Japanese Maples and More: Ambleside Gardens

Ambleside Gardens 6-2-2016 11-19-48 AM

Just like Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, no part of Ambleside Gardens looks like a regular nursery.

I discovered Ambleside Gardens in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, last year when I was searching for a place to shop for Japanese maples.  Their website said they had 125 varieties so it seemed like the place to go.  Little did I know that I would find one of the most beautiful nurseries I have ever visited!

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


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The main path through the nursery display area.  All the shrubs and trees are for sale but are artfully displayed to create an intimate garden space.

Ambleside Gardens is a family business started in 1965 by the father of the current owner David Scudder.  It bills itself as New Jersey’s most unusual garden center, and I would agree.  The woody plants for sale are not lined up in rows for customers to select but are integrated into a lovely and intimate system of garden paths shaded by large trees and pergolas.  Each specimen is placed to highlight its color, size, shape, and texture and to harmonize with the plants around it.  The effect is magical. 

Here are some views of the nursery displays:

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David Scudder is the enthusiastic plantsman who makes all this magic.  He knows the details of every plant in his inventory, and the arrangement of the gardens are a testament to this knowledge.  He can also help you find exactly what you want.  We were looking for an upright, white variegated Japanese maple to compliment the “floating cloud” maple in our woodland, and he immediately came up with every candidate available at the nursery—and there were many—and the pros and cons of each. 


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My husband Michael talking with Ambleside owner David Scudder.

But Ambleside is not just a Japanese maple nursery.  David has assembled for sale an amazing collection of out-of-the-ordinary woody plants in mature sizes and unusual forms.  If you are looking for an eye-catching centerpiece for your gardens, Ambleside is the place to go.  As we wandered around admiring plants, David pointed out tree-form witch hazels and clethras, dwarf dawn redwoods and bald cypress, huge specimen fringe trees, exotic connifers, and much more.

Here were some of my favorites, but there are hundreds of specimens to drool over (and hundreds of smaller, less expensive woodies too):


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An ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel grown as a tree—I would love to see this in bloom.


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The beautiful cones and white dipped needles of a large Korean fir.

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A very large and mature Chinese fringe tree.

Styrax japonica 'Pink Chimes' Ambleside 6-2-2016 10-33-41 AM

A 15′ tall, pink-flowered Japanese styrax.


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The styrax in the previous photo is on the right side of the path.  As you can see, there are many mature trees to choose from.


Brick Farm Market

The Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, New Jersey, has indoor and outdoor seating and delicious food.

When you are done shopping at Ambleside, a delicious lunch awaits you at the charming Brick Farm Market, 15 minutes away in Hopewell, New Jersey.  The market serves food grown locally and sustainably by the owners at their nearby Double Brook Farm.  You can eat there and also purchase fresh meats, cheeses, baked goods, vegetables, and other delights to take home.  They open at 7 am and serve an equally yummy breakfast.

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Inside the Brick Farm Market

Enjoy your outing to Ambleside Gardens and be sure to tell David that I sent you!



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

15 Responses to “Japanese Maples and More: Ambleside Gardens”

  1. Fabulous foliage in a lovely nursery. Thanks for the tour.

  2. OOOO! So much fun to see you have been in our neck of the woods! We live (and garden) in Hopewell, so know these places well. Thanks for seeing it all through the eyes of a visitor. Makes one really value it! Love your posts and the treasures you display.

  3. Karla Schuette Read Says:

    Thank you Carolyn. I appreciate the information about the nursery. Looks like a fun day trip.

  4. Jodi Pollock Says:

    I have a waning Cersis specimen, and was JUST wondering where to find a decent size fringe tree as its replacement. A visit to Ambelside Gardens will be my saving grace! Thank you Carolyn!

  5. Ambleside Gardens is a unique garden center and nursery. I never heard of them but it would be worth a visit next time I am “home”. I enjoy nurseries that don’t look like a “store for plants”. It makes one feel like walking through a garden rather than a garden center.

  6. It’s always a treat to find a new nursery, especially one as beautiful and unusual as this one. Thanks for taking us along!

  7. Hi Carolyn, Happy summer! This nursery is wonderful. It really looks more like a stroll garden than a nursery! Too bad I live far, far away. I would spend a lot of time, and no doubt money, there! It is especially great that shoppers can get ideas for incorporating the plants into their gardens.

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