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1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
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Gardens in New Jersey, the Garden State

by Suzanne Fluhr on June 18, 2017 · 13 comments

A Brigantine, New Jersey garden

A Brigantine, New Jersey garden

I used to be one of those people who rolled their eyes when I heard New Jersey referred to as the Garden State. Really? New Jersey? Gardens?

Growing up, my exposure to New Jersey was pretty much limited to rides up the New Jersey Turnpike to visit my grandparents in Brooklyn, New York. This trip involved driving through an expanse of New Jersey where smokestacks belched black (or at least dark grey) smoke and the air was so toxic it burned our eyes and throats.

If there is such a thing as the opposite of a green thumb, I have it. The survival of plant life under our care is strictly Darwinian, a case study in natural selection. Any life form that can exist with the amount of care we choose to render can stay. We’ve had the dog for 12 years and successfully launched two human beings. However, we’re down to exactly zero plants. Thus, I am limited to enthusiastic admiration of other people’s success in nurturing members of the plant kingdom.

Since we acquired a house in Brigantine, a New Jersey shore town, we spend considerable time oohing and aahing over other people’s gardens. The town has an active garden club whose members beautify the street medians with plantings.

This devotion to Garden State gardens is not limited to Brigantine. Barbara Hammond, a Midlife Boulevard blogging friend who lives in West Cape May stokes my garden envy by posting photos of her garden every morning on Facebook. Given my fawning incessant appreciative comments on her garden posts, Barbara invited me to attend a “Secret Garden Tour” of private West Cape May gardens for which she was a co-organizer.

West Cape May is adjacent to Cape May, the New Jersey beach town known for its charming, restored Victorian homes and hordes of summer tourists. West Cape May is much lower key, feels more rural, and has much less gingerbread architecture, but is still lovely.

The tour started at the Willow Creek Farm and Winery and ended there with lunch. I knew there were farms in New Jersey, but if I were free associating about wine (not that I would ever do that), “New Jersey” would not be the first place that would spring to mind.

Willow Creek Winery, West Cape May, New Jersey

Tuscany? Nope. Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May, New Jersey.

At most of the gardens on the tour, we were greeted by the homeowners who shared the stories of their gardens.

God's garden quote

Gardener Barbara Hoepp shared that the inspiration for her garden was a promise she made to God after finishing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer 19 years ago. “If you get me through this chemo, I will create a garden that will make people think of you.”

The adage that a “a picture is worth a thousand words” is especially true when it comes to gardens.

New Jersey gardens hydrangea

My hydrangea envy was seriously stoked.

New Jersey flowers

My enjoyment wasn’t dampened by not knowing the names of the plants.

New Jersey flowers

Many colors are represented.

New Jersey flowers

Many flowers were shared with the outside world in front yards.

New Jersey flowers

Other blooms graced concealed inviting backyard sitting areas—for humans and their cats.

The Brigantine Garden Club is also sponsoring a Secret Garden Tour of private Brigantine gardens on Saturday, July 8th from 9:00 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. Tickets for $15.00 in cash can be purchased on July 8th at the Brigantine Community Center, 265 42nd Street, Brigantine, New Jersey 08203, starting at 9:00 a.m. at which time you can pick up a map of the participating homes. The tour is self guided, so you will need a car or bike to get around. You can purchase advance sale tickets for $13.00 at the Ace Hardware Store in Brigantine and at Bella Luna, Bella Rosas Florist, Island Items, Bob’s Garden Center, Joe’s Garden Center and Galloway Nursery. Day of tickets will sell for $15.00 at the Community Center. 

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Are you a garden person? Do you actually have a garden of your own? 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Meryl June 19, 2017 at 7:15 am

Busy grandsitting so could not get to the Cape May garden tour. Will try Brigantine’s. Thanks for the info. As a full-time Ventnor resident for seven years, now retired, I am cultivating amateur gardening skills. Fun but definitely challenging!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 19, 2017 at 2:51 pm

I’ve just updated some of the info about the Brigantine Secret Garden Tour. I have to be in New York City that weekend and I’m very disappointed that I will miss the tour. Gardens add so much to Brigantine during the spring and summer.

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avatar Nan @ lbddiaries June 19, 2017 at 11:52 am

I wish I could go on that garden tour!! When we lived in Germany, we lived off base in a duplex (upper & lower). Our back yard was the community garden for about 4 families. Our upstairs neighbors grew flowers, which is where I fell in love with snapdragons & fresh cinnamony carnations. When I related this tale to Alpha Hubby after we were married, he built me a giant flower garden and I had so many of the above flowers in it. It was the most amazing gift anyone had ever given me. I can keep “hard to kill” plants (according to a nursery owner years ago) but don’t really have a green anything. They live or die through stubbornness, not my care!! LOVE your pictures.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

That Alpha Hubby is definitely a keeper. I don’t ever expect to come “home” to Brigantine and find that Mr. Excitement has planted me a garden. However, we have managed not to kill some perennials planted by the former owner.

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avatar Donna Janke June 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm

I love garden tours! I love the colours in the photos you’ve taken. I used to have a relatively large garden. I enjoyed creating the garden, but now am much more content with just a small flower bed in front of the house. My garden looked quite nice at times, but never as wonderful as the ones I’ve seen on tours.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 20, 2017 at 1:31 am

The gardens on tours can be inspiring— or depressing when you realize your garden is unlikely to ever look like that. 😉

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avatar Lois Alter Mark June 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Okay, those gardens are gorgeous. I’m laughing because as a native New Yorker, I could never understand why New Jersey was called the Garden State, either. How did I miss these??! So beautiful!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm

It turns out that quite a few New Jerseyites (Jerseyians?) are gardeners. Who knew? Of course, down here in southern New Jersey there are also locally grown tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, corn and “Jersey tomatoes”.

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avatar Leslie in Oregon June 20, 2017 at 4:30 am

Hello to Dino! Enjoy every minute with him. Did he go with you on the West May Secret Garden Tour?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Dino didn’t go on the tour. Part of it involved riding on a leased “trolley” and then there was an indoor lunch. It was also very hot and humid, so I’m sure he preferred being in air conditioned comfort with his human Dad (Mr. Excitement) back in Brigantine .

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avatar Cindy June 22, 2017 at 9:49 am

Lovely to see these gardens. It’s been years since we were in the Cape May area, but I recall how beautiful it was. Even though New Jersey is the Garden State, I was surprised to learn on that trip that parts of the state really do have gardens. Glad to see that is still true!

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go June 25, 2017 at 5:03 am

I had the same reaction about hearing New Jersey and “The Garden State” in the same sentence until my parents moved there and we actually started seeing some of the natural and historic tourist areas. I’d love to go on this garden tour and so enjoyed your photos. The one of the sleeping cat under the blooms was perfect! And, sadly, no garden at the moment since we’re still in semi-travel mode. On my someday list again!

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avatar Sue Reddel June 26, 2017 at 4:07 pm

I guess there’s plenty of reason that New Jersey is called the Garden State. Too bad it gets such a bad rap. Your hydrangeas are just beautiful. I’ve never seen one plant with multi colors like that. Your soil pH must be really unusual.

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