I was fortunate enough to be invited by a friend on a road trip to Hortulus Farm & Nursery in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania yesterday. It turned out to be much more than I anticipated. Originally a William Penn land grant from 1690, the farm had fallen into disrepair after being passed through a number of hands. Jack Staub and his partner, Renny Reynolds, bought the farmstead in 1980 and began restoration of the historic property and institution of the gardens. What they have been able to achieve over the last thirty years is absolutely incredible. Not only have they created some of the most beautiful flower gardens imaginable, but their vision also included creating a real life on this property. We were invited to visit the museum which houses their collection of almost 1,000 gardening books, Bucks County Impressionist paintings, and vintage gardening tools. What was so beautiful was the way in which their own lives intersect with the history of the property. The museum holds letters from Staub’s vegetable gardening mentor, Rosemary Verey, and evidence of their passion for collecting–dog statuary, lighting, local furniture, and part of James Beard’s collection of Majolica pottery. Staub and Reynolds live in the renovated 1700’s farmhouse with their dogs, who run freely throughout the property, diving into the lake after the geese or chasing each other through the meadows.
What struck me about the visit was how none of this–the twenty or so gardens, the statuary acquired on trips to Europe and sprinkled through the property, the nursery, the peacocks, chickens, and doves, the beautifully restored buildings, the tree-lined allees, and the lakes, pools and streams–none of this would have been possible without an incredible vision and realization of the kind of life these two people wanted to live. They fell in love with the area and envisioned a place they could create, live in, and share. And that’s what they did. It’s an inspiring story and one that reminds me that we can create the life we want with a little imagination and determination and a lot of hard work. Our lives don’t have to be on the Hortulus Farm scale. But they should be what we want. Instead of letting life take you where it will, create a vision and a plan. And then start working to execute it. This incredible farm is evidence of what can happen when you dream and then you put on your gardening gloves and get to work. Here are some more photos of our beautiful visit.