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The development of Rutgers Gardens as a botanical garden began with the formation of Rutgers University’s Cook Campus (formerly known as the College of Agriculture and the Rutgers Scientific School), beginning in 1864, and the development of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, beginning in 1880. As a Land Grant College, the initial purchase of more than 530 acres of land for the entire College Farm and Campus occurred between 1864 and 1926. The development of Rutgers Gardens began in 1916, when 35.7 acres of land—known as Wolpert Farm—was purchased on 5/17/1916 from Jacob and Celia Lipman . Today, this is the area of land that defines the heart of the Gardens, extending from the Holly Collection down to the Log Cabin. The area was expanded with the purchase of the Welshman Farm in 1923, which is the area still dedicated to research, and Helyar Woods in 1937.
Read the complete thesis by David Hanrahan - Hybrid Territory: The Shaping of Public Display at Rutgers Gardens.In his thesis, Hanrahan explores the roles that hybridization and the work of plant scientists played in the evolution of Rutgers Gardens. He recounts the history of land purchase and development on Cook Campus and at Horticultural Farm No. 1, which later became known as Rutgers Gardens. From its days of agriculture experimentation to its present incarnation as a public display garden, Hanrahan touches on the people that have helped shape the development of Rutgers Gardens, the various types of work and research that have been—and are still being—done here, and the events that are a part of our rich history.
Iris Display Garden, the first ornamental display garden, during Iris Field Day in
Donald B. Lacey Display Garden, during Annual Open House 2015
Today Rutgers Gardens encompass nearly 180 acres of maintained and natural areas. When the Gardens began, its focus was to create a teaching collection of plants for students and the community. Today, the Gardens have expanded and not only feature beautiful flora, but a number of programs and facilities for the local community, as well as the university faculty and students to, enjoy and explore.