Essex County Rose Garden: Brookdale Park

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Brookdale County Parkβ–Ί

Brookdale Park replaced a coal ash dump site in the 1930s. Before that, Dutch settlers grew rhubarb here. And before that, the Lenape Nation used the area as a planting and gathering ground.

Essex County bought up the 121 acres in Montclair and Bloomfield, New Jersey, by 1931. They hired the Frederick Law Olmsted firm to create Brookdale Park. The Olmsteds are known for designing the National Mall in DC as well as New York City’s Central Park.

Athletic fields, tennis courts, forested areas, walking paths and a dog park populate the spaces off the park’s circular drive. On the western side sits the Essex County Rose Garden.

Essex County Rose Gardenβ–Ί

In 1959, the North Jersey Rose Society, in partnership with the Essex County Parks, established a formal rose garden on the Montclair side of Brookdale Park. The Society planted 750 rose bushes. The Parks department created paid gardener positions to maintain the plantings.

The garden fell on hard times. Budget cuts terminated the paid staff and the NJ Rose Society withdrew its support.

In the late 1990s, the Essex County Master Gardeners took over the rose garden maintenance. They replanted bushes, improved the soil and cleaned up the damage done from years of neglect. Brookdale Park celebrated the Rose Garden’s 50th anniversary in June 2009.

Master Gardener volunteers still maintain the 100 species of roses today. I visited the garden during Covid shutdowns on the advice of a friend. What a fragrant and lovely morning excursion that was!

Location: Brookdale Park, Montclair, NJ 07043
Designation: County Park
Date designated or established: 1931 (Park), 1959 (Garden)
Date of my visit: 6/19/2020

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