Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Avis Campbell Gardens


Hello Fellow Readers,

I spent last weekend with over a hundred self-proclaimed tech-nerds participating in the first NJ Word Camp. There were non-techies too, that would be me, who use the WordPress platform for websites or blogging. I was there to improve this website of our weekly chats so more readers can find us.


Avis Campbell Gardens, Montclair. NJ

A magnificent garden greeted me beyond the parking lot of the United Way building in Montclair, NJ, where the event was held. Through the archway of the stately red brick garden wall, adorned with a climbing hydrangea and white climbing roses already in bloom, a pedestal fountain centered in an octagonal pond drew me in. Brick paths like spokes on a bicycle wheel enticed me to meander the gardens filled with an arresting collage of roses and peonies amongst a lovely lineup of perennials – lambs’ ear, purple salvia, and white Siberian iris, to name just a few.

There was a weathered plaque, patinaed green – Come Rest Awhile and Browse in These Gardens Created for All. Planned and Maintained by the Garden Club of Montclair,1952. A newer plaque above it read, Avis Campbell Gardens, In Recognition of Thirty Years of Devoted Service, May 1982.

I lingered by the fountain, adoring the sounds. Floating in the water was a potpourri of petals and blossoms tickling the corner of the coping. I felt comforted. Then, I dove into the conference and learned about keywords and power words for SEO, Search Engine Optimization (yawn). I filled twenty pages of notes over the two days with suggested to-dos and not to-dos. It was exhausting. Whatever happened to build it, and they will come?

While some of what I learned may come to fruition, the biggest takeaway was from the garden, which a fellow word-camper brought to life. In the early eighties, Alex from Montclair worked for Avis Campbell, who was in her eighties at the time. “She kept a dozen or so clients,” Alex explained, “to get out of the house.” She recalls Avis graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design as a Landscape Architect, one of the few women in the day. “She was no-nonsense but kind.” Alex shared how they meticulously pruned an expansive boxwood hedge using only a knife to be sure there would be no brown wounded tips. After this, Avis treated the crew to ice cream.

According to the garden club’s website, Campbell’s design was “inspired by the Wheel of Life.” I would bet the Tibetan Wheel of Life, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, rather than modern-day versions by motivation speakers who add things like work, fitness, and finances to the wheel.


Japanese Dogwood (Cornus Kousa)


The brownish-grey mottled trunk of Cornus Kousa stands like a sculpture

At the end of the conference, I stopped to admire the grand Japanese Dogwood (Cornus Kousa) on the corner of the United Way building. It stood two stories high, covered with white cartoon-like four-inch flowers of happiness. Below, the brownish-grey mottled trunk looked like a sculpture through every season. My fog of technology felt lifted.

Garden Dilemmas?

There’s a hybrid of Cornus Kousa and our native Cornus florida often used in the landscape. To find out why in a previous column titled Doggone Dogwood Disease.


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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