21 Aug Maine Event: Topiary and Terra Cotta Add to the ‘Beautiful Decay’ of Snug Harbor Farm
Earlier this summer — after our dogwood layover and stalking of rad rhododendron — we explored the famed modern/classical mashup of Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk, Maine.
The three-acre property was established in 1991. Snug Harbor’s specialty is its world-class topiary, which it sells year-round from its greenhouses: joyous cubes, cones, spirals and balls sculpted from small-leaf myrtle. (You’ll find some handsomely shaped rosemary, lavender and Fuchsia microphylla in the mix there as well.) Snug Harbor’s artful handthrown terra cotta also brings all the gardeners to the yard, where rare and hard-to-find plants like unique salvias, begonias, eupatorium and ferns mingle with ponies, chickens and peacocks, including a male who was in quite a mood on the day of our visit.
Its garden shop, by the way, is hostess heaven: the stock includes sculptures by local artists, pottery, birdhouses, soaps by Swedish Dream, blueberry milk, eggs from the owner’s chickens, and yogurt from Maine’s own Silvery Moon Creamery. Oh, and a gift wrap that sings our antique botanical print heartsong. OH! And a “St. Martha of Stewart” garden marker made of stoneware. What did we tell you? Host and hostess heaven. An online shop is slated for fall.
That day we were with Maria and Paul, our friends from Boston who’d driven up to join us for a weekend of beach going and lobster cracking.
This is embarrassing, but we admit that C and RB just kind of wandered into Snug Harbor Farm like a couple of naïve lambs. We had no clue that we were entering hallowed horticultural ground.
“How long have you been open?” we asked owner Tony Elliott.
“Eh, just a couple of months,” he deadpanned. “Poke around on the internet and you’ll see what we’re about.
Did we ever! In the weeks since our visit, we’ve been glued to the 20-plus-year-old farm’s dispatches on Facebook and Instagram, which add even more dimension to our mind-expanding June visit.
“ ‘Beautiful decay’ is our aesthetic,” staffer Todd Carr tells us over email. “Tony always thought he wanted to do English gardens in New England, which didn’t work. Then he decided to do New England gardens — [because] why fight it? Join it. [We] push back by experimenting with tropical and sub-tropical plant material in a thoughtful way here on the farm and on our clients’ properties.”
One of those surprising finds was the extensive succulent collection: aeonium, sedum, firestick euphorbia that recalled of our drought-tolerant Southern California home. Contrast that with the Old World romance of the farm’s espaliered (that is, trained to grow in two dimensions) pear trees. We want to grow the latter against the façade of our own house like branched and leafy graffiti.
We’re keeping our screens peeled to see what crops up next at the farm. “There is always something new and so much creativity oozing around,” says Todd, “that no two days are ever the same.” —TH