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Georgian Court University Recognized for Arboretum

The path to the Japanese garden

Georgian Court University’s Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum recently attained Level II accreditation from global network ArbNet.

Established in 1989, the arboretum—a type of botanical garden—encompasses approximately 100 acres of GCU’s historic Lakewood campus. Its collection showcases 2,200 trees and shrubs of more than 190 species, many of which are found in the surrounding Pine Barrens.

Georgian Court University Formal Garden
Formal Garden

Native, nonnative, and endangered species are represented in the arboretum. Notable examples in the collection include small Ilex, Clethra, and Magnolia. Many of the trees are the largest and oldest in the Ocean County area, including a Quercus alba (white oak) specimen over 250 years old.

Among the arboretum’s oldest fixtures are its four main gardens—the Sunken, Italian, Formal, and Japanese gardens. Each was built before 1910 when the campus was the George Jay Gould estate. The Sunken, Italian, and Formal gardens were devised by architect Bruce Price, and the Japanese Garden was designed by Takeo Shiota. The gardens populate the arboretum’s plants, trees, and flowers with statuary dating back several centuries.

Georgian Court University Sunken Garden
Sunken Garden

The lakeside Sunken Garden incorporates marble stairways and a 17th-century fountain, overlooking a lagoon with waterlilies. The Italian and Formal gardens weave walkways amidst bronze sculptures, conifers, and flowerbeds. The Japanese Garden includes a genuine teahouse, waterfall and wooden bridges amongst its cypress, yew, cherries, and Japanese maples.

“The Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum is part of a university that values accreditation as an indicator of high quality,” says Michael F. Gross, Ph.D., GCU associate provost, professor of biology, and director of the arboretum. “For our arboretum, ArbNet accreditation is important because it serves as a signal to potential visitors that they will find a woody plant collection that is accurately labeled and maintained, and educational resources that are informative and useful.”

Because it is an integral part of the university campus, the arboretum is open daily and is not marked by signs, though a map of its highlights is available for self-guided tours. Visitors are welcome from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. There is no charge to visit.

For more information about the arboretum, including guided tours (which can be arranged for a fee) or lists of the plant collection, please contact Dr. Michael Gross at 732-987-2373 or You can also view a history and guide of the arboretum online.

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About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, GCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.