Essex County’s Branch Brook Park is the home to the largest cherry tree collection in the country. Over the past year a volunteer crew of Rutgers Master Gardeners has taken over a big piece of that job, pruning 1400 of the park’s 4300 trees and donating over 300 hours of hard labor. Up until the Master Gardeners developed a pruning team, the trees were not maintained on any level.
The alliance is a public-private partnership assisting Essex County in its efforts to restore the formerly neglected park. Conceived in 1867 by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., who designed New York’s Central Park, it extends from Route 280 in Newark north to Mill Street in Belleville. Branch Brook is the oldest county park in the U.S. and underwent significant deterioration during the 1980s and ‘90s.
“The Master Gardeners are doing a great job,” said Cowie. “They all share a passion for
The very oldest trees in Branch Brook Park date to the 1920s, when business executive and philanthropist Caroline Bamberger Fuld donated 2,000 Japanese flowering cherry trees. The average life expectancy for a flowering cherry tree is 30 years, but some live 80 years or more.
The cherry tree project began in 2011 as a way for Master Gardeners to learn about