Wesson Family Nature Grove Dedicated at Reeves-Reed Arboretum

July 21, 2011 at 6:12 PM

SUMMIT, NJ – A two hundred year old European Beech tree, known as “the Elephant Tree”, towers over and provides shade for a special corner oasis of the Reeves-Reed Arboretum. 

The tree is the central focal point for a new section of the arboretum, the Wesson Family Nature Grove. 

The Nature Grove, which will primarily function as an outdoor children’s classroom, was dedicated at a ribbon cutting on Wednesday evening, July 20.

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The Wesson Family Nature Grove is equipped with large stones for children to sit on, which has been used already for a story circle, for an “Art in the Arboretum” event. 

Larger slabs of Delaware Valley Stone were fashioned into tables and chairs for the tranquil area. 

“Children’s education is a major part of the Arboretum’s mission and the Elephant Tree creates a natural feeling of being in a room or special secret place,” said Gayle Petty-Johnson, Executive Director of the Reeves-Reed Arboretum.  “It’s a lovely and protected area ideal for children to learn about the natural world.”

“What I love about the Nature Grove so much is the teaching here,” said Andy Gottesman, President of the Board of Trustees for the Reeves-Reed Arboretum.  “Children learn outside in what is a classroom.”

Toby and Betsy Wesson arrived in Summit 40 years ago, and had purchased what they considered a “white elephant” property, which no one else wanted.  Their realtor attempted to persuade them not to purchase that home, but instead wait for a piece of property on Hobart Avenue, which was slated for subdivision.  The Wesson’s went with their original plan, and later joined other citizens of Summit who helped to conserve that subdivision, which is now the Reeves-Reed Arboretum.

“I am pleased to be here today and support this,” said Toby Wesson.

The Wesson’s have been actively involved with the arboretum, as have their children, and grandchildren. 

“We truly appreciate this tremendous gift from the Wesson family, and the many others who helped make the nature grove a reality,” said Petty-Johnson.

The Wesson’s cut the ribbon, along with Mayor Jordan Glatt.

“It takes your breath away,” Glatt said of the Nature Grove.  “I foresee you will see many children and adults around this path.”

Cording Landscape Design of Towaco designed and rehabilitated the area.  Carney Electric of Summit donated the lighting.  There were new plants placed on the grounds between the nature grove and fishpond, and a new hummingbird sculpture was added, designed by artist Adrienne Yorinks, and fabricated by Dan KalbElissa and Michael O’Rourke provided funding for the sculpture.  The New Jersey Committee of the Garden Club of American provided plant material.  L’Oreal USA provided volunteer labor.

A viewing scope is planned for the pond area in the near future. 

Following the ribbon cutting, families enjoyed a picnic on the grounds behind the Wisner House.

The Wesson Family Nature Grove will be the setting for the upcoming Tea Under the Trees event, with a tour for children and adults, and the opportunity to make sachets, prior to enjoying tea and treats on the Terrace.  The dates for the Tea Under the Trees events are on Sunday, September 18th, Saturday, September 24th, and Friday, October 14th.

The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is the only public garden, and the largest green space in the City of Summit.  It is also the only arboretum in Union County.  It is listed on the National and New Jersey Historic Registries, and has received funding from the New Jersey Historical Commission. 

For more information about the Reeves-Reed Arboretum, visit:

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