Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown: Adventure Through 54 Acres of Gardens, Flowers, and Wildlife


New Jersey has no shortage of places that continue to intrigue me, but few are as family-friendly, historical, and downright idyllic as Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown. The 54-acre park is now the horticultural heart of the Monmouth County Parks System, and it boasts a checkered past—mobster Vito Genovese purchased the property in 1935 and re-designed the grounds to remind him of his hometown countryside of Naples, Italy. He used it as his hideaway and even constructed a pseudo-Italian rock garden with cascading pools shaded by weeping hemlocks and a small-scale replica of Mount Vesuvius. But regardless of this extraordinary Garden State history, my 3-year-old is always super impressed whenever we visit Deep Cut Gardens because of all the fun spots to check out. Read on for the highlights of what you should do during your visit. (featured photo credit: Vontenni Photography LLC)

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Explore winding trails, koi fish ponds, and enchanting old Bonsai trees. Photo taken at Deep Cut Gardens

Watch dozens of fish swim in the sparkling Koi pond at Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown

After a short walk through a meandering path from the parking lot of Deep Cut Gardens, you’ll find yourself stopping in your tracks as every little kid’s dream pops into view—a gorgeous pond complete with dozens of brightly-colored and friendly Koi fish. If you dip your finger in the pond, a small welcoming committee swims over to say hello. While feeding the fish isn’t allowed, it’s nice to sit by the side and watch the fish go by (depending on how long your kids can sit; consider this a resting spot).

Step back in time by visiting the miniature Mount Vesuvius statue

After the mystique of the Koi fish wears off, you can take a turn down the trail that leads to Genovese’s miniature Mount Vesuvius. It’s a small replica of the rambunctious Italian volcano—the same one that erupted about three dozen times since 79 A.D. This unique volcano at Deep Cut Gardens can spout flames and smoke if a small fire is lit within it. My kiddo always asks to climb to the top and check out what’s inside—thankfully, there are always plenty of other distractions nearby to deter her.

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Admiring the “dino” trees is a favorite pastime for little ones. Photo taken at Deep Cut Gardens

Stop and admire the Bonsai trees

A quick turn away from the Koi pond will lead you to what we call dino trees, otherwise known to the general population as miniaturized bonsai trees. A few of these bonsai trees at Deep Cut Gardens are more than 100 years old. The trees are as fragile as they are stunning, so no climbing is allowed. They overlook cascading miniature ponds (yes, with more Koi fish) leading down to the expansive rock-enclosed garden. Kids love running beneath them, staring in awe at the twisty, tangled limbs of the trees and touching a few “nicely.”

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Get a touch of Europe as you admire the artfully crafted Italian gardens. Photo Credit: @lohanequeirooz

Feel like you’re in Italy at the Italian rock-enclosed garden

The centerpiece of Deep Cut Gardens is the gorgeous rock-enclosed garden crowned with a pergola at the far end, unchanged from when Genovese first occupied the property. The walkable garden offers a beautiful rose parterre with hundreds of chubby roses in full bloom and perfectly manicured boxwoods, where we always stop and smell the flowers. Since no shade covers the garden, it’s best to visit this portion in the morning to avoid too much heat and sun.

Check out the flowers, plants, and succulents that live inside the greenhouse

An unassuming large greenhouse sits near the park entrance and is ready to explore. Inside, colorful orchids, succulents, and houseplants thrive in perfect harmony. Peak orchid flowering season is mid-February through mid-March, but most plants thrive year-round in the greenhouse at Deep Cut Gardens. Surrounding the greenhouse is a quaint and well-maintained garden growing an impressive variety of herbs and flowers. Make sure you close the gate behind you so the bunnies don’t sneak in.

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Surround yourself with enchanting blooms and orchids as you check out the greenhouse. Photo Credit: @heathermac1306

What to know before you visit Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown

It’s free to get into Deep Cut Gardens, and before visiting, you can print out a park brochure and map online to plan your trip. While no food or drinks are available for sale, bringing your lunch for a picnic with a spectacular view is allowed. The park is open from 8 AM to dusk daily all year round. While visiting, explore the gardens from a World Tour perspective to gain fun facts about plants around the world or learn about the history of the gardens through the Story Map. Another fun way to explore is through Garden Safari Backpacks, where each backpack contains all you need to help you and your family discover new ways of seeing living and non-living features of the gardens. The backpacks are available daily from 10 AM-4 PM at the Horticultural Center on a first-come, first-serve basis. Note: The Gardner’s Cottage will be undergoing renovations in the summer of 2024. 

For more information, visit Deep Cut Gardens on their website and Facebook

Deep Cut Gardens
152 Red Hill Road 
Middletown, NJ 07748

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About Author

When Kendall isn't misplacing her iPhone in the freezer, she's figuring out how to get her 2 year old to eat anything other than oatmeal and explaining the concept of gravity to her inquisitive 4 year old. Born in New York and raised in Monmouth County, Kendall lives with her husband, son and daughter near the beach in NJ. She appreciates small-batch coffee, local adventures with her family, and irony. She dislikes the overuse of exclamation points. She's also an attorney with an active practice in NYC.