John and Dorothy Knippenberg purchased 30 acres of property across from their home in Pines Lake, Wayne in the 1930’s. Known as Laurelwood Gardens, it was an active commercial nursery that specialized in rhododendrons and azaleas. The Knippenbergs were widely known and respected for their many registered hybrids and their generosity to the local community. Dorothy studied and applied her horticultural skills to developing woodland, rock and display gardens throughout the property. She tended to Laurelwood tirelessly, working in the gardens from early morning till late in the evening.
After the death of John Knippenberg, the property was deeded to Wayne and became part of the township’s park system. Dorothy continued to supervise Laurelwood and work in the gardens. At this time, 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, Inc (FOLA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
After Dorothy’s death in 2006, a partnership was formed between FOLA and the Township of Wayne. FOLA assumed responsibility for maintaining and improving the Arboretum’s horticultural inheritance. This includes managing designated public funds and Laurelwood’s three seasonal employees.