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.

Snug Harbor Farm, Kennebunk, Maine

Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk.

The view from our lobster rolls at Cape Porpoise, Maine.

Snug Harbor Farm is just a five-minute drive (or bike ride) from downtown Kennebunkport. We also explored the adjacent Cape Porpoise where the lobsters are brought in, steamed and served on the same docks.



Snug Harbor Farm

The farm’s famed myrtle topiary require full direct sun and lots of water. If you’re keeping one in the house away from natural light, the owner advises relocating your topiary to a sunny spot one day a week.


Another Snug Harbor specialty is its handthrown terra cotta pots.


Tree ferns, terra cotta and statuary.

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.


Paul and Maria outside The Ramp restaurant.


Entering the garden shop.


Note the “St. Martha of Stewart” garden markers on the lower left!


Snug Harbor Farm’s Summer Workshop series has included DIY topiary and living wreaths and an intro to bonsai.


Fisherman sweaters in Kennebunkport, ME

Earlier that day and at another shop, Maria and C chased down the fisherman sweaters of their dreams. (Having no room left in her suitcase, C had to wear hers on the flight home.)

Snug Harbor Farm ponies

Feeding the ponies at Snug Harbor Farm.

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.”


Checking out the shade plants.

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


The succulent greenhouse.


Begonias à go-go.


Espaliered trees for sale.


Carnivorous American pitcher plants lick their chops inside the greenhouse.


An espaliered tree stands guard as we get lost among the lava balls.