Montclair has many hidden gems, but one that even longtime residents have never heard of — is a secret garden on South Fullerton. Read on for more about this incredible hidden oasis in the Montclair area.
About Avis-Campbell Gardens
Around the corner from the Montclair Public Library, behind its neighboring building, resides the Avis-Campbell Gardens, a 70-year-old property dutifully cared for by The Garden Club of Montclair. You would never know it was there unless someone shared its secret with you or you stumbled upon it on a map.
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Down the unassuming driveway of 60 South Fullerton, you make your way past the brick administrative building, where a plot of green welcomes you. Try not to peek, as you park in the back, amidst recycling cans and a dumpster — none of which evoke the Eden beyond.
Through a quaint brick arch, you are transported to a lush, surprising location, one that is completely unique to this area of Downtown Montclair. To put it bluntly, the Avis-Campbell Gardens are spectacular. Diligently manicured by The Garden Club year round, there is always something to see here.
When you walk in, a few plaques greet you with information. To the left is the original, 1952 garden plaque which reads: “…come rest awhile and browse in these gardens created for all.”
The Gardens were named for a volunteer member of the local club in 1982, after they contributed thirty years of devoted service. Another plaque holds a moving poem in dedication to another volunteer. Just by looking at these markers, you can tell the importance this space holds for The Garden Club and the people who volunteer here.
The protected nature of this semi-walled garden means the seasons can be extended beyond the more limited season. So while elsewhere the tulips have finished, here there are rows and rows of tulips, exploding in a variety of colors. Some of our favorite tulips included a deep purple that is so dark it almost appears black. Contrasting with the usual bright pink and white, this combination was delightfully pleasing.
The garden hosts a variety of other plants, like yarrow, azaleas, lambs ear, ferns, and alliums. There is a bed of peonies, on the brink of bloom, and a few scattered ones exploding with giant flowers. A small rose garden, healthy and tended, waits in slumber for its turn to bloom. Climbing roses cover the brick wall and we can only imagine the beauty as the garden begins to awaken over the next few months.
In the center of the space is an urn-like fountain, encircled with bricks dedicated to and in memory of those close to The Garden Club of Montclair. On the northwestern side of the garden is a memorial to the North Essex victims of September 11th.
There are few visitors, quietly sitting, enjoying lunch, and taking in the beauty of this lush hidden gem. Like any secret garden, we don’t want to see it crowded with people — it is a small space after all — but it’s important that the locals know what beauty awaits them in Montclair.
The Avis-Campbell Gardens are located at 60 South Fullerton Avenue. There is parking at the back and there is no fee for entry. Please remember to be respectful of the space when viewing the plants.