With over 10,000 acres of parks and preserved open spaces (not counting the numerous state and municipal parks), Mercer County has an abundance of riches. Grounds for Sculpture, Mercer County Park, The Institute Woods, Washington’s Crossing, D & R Canal, etc., all make Central New Jersey feel worthy of our farming heritage and our nickname “The Garden State.”
Sayen House and Gardens in Hamilton is a photographer’s dream. The Arts and Crafts style house was built in 1912 on 30 acres by Frederick Sayen and his wife Anne Mellon Sayen (yes, of THAT Mellon family). Sayen’s family owned a rubber mill in Hamilton Square and he landscaped his bungalow with exotic trees, plants and flowers that he collected in his world travels.
Sayen Gardens became a Municipal Park in 1988 and opened to the public in 1991. Strolling the grounds one can enjoy over 500 rhododendrons, 250,000 flowering bulbs and over 1,000 azaleas. In May, the park is home to the Mother’s Day Azalea Fest, a local tradition. In addition to the beautiful flowers and trees, the park also features ponds, fountains, bridges and gazebos. These structures are a favorite site for wedding photos all year round. And entry is free!
If you park in the Hughes Drive lot and walk towards the house there are a couple of trails that lead to different sections of the park. In back of the house follow the Temple Gardens Trail, where you’ll come upon a lovely gazebo with a lattice work dome. If you take the path to the right of the house, you’ll find a beautiful redwood arch. Also in this section is a serene koi pond.
Follow the trail away from the house and it will take you on a short easy hike through the woods. There’s only one trail so there aren’t any markings. When you emerge from the woods the arboretum, featuring dogwoods and other flowering trees, stretches before you. A park-like setting with a gazebo, a covered bridge, ponds and a small waterfall are a feast for the eyes. The curved bridge with the spouting fountain has a lovely Oriental feel when everything is in bloom. There’s a pond filled with water lilies and on a hot summer’s day you can hear plenty of bullfrogs among the reeds.
The park is open all year and one of the real treats is to visit each season and watch the plantings sprout and bloom. There really never is a bad time to visit this botanical treasure.
All photos by the author. Follow here on Instagram.