Since April showers bring May flowers, it would be a shame to let the next few weeks pass by without visiting some of our area’s most beautiful flower gardens.
With beautiful gardens, open fields, woodlands and flowering trees, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown is a lovely place to spend an afternoon with your family. But instead of just taking a leisurely stroll, consider renting one of the arboretum’s new Family Discovery Backpacks. Designed to engage children in preschool through fifth grade, each pack contains activities, games and suggestions to help families find new ways of looking at the living and non-living things that can be found in the gardens. Family Discovery Backpacks are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved in advance. Backpacks can be rented for $5 at the Haggerty Education Center for up to 2 ½ hours (the last rental time is 2:30 p.m. and all backpacks must be returned by 4). The arboretum’s nature photo scavenger hunt is another great way to get the whole family excited about a trip to the arboretum. You can pick up a scavenger hunt list for $10 any time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Education Center. Use your phone or camera to take a photo of every item on the list (the list changes every month) to receive a prize. For more information, visit www.arboretumfriends.org.
New York Botanical Garden
There is never a shortage of beautiful sights (and delightful smells!) that can be enjoyed at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx, with gardens and collections spread out over 250 acres. But it is definitely worth a trip over the bridge in the next few months to see a limited-time exhibition of work by Dale Chihuly, the world’s foremost glass artist. The exhibit, CHIHULY, features more than 20 of the artist’s breathtaking installations and marks his first major garden exhibition in New York in more than 10 years. This exhibition runs through October and has been in the works for two years, with the NYBG staff replanting some of the gardens specifically to compliment the artwork. In addition to being able to enjoy the artwork during the day, NYBG will host CHIHULY Nights, when the pieces will be illuminated for a completely different viewing experience. For schedule and more information, visit www.nybg.org.
Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair is renowned as the largest public iris garden in the United States, featuring nearly 1,500 iris varieties (around 14,000 plants) that produce over 100,000 blooms. Celebrating its 90th year, the garden is called “the rainbow on the hill” because of its location at the base of Mountainside Park. The annual spring bloom seasons lasts only a few weeks; this year, peak bloom is expected to occur between the third and fourth weeks of May. There is no admission fee to visit the irises, but there is a suggested donation of $8 per person. Presby depends on donations to fund its entire operation, so any size donation is appreciated. For more information, and current updates on the spring bloom season, please visit www. presbyirisgardens.org.
By Rachel Jager