2011 Fordhook Open #1

For the first of two Open House weekends, we received nearly 1,200 guests over the two days, Saturday and Sunday. Much fun was had by all. In spite of forecasts, Saturday brought gorgeous late spring weather—sunny, breezy and comfortably cool. Sunday was cooler and lightly overcast, but bright enough to see the many delicate blooms, vines, leaves, sprouts, tendrils, shoots, tepals, petals, bracts, stalks . . . you get the idea.

Here is the main house, featuring a handsome verandah with a small two-tiered border garden in front. The tree at left is a huge and attractive American Linden, while the large holly at right, filthy as all get-out, is a condition without remedy. I can’t help but love it.

The Seed House was built in 1890 and used to clean, sort, grade by quality and dry down seeds of nearly 2,000 taxa for the 45 years or so that it functioned, before the first big move to California—Lompoc to be exact—before World War II. Folks always ask about the windows. They helped light penetrate the interior where the senior members of the farm staff (who had earned sit-down jobs) worked at long tables carefully sorting, cleaning and grading. Broken or aborted seeds were selected out first, for example, regardless the species. But it is complex, close-up work and, while older folks are fine at it, they might have vision problems. Also, since dry seeds are covered with flammable husks and chaff (think cotton boles), you don’t dare bring in artificial lights, even the sparky old-fashioned bulbs. So it was a uniquely designed building, constructed deliberately for a 750 acre seed farm. Now we use it for storage—too costly for tours (insurance, etc.)

Two tour groups, one clock-wise and one counterclock-wise, starting from the base of the magnificent old eastern sycamore. Also, filthy McNasty, as we say back in Chicago. My poor gutters attest to this genuinely spectacular tree’s copious and viscous debris. Alas, always the bitter with the sweet!

Yours truly praying for a large turnout. Actually, I am leading a group of about 50 visitors. We put on these events in order to make folks aware of the many possibilities of their plants in their yards by evaluating how we explore those in our dozen or so gardens. We have full shade, partial shade and full sun. Way behind me—in front of the cars—is a new sculpture called “Weeds” by Steve Tobin. New to the property is the Fagus fastigiata or European Beech, a forty year old specimen being steadied by guy-wires in the middle distance. I adore it.

Me again. Here behind me is a very nice American Beech. The “twin pines” are the customary pair of white pines planted by newlyweds. In this case it may well have been one of the founder’s two sons and his bride. Entrance tent is behind the crowd, in front of the “catch all” house. In the distance the entry driveway. Across the street is the picket fence surrounding the grounds of Delaware Valley College, founded by Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf on a suggestion from Count Leo Tolstoy, the first Jewish agriculture school in the world, circa 1896.

I am pointing to the Steve Tobin sculptures near the entrance. Note the lovely viburnum along the creek that flows under the small stone bridge where the guests are walking. Once a wooden bridge, the fire department made me rebuild it in stone to handle their massive trucks. Ashes, Maples, Beech and a Gingko in the middle distance.

I am explaining the new (2 year old) deep shade garden down in the ravine where the two small creeks on the property meet. Verticality is the feeling we lacked, so we created a forest garden—very cathedral-like.

We climb up the Great Lawn toward the main house. Some guests beat me to it. The “Burpee Army” is one plucky bunch of garden enthusiasts, I guarantee you. Note the lovely new upright beech once again, at right and behind the house. In twenty years, it will look extraordinary.

Our research director Grace Romero giving garden advice to members of her tour group. In the sloping background is the second creek, which rises to the surface at the old “ruin” of the roofless springhouse.

Grace Romero again at the Veranda Garden. Behind the creek is the cathedral-like area where I was touring my group. You cannot see it. The entire 60 acre property has over a dozen such “hidden” gardens.

Grace is always very interactive with the visitors, here at the Spring House Garden itself.

Grace walking down past the springhouse and along the creek. This time the several bridges are made of wood. Notice the Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflak’ (shrub in background), Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ (grass), ferns and daylilies and Petasites (big leaves on the left side).

Dave Smicker our head gardener gives a tour of the first “Heronswood” garden here at Fordhook. This was where we first detected a serious need for adaptation beyond the friendly confines of Kingston, Washington, a warm, wet zone 8. Now the research programs are better in four locations than in only one.

Dave Smicker and his tour group again. Note the Seed House in the background. Also, the second pair of “twin pines” on the opposite side of the Seed House. Undoubtedly, it was planted for the second son and his bride.

Product Managers Venelin Dimitrov and Chelsey Fields demonstrating bean and pea towers, as well as tomato cages. (“Cages aux foliage”!) This is in the raised bed area of our heavily fenced deer proof vegetable test garden.

Vegetable (and strawberry!) test gardens facing east.

Facing south, across the street is an old part of the legendary college—rough stone buildings that they do not know what to do with. Note the neat rows and beds. Come back! August 19, 20, 21—harvest time, plus a whole new array of summer flowers.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 5:14 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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34 Responses to “2011 Fordhook Open #1”

  1. Sheryl Hovey said:

    Sorry I missed the open house. Just wanted to say that those test gardens are gorgeous. Wish mine were as tidy!

    • George said:

      Thanks for the compliment, Sheryl. We spend quite a bit of time cleaning things up for the visitors. But we remain a “working farm” so it isn’t perfect. This makes your praise extraordinary. Thanks again.

  2. Earl Rodier said:

    What a great article!!!!!! As a small time gardener, it’s great to see the big top. Enjoyed it immensely. Thanks!!

    • George said:

      Thanks, Earl. I like that… “the big top”. Very much appreciated. Please visit us sometime.

  3. Denise Crie said:

    I miss you here in Washington State! Am enjoying the progress you are making in your new location, and appreciate your monthly newsletters. Your raised beds are to die for! Very, very inspirational!!! Time for me to get out in my garden and dig deep into the earth. Thanks for the constant inspiration!

    • George said:

      Thanks, Denise. You may be close enough to attend an Open Day at Heronswood: June 26, July 16 and September 10th. Hope so! Meanwhile, happy gardening.

  4. Joyce Freed said:

    We attended on Saturday and had a great time. Beautiful gardens and many great ideas.

    • George said:

      Thank you for coming, Joyce. Please visit again.

  5. Sue said:

    Thanks for the open house. Liked seeing/hearing Mr. Ball. How about a summer fling?

    • George said:

      Thanks, Sue. The August event is Friday-Sunday, August 19th-21st. Hope to see you there.

  6. Rosemary Young said:

    Thank you so much for sharing your open house with those of us far away, always fun to see what others do.

    • George said:

      Thanks, Rosemary. Hope you can visit someday soon.

  7. Elizabeth Kessler said:

    Thank you for opening Fordhook on Sat. I’ve never seen such beautiful lettuces. The new gardens down by the pond, and the hellebores forest path were very interesting. Will you be selling your plants at Burpee’s in Warminster soon? The hellebores I got at Burpees farm a few years ago are growing beautifully in my woods and the deer do not even take a taste. Thanks again!

    • George said:

      Thanks Elizabeth. The modest but excellent Burpee factory outlet store sells the complete range of seeds as well as all the plants we sell in the catalogue and on the internet. It is located at 300 Park Avenue, Warminster, PA, Phone # 215-674-8233. Hours are Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-4pm and Sunday 9am -3pm, from early spring to mid fall, depending on weather.
      Lots of seasonal extras as well as unusual surplus plants and supplies.

  8. C. Paul Bailey said:

    Thanks for the E-tour, just wish I could of been there.

    • George said:

      Thank you, C Paul. Perhaps you can make the August event. There will be several vegetable harvest related demonstrations and taste tests, as well as all the glorious summer flowers. We would love to have you.

  9. Susan said:

    We visited on Sunday as part of the Garden Conservancy open days, and enjoyed it very much.
    One of my favorite things was the mural with all
    of the plants introduced by your company and the dates.
    Very well done. Thank you for having us!

    • George said:

      Thanks for the compliment on the mural. It was painted in the summer of 2001 by Carol Nagel, a local artist from Lambertville, New Jersey. She is excellent. Please come again.

  10. Mary Beth Proudfoot said:

    Thank you…really really beautiful! Wish I could see it in person.
    Mary Beth Proudfoot
    Bozeman, MT

    • George said:

      Thanks very much. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  11. Pat B. said:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful gardens. I wished I lived closer so I could see those plants up close. However, I really enjoyed your pictures and descriptions.

    • George said:

      Thank you very much. If you live in the PNW, you can visit our Kingston, Washington, gardens on Sunday, June 26; Saturday July 16th; Saturday September 10th. Our next Fordhook Open in Doylestown, PA, is Friday-Sunday, August 19-21.

  12. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my husband and I missed the Springtime at Heronswood tour. Will there be another opportunity this summer?

    • George said:

      I hope it wasn’t anything too serious. We would love to have you attend any or all of the following summer dates in Kingston, Washington: Sunday, June 26; Saturday, July 16; Saturday, September 10. The June event benefits The Garden Conservancy—all revenue goes to the charity. Thanks for posting.

  13. JAN LEMON said:

    Hi–great pix. Sorry I missed the open house; hope I can make the August one–wish you had a July session.

    Want to see what you have in the deep shade garden–my ferns and bleeding hearts have taken over!

    • George said:

      We too wish we had a July session. However, everyone is on the road checking seed crops and visiting customers. High priority in midsummer. But August will be a three-day event. Hope you can make one of the days (August 19, 20, 21). Thanks.

  14. Bonaventure Magrys said:

    Beautiful gardens George (and thanks to all others too who are responsible). Nice day trip for me and my girlfriend out of Middlesex County, NJ. Inspired me to work up my garden more (and be late for work every morning this week, thanks!) Disappointed though in state of most Arisaemas (my favorite) and lack of Heronswood plants for sale. Washington State too far out for me and the trip to Warminster at the end of the day not rewarding enough, but I’ll be sure to be back in August and bring more friends! Impressive Dysosmas.

    Bonaventure Magrys
    Cliffwood Beach, NJ

    • George said:

      Thank you very much for attending. Many excellent staff contributed both “on stage” as well as behind the scenes. In the past years plant sales proved too difficult. Easier to provide coupons for internet or the local outlet store, which is only 10 miles away. Thanks in advance for bringing a few friends.

  15. Donna said:

    Hi! Thank you for the pictures. Could you please identify the tree that is in your fourth pictures? I have been trying to identify that tree for at least fifteen years. Thank You!

  16. Georgie Cavitt said:

    What a treasure your photos are to someone that cannot travel to enjoy your gardens. It is obvious that great care is taken to maintain your gardens – they are wonderful to look at & enjoy!! I can almost smell the various fragrances that must abound there. Thank you for sharing these photos of your gardens – I have enjoyed them.

  17. Judy Hooks said:

    This looks beautiful, but I have no idea where it is.

    • George said:

      Fordhook Farm is located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in the northern suburbs of southeastern Pennsylvania, in the middle of Bucks County. Thanks.

  18. Byron G. said:

    We had a glorious day at the farm. I don’t know = after all these years of being a Burpee customer, somehow we missed knowing about the farm and its open houses. (Although if you look on the internet, the Inn still shows up!) Anyway, it was a beautiful day, the displays and gardens are great, we learned a GREAT deal, all the staff were great — and we will certainly look forward to more events. George, your talk was fantastic — not only to learn about the latest varieties of unique plants and products, but also some of the history and your “side” comments. Now if only we can get you to play the guitar for us — grin! We had been to Longwood a few weeks prior, but Fordhook was so much more personal and enjoyable. It is so nice that you let us tour your home – I have a real interest in architecture and design history so it was a special treat to see it and read about its history. Of course, you have really forced me to consider more gardening work! Well, at least that’s outside and we get our vitamin D, right? Someday, when and if I retire, maybe I will volunteer if your will take me — ha-ha! Keep up the great work — Byron G.

  19. Marguerite McGrath said:

    Oh, I feel so badly that I missed this! I must have missed the email about it. I will definitely plan for the August open garden days. I always enjoy my trips to Fordhook Farms.

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