There are some places that you see on Instagram that have you saying, “where is that? I need to go and visit.” Well, La Serra Gardens is one of those places. It is a hidden oasis for garden lovers, tucked in an unsuspecting corner on the edge of Totowa, right next to a leg of the Morris Canal’s towpath in Passaic County. A fifteen-minute drive will take you out of Montclair and into this slice of Italy, with a literal pignoli cookie on top. Read on to plan your own adventure to La Serra located at 813 Union Boulevard, Totowa.
La Serra Gardens is a garden center founded by Lisamarie Suriano in 2019. Her name might sound familiar because she’s also the woman behind Piccola Cucina 98, an incredibly popular Italian bakery located on Walnut St. in Montclair. It’s Corso 98’s sister shop, and, yes – the treats are incredible. So, it should be no surprise that Mrs. Suriano has set up another endeavor, this one, a gorgeous plant shop that feels like a wander through someone’s private gardens.
There’s a lovely story that goes beyond just the opening of this new business. La Serra Gardens was once Olivito’s Greenhouse, a small garden center run by husband and wife Ben and Jill Olivito for 45 years. The four greenhouses on the property were built by Ben and are located alongside the family’s house — a magnificent 1842 home that Ben once said, “belongs in Montclair.”
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The white mansion is hard to miss, as it runs alongside the garden center and was built for a wealthy industrialist during the heyday of woolen rug mills on the Morris Canal. La Serra Gardens honors that history by keeping the Olivito Greenhouse tradition alive, selling high-quality plants as a family.: “Continuing the Olivito’s Greenhouse passion of 45 years, La Serra Gardens opened its doors on May 23, 2019,” the garden wrote in a statement.
This Totowa garden center brings all the color and imagination that you’d expect from a boutique garden shop – rows of flowers beautifully displayed, hundreds of authentic pots, and a massive gift shop with a wide variety of seasonal and home decor.
In keeping with the Olivito legacy, Lisamarie Suriano has made the gardens feel like a home, which is the real charm in paying a visit. Along with the shop, her family exudes comfort, kindness, and a genuine earnestness to help their customers.
Frank Sinatra croons in the background while you wander the rows, seeking out the well-designed nooks and corners on display. Stone frogs catch your eye, along with hanging baskets full of ripening strawberries. Seashell bird baths sit in the sun while you pick out your seasonal blooms.
But the real excitement for plant lovers comes in the form of one particular greenhouse, where gorgeous terracotta-glazed pots sit stacked in the invitation, asking you to come and plant. It feels like a wonderland for plant lovers, made by someone who loves plants.
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The stunning main greenhouse, built by Ben Olivito’s hands all those years ago, is the showpiece, simply bursting with gifts. Everything from the funny to the thoughtful, you’ll find gifts, curiosities, and playful home decor inside.
(Photo credit: @laserragardens)
And lucky for us, Mrs. Suriano has started to sell her excellent baked goods at the garden center, too – things like vanilla and lemon marshmallows and fresh scones. So, we are left asking, why haven’t you stopped by for a visit?
If you need a housewarming gift, a tasty treat, or a perennial shrub, you will find it and a feeling of home at La Serra Gardens. Stay up to date with the garden center on Instagram at @laserragardens.