As one of the most densely populated states in the US, New Jersey might be known as the Garden State — but the green spaces here have never been more threatened. This vision is the founding principle behind Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit’s spectacular garden and tree sanctuary located at 165 Hobart Avenue. A visit here is sure to promise rich history as well as beautiful views. Read on to learn more about Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit.
John Horner Wisner set out to create a country estate in 1889 on this spot, nicknamed “The Clearing.” He built a beautiful Colonial Revival home on the property and hired Calvert Vaux to make a plan for the landscaping. At the time, Vaux was a partner in the prestigious Frederick Law Olmstead design firm and was involved in creating Central Park’s sweeping “greensward” look. John’s wife, Mrs. Wisner, was an avid gardener and began planting the clusters of daffodils that have become part of the major attraction at Reeves-Reed.
When new owners Mr. & Mrs. Reeves bought the house in 1916, the family grew the daffodil collection. They worked with other very prominent landscape designers at the time to expand the gardens. Ellen Biddle Shipman, who was hired to work on the property in 1924, was a pioneer in the male-dominated landscaping industry. Sharing her knowledge of “garden room” landscaping, the family completed the Rose Garden in 1925, which was connected to a rock-pool garden. There was also the addition of Italian stonework to the property in cascading steps that invite visitors into the gardens.
In 1968, Ann Reeves-Reed, Mrs. Reeves’s niece, bought the house with her husband. They were the last private owners of “the Clearing.” The couple were avid horticulturalists and took care of Mrs. Reeves’ collection, adding additional garden rooms, greenhouse species, and the woodland trails still enjoyed at the Arboretum today. Finally, in 1974, the community and the Reeds raised the money to purchase and preserve the property that the public enjoys today.
Fun Fact: Long before this property was an Arboretum, an 18th Century farmer used this land as a signal station to warn General George Washington of the British movements across the Hudson River.
A visit to Reeves-Reed Arboretum during spring evokes all the joys of the outdoors. From the blooming bulbs in the glacier-carved “kettle bowl” to the variety of trees and landscapes, the gardens are the perfect place for a quiet picnic, a peaceful stroll, and an opportunity to experience art outdoors. All year round, there are natural wonders on this property, from the annual April daffodil bloom — with over 50,000 bulbs — to the roses, which will blossom in June.
The Wisner house, which serves as the administrative offices of the property, doubles as an art gallery. Exhibits feature local artists and photographers, helping to promote and sell their work. The gardens also showcase a revolving collection of renowned sculpture artists.
A self-guided tour offers visitors a great garden experience, and the Arboretum also offers free guided tours on Saturdays. In addition, there are horticulture and history-focused group tours, which allow for a further look into the plants and design that created Reeves-Reed. Best of all the offerings is a garden tour with tea, which includes a private tour followed by English tea and scones hosted by The Secret Tea Room. The Secret Tea Room is a twice-monthly treat, hosted on some Wednesdays, and must be booked online on the website.
A small army of volunteers continues to make the beauty of Reeves-Reed Arboretum possible. Their time and dedication have helped maintain the grounds, while the community support, donations, and memberships keep the property running. The garden is completely free to visit, though visitors may consider helping to preserve this magical New Jersey gem for future generations by making a donation or applying for membership.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum | 165 Hobart Avenue, Summit
Reeves-Reed Arboretum is free to visit. However, there is a $5 suggested donation. It is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. Visitors can check out the garden anytime from 7AM – 7PM until October 31st when their seasonal hours change. Parking is onsite, where there is a neat Visitor’s Center full of suggested walks, children’s activities, and event bookings. Please be sure to follow the garden etiquette when visiting. You can follow Reeves-Reed on Instagram to find out about what’s in bloom, latest events, and available tours.