John and Dorothy Knippenberg purchased 30
acres of property across from their home on
Pines Lake Drive West in the 1940’s. The site
was developed by them as an active
commercial nursery that specialized in
rhododendrons and azaleas and became known
as Laurelwood Gardens.
Dorothy applied her horticultural skills to
hybridizing unique rhododendron and azalea
specimens and expanding her collection as well
as developing woodland, rock, and display
gardens throughout the property.
In 1960, the Knippenbergs offered to donate the entire thirty acres to the Township of Wayne to create a public park after their deaths. One condition of the agreement was that John and Dorothy could cultivate and maintain Laurelwood without restrictions so long as one of them lives.
After John’s death, Dorothy continued to supervise and work in the gardens, and a small grassroots community group formed to support Dorothy in maintaining the property and ensuring its future as a public park. In 2003, this group was formalized as Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.