A showcase for plants of northwest N.J.

Posted: July 08, 2013

One man's passion for planting has led to the creation of the Pohatcong Native Arboretum in Bergen County, an American Indian-inspired nature sanctuary nearly 11 years in the making, where a garden of trees and plants native to northwest New Jersey is set for public display.

Creator and founder Anthony Pasquini said he was still fine-tuning the site in the days leading up to Tuesday's dedication ceremony, which will mark its public opening.

Pasquini said his work planting and designing the arboretum is done and that he hopes to hand over maintenance of the site to the community.

"It's been such a long project and I've dedicated my life to it," Pasquini said. "Now it's time to celebrate."

Pasquini has been laboring over the arboretum in Washington Township since the fall of 2002. A passionate gardener and plant enthusiast, Pasquini enlisted the help of Rutgers University, the local high school and community college, and fellow professional planter Jeff Stevens to help design the four-acre site.

Stevens said he incorporated spiritual aspects from his American Indian background to design the project, including paying close attention to details in nature, such as plants facing in certain directions. Stevens said he hoped the arboretum would make people more aware and appreciative of nature.

"You don't just have to be Native American . . . to understand the energies and the directions and the bounty of Mother Nature," Stevens said.

Pasquini said he chose the site out of love for the nearby Pohatcong Creek. A native of Washington Township, Pasquini said he had many fond memories of swimming in the creek and climbing nearby mountains, and wanted to create something people could appreciate there.

For Pasquini, the work entailed not only planting but also researching what trees and plants were native to the area and going on plant-finding missions in the woods and in nurseries. He also tended to the garden over the years by planting, weeding, and maintaining the area regularly.

The arboretum will display more than 130 species of plants and shrubs, all native to northwest New Jersey, among them willow, maple, and oak trees including the northern red oak, the official state tree. Twenty-two members of the rose family will be on display along with wild hydrangeas, azaleas, and magnolias.

Pasquini said there was no question he would finish the arboretum despite several setbacks, including not having enough tools and materials at times.

"When you start something like this, it's hard to abandon it," Pasquini said.

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