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Georgian Court welcomes students for Fall 2020 classes–read highlights of our plans and download the app, which must be completed daily before coming to campus. Always check GCU e-mails and for the most up-to-date information.


arboretum accreditation badgeDue to Covid-19, the arboretum is currently not open to personal guided tours or visitors who want to get out of their cars.  However, you may schedule a drive-through tour by using the tab at (university’s home page) and then use the arboretum two-page brochure or 16-page history and guide booklet (see links below)  in conjunction with the university’s campus map to see our sights.  We are not sure when we will be able to give guided tours (updated Aug 02, 2020).

Georgian Court University was formerly the winter home of George Jay Gould, millionaire son of railroad tycoon Jay Gould. The architect Bruce Price was hired to transform the land, purchased in 1896, into a lavish country estate resembling an English estate of the Georgian period; therefore, it was named Georgian Court. In addition to designing the buildings, Bruce Price designed three of the four major gardens, which were created before 1910: the Classic or Italian Garden, the Sunken Garden or Lagoon, and the Formal Garden. The garden designer Takeo Shiota designed the Japanese Garden. The Wellness Garden was added in 2008. 

Arboretum History

The Sisters of Mercy of New Jersey bought the estate in 1924, moving their College of Mount Saint Mary to the site.  The college is now Georgian Court University.  The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark.

The arboretum, established in 1989, is named after Sister Mary Grace Burns and comprises the landscaped part of the campus (approx. 100 acres).  Our collection includes over 2,200 woody plants from over 190 species, representing most of the native species of the New Jersey Pine Barrens (New Jersey Pinelands) as well as a large number of nonnative plant species.  We have several species listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and several trees that are the largest of their kind in Ocean County.  Small Clethra alnifolia, holly and magnolia collections are located between the Italian Gardens and Formal Garden. They are mostly enclosed by aluminum fences but can be entered via a gate.

Because it is an integral part of the university campus, the arboretum is free, open daily and not marked by signs.  We welcome visitors from 8 am until dusk.  Please enter the arboretum via the main vehicular campus entrance off of 9th Street in Lakewood and tell the security staff you are here to see the arboretum.  Please download and print a copy of the two-page arboretum brochure (which also contains a map showing attraction locations) before you come to the campus (copies of this brochure are also available in the brochure holder along the sidewalk to the main entrance of Jeffries Hall at the front of parking lot A).  Consider also printing our 16-page, self-guided arboretum walking tour “history and guide” booklet (Oct. 2019 edition), which is designed to be used with the arboretum brochure.  Directions and a generic campus map (without arboretum attractions shown) are available by clicking here.  For what’s in bloom or colorful, click here. Because we have many deer and the gardens historically featured woody plants, we do not have many annuals or perennials.  The four historic gardens — Italian, Formal, Sunken and Japanese — are known for their overall themed designs, elaborate and ornate brickwork and marble, and the integration of historic (often centuries-old) statuary, sculptures, fountains (most of which are not functional), Japanese teahouse, and woody plants.  Many objects were brought over from Europe and purchased by the Gould family.

Personal photographs for non-commercial and casual/informal purposes are permitted.  For information about formal. staged photographs or the professional photography policy, please contact the Office of Conferences and Special Events at 732-987-2285.  Click here for the wedding/wedding photo policy. For more information about the arboretum itself, 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 ude.naigroeg@ssorgm.  Programs (including tours) open to the public will be listed on GCU’s website.  Our annual Japanese tea experience, featuring a chance to go inside our 1910 teahouse and learn about the tea ceremony, will be rescheduled for spring 2021.   You will be able to register at

The arboretum is a member of the American Public Gardens Association and the Garden State Gardens Consortium.  We participate in APGA’s Plant Protection Program. Our collection is included in the database maintained by Botanic Gardens Conservation International and we participate in BGCI conservation programs. We are also a cooperator in the Plant Conservation Alliance.  Consistent with the goals of the shortleaf pine initiative, we have planted 25 shortleaf pine seedlings since 2013. We were named to Best College Reviews list of the 50 Most Beautiful College Arboretums in 2015.  We have Level II accreditation from the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program.

We welcome your financial contributions, which support collection development, trees to replace those that die, plant labeling, and protection against deer browsing. To give to the arboretum, use this link:  Thank you for your support!

Italian Garden

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The Italian Garden was inspired by the famous formal gardens of Italy. It features an enormous Fountain of Apollo sculpted by John Massey Rhind (and turned on only for special events), a wrought iron eagle and dragon sculpture commissioned by Emperor Wilhelm II and forged by the Armbruster Brothers of Frankfurt for the German pavilion of the Paris Exposition of 1900, life-size statues of Greek gods and goddesses, floral urns mounted on marble pedestals, centuries-old fountains (non-functioning), and two semicircular pergolas with Tuscan columns, marble benches and statuary. Most of the trees in the Italian Garden are conifers, and include Himalayan Pine (Pinus wallichiana), White Pine (Pinus strobus), Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata), Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens), American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), Oriental Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis), Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Hinoki Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and Moss (Sawara) Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera). The first trees of Italian origin were added to the garden in 1999-2000: Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens).

Peak color in the Italian Garden is from May 15–Sept. 30, when the geraniums in the urns are in flower.

Sunken Garden

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This garden, with its lagoon connecting it to Lake Carasaljo, is the most lavish of the three gardens designed by Bruce Price. It features a 17th century marble fountain from a garden in southern France (turned on only for special occasions) on a brick esplanade, a double marble staircase flanked by lions, and carved marble benches, which are copies of the benches in the Vatican Garden. The lagoon itself connects to Lake Carasaljo under a bridge also designed by Bruce Price. The bridge was restored in 1999. Water from the lagoon feeds the Apollo Fountain in the Italian Garden. Moss (Sawara) Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) is common in this garden, but Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), flanks the bridge at the southern end of the garden. The lagoon contains water lilies.

The sunken garden is most colorful between about April 10 and May 20, when the eastern redbud is in flower, along with the azaleas at the base of the double marble staircases and the crabapples on either side of the sunken garden. The crapemyrtles behind the 17th century fountain generally flower between July 15 and August 15. October daisies are in bloom in October.

Formal Garden

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This is an elliptical flower garden, planted with mathematical precision. Maze-like walks and boxwood hedge borders add to the precise layout. In the center of the garden is a bronze sculpture of three satyrs holding a sundial. Ringing the formal garden are American Holly (Ilex opaca), White Pine (Pinus strobus), Norway Spruce (Picea abies ), Moss (Sawara) Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera), Ashleaf Maple (Acer negundo),  Japanese Apricot (Prunus mume), Common Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Sapphireberry (Symplocos paniculata), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and White Ash (Fraxinus americana).

The formal garden offers an array of colors from May 15-October 1. The early-flowering peonies around the garden and irises around the central sundial are at their peak around Memorial Day.  Russian sage flowers around the sundial from June through September.  The 15 small flowerbeds among the boxwood hedges contain lavender, which is in bloom from May through July.

Japanese Garden

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A birthday gift to Edith Gould from her husband George, this Takeo Shiota-designed garden is entered through a gateway, or machiai. The garden path, or roji, passes a genuine teahouse (from the Japan-British exhibition of 1910), or sukiya, and leads to a small wooden footbridge as it continues to the back of the garden. A stately Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) on the island in the center of the garden, is surrounded by Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata), Japanese Cherry (Prunus serrulata), Hinoki Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum).Weeping Higan Cherry (Prunus subhirtella) is also in the garden.

The garden features three custom-designed wooden bridges built by Peter Wechsler in 2014-2015 and several cultivars of Japanese maples added in 2013 to replace trees lost in Superstorm Sandy.  Mr. Wechsler replaced the shoji, installed tatami mats, and made other teahouse improvements from 2016-present.

There are two periods of peak color in the Japanese Garden. One is from April 15-June 5. The early flowers of the cherries are followed by lily of the valley, azalea, iris, rhododendron, and goldenchain tree. Often, the irises, rhododendron, and goldenchain tree flower simultaneously in the last half of May, creating a spectacular mix of yellow, purple, and pink at the entrance to the garden. The other peak color period is about October 25-Nov 10, when the leaves of the cherries and various cultivars of maples change to yellow, red and orange.

Wellness Garden

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In 2008, the Wellness Center/University Store/Athletic Field complex just west of the Arts and Science Center and north of the Library was built. As part of this project, a Wellness Center Garden, designed by biology department students, was installed in summer 2009 and features plants that were historically used for medicinal or herbal purposes. Enclosed by a fence to keep out deer, the garden includes about 70 species, including sweetgrass, stinging nettle, wild strawberry, thyme, rosemary, mint, St. John’s wort, coneflower (Echinacea), cranberry, cardinal flower, pussytoes, joe pye-weed, yucca, chicory, ferns, bayberry, and prickly pear cactus. Enter the garden by lifting the metallic latch (see directions on fence). The front of the Wellness Center itself has a “living roof” planted with sedums and other drought, heat and high-light tolerant species. As part of the sustainability/wellness initiative, a trellis of the native vine Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) provides summer shade and transmits winter’s light to the east-facing classroom at the front of the Wellness Center. Trees around the Wellness Center include many native species, including Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea), and Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). Non-native Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii) trees provide early spring flowers. There is a small native grass and sedge garden in front of the Wellness Center to showcase deer-resistant, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance species.  Between the Court Cafe/Gavan Lounge and Jeffries Hall is our newest garden, a New Jersey native plant garden, created in 2019.

What's in Bloom

Sep 20 – Sep 27, 2020:  

Fragrance and Color:

  • Yellow, blue, green foliage of our many conifers throughout our campus
  • Assorted perennials — Puny Garden, Wellness Garden, NJ Native Plant Garden, Chapel Garden, Lopez Garden, Library Garden
  • Geraniums — Urns in Italian Gardens and around Formal Garden
  • White flowers of seven sons tree — front of Marron Community Chapel
  • Pink/purple flowers of re-blooming lilacs — Lilac groves in front of Japanese Garden fence
  • Roses — S Maria Cordis Rose Garden 7th Street Gate, Puny Garden
  • Pink, purple flowers of crape myrtle — south side of Casino, front of Jeffries Hall, entrance to Sunken Garden, front of Farley Center
  • Purple flowers of Russian Sage — Formal Garden, Library Garden
  • Purple, pink and white flowers of Chaste Tree — Formal Garden circle, front of Mercedes, front of Wellness Center, front of Jeffries Hall
  • White fragrant flowers of Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra) — Clethra collection behind bench at Apollo Fountain
  • White fragrant flowers of Franklinia — Founders’ Grove, east of McAuley Heritage Chapel, and between Maria and St Joseph Hall
  • White flowers of Groundsel Bush — front of Marron Community Chapel

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