple alley~

...and made a mental note to come back when they're in bloom.

I had no idea how massive the property was. Lots of paths through the woods to explore, benches made for sittin' a spell, and something pretty at every turn.

Is there anything more lovely than a peony?

Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grown?

Just beautifully.  

 That's how.

"The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer to God's heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth."  Dorothy Gurney


  1. Joyce, you showed most of my favorite flowers, esp. the lilac. The fragrance is almost indescribable, and yet you brought the olfactories alive!

  2. I want to go here. I will put it on my list. I have a lilac bush. Lilac is my favorite.

  3. Soo pretty. I love lilacs too but I hear they are bee magnets. :/

  4. How beautiful - I would love to explore the secret paths :-)

  5. What a beautiful place! I had no idea there was something so beautiful in the US like that. sandie

  6. Very lovely. I too love the smell of lilacs and I love peonies!

  7. I don't think anyone has lilacs in our area, but we do grow some "mean" peonies. They are one of my all time favorites! What beautiful gardens! Thanks for sharing your day with us.

  8. That was gorgeous. I don't know much about flowers at all, but I enjoy looking at them and smelling them. If I'm ever in the area, I'll have to visit just to take a stroll because it's so pretty. Hopefully, I won't get lost though.

  9. Look at that amazing window box!! How I'd love to visit that place. Lovely!

  10. What a magnificent building. We had Lilacs in Illinois and they were one of my favorites along with Forsythia. What beautiful flowers and grounds. Love that window box!