One man's passion for planting has led to the creation of the Pohatcong Native Arboretum, a Native American-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 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 fall 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 4-acre site.
Stevens said he incorporated spiritual aspects from his Native American background to design the project that included paying close attention to details in nature, including plants facing in certain directions. Stevens said he hopes the arboretum will 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 his love for the nearby Pohatcong Creek. As a native of Washington Township, Pasquini said he has 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. They include 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 hydrangea, azalea and magnolia plants.
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.