So far I’m having a great summer exploring new places and painting in nature! One of my regular readers asked me if I’m also going to paint more buildings of NYC. The answer is YES, but in today’s post I’d love to share a beautiful spot in Morristown: The Frelinghuysen Arboretum (127 acres), which is located at 53 East Hanover Avenue. An arboretum is “a place where trees or shrubs are cultivated for their scientific or educational interest.” 1
The history of the arboretum goes back to 1891 when George G. Frelinghuysen and his wife P. Ballantine built a grand country mansion and carriage house on the site of “Whippany Farm”, named after the river nearby. The family only lived here during the summer months; in the winter they went back to their house in NYC. The property was also a working farm where vegetables and flowers were grown for the family’s consumption and were shipped to their home in NYC. Their daughter Matilda (1887-1969) inherited the property. Miss Frelinghuysen had an interest in gardening, and in 1964 she began plans for turning the estate into an arboretum. The Frelinghuysen arboretum was dedicated in 1971.
Today the arboretum is open to the public, and it is also the headquarters of the Morris County Parks Commission. There is an educational center for regional horticultural activities. For a drink or a sandwich you can visit Matilda’s Cafe, which is located next to the center. The Gazebo and the Pavillion offer a scenic overview of the gardens and a place to sit in the shade. And there are several nature and horse trails.
A few weeks ago, I visited the arboretum for the first time with another student of my painting class. First we walked around to figure out which spot would be best to paint. While walking into the formal garden area of the mansion, we were struck right away by the light that hit the arbor, the dappled shadows on the ground, the pink roses and the sap green spikes (grasses) near the pool which really popped out. It was an interesting composition with the perfect lights and darks/shades for that time of the day. I also painted the view of the pool and the mansion from one of the benches in the pool area. In my opinion a big challenge and also a fun part of painting outdoors is to catch and capture the ever-changing light of day. It starts with finding the right spot to paint and then I’d say, “Go for it”, and so I did… Enjoy my visualization of the arboretum!