Tens of thousands of years ago, a glacial lake drained leaving behind basalt outcroppings now known as Moggy Hollow in its wake. Flash forward to the 1930s, when Leonard Buck planted them and established what would become a world class rock garden in a wooded glade on his estate in Far Hills.
Inch forward a few seconds in the earth’s history and you have the sunny and cool 21st century spring afternoon when I visited what is now a county park.
I am not a rock or alpine garden officiando, but the Leonard J. Buck Garden does something else very well. It seamlessly (for the most part) blends the gardeners hand within the broader context of the natural world. Even with the contemporary interest in natural planting schemes, this garden stands out.
There are large swaths of woodland, but they are augmented with pathways, viewing ledges, plants and rustic structures. There is evidence of slope conservation and reintroduction of native plants, and there also are the eccentric plants, such as the dwarf boxwoods (Buxus ’Kingsville Dwarf’) that mound up hillsides and on rock formations here and there.
Other groups of spring bulbs on a slope of hardwoods seem more natural. There are many varieties of ferns and Solomon’s Seal. There are Trilliums (thanks to the electrified perimeter deer fence) and Aquilegia and Epimediums and flowering trees. The thoughtful placement and planning of paths and bridges over the park’s meandering stream allows an easy ramble of discovery.
Directions to the garden can be found here.