Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snug Harbor Farm

On my Carpe Diem day, I hit the road and made my way up to Maine where I visited a few antique shops that I'd been to before, a few places that Joan from For the Love of a House told me about and Snug Harbor Farm that I first read about on Kelly McGuill's blog O so D.  I don't think any photos or description of the place can possibly do it proper justice but I was so impressed, I headed back up for a second visit with a few friends in busy summer vacation Saturday traffic.  

I had so much fun making my way around Wells and Kennebunk, Maine on Thursday, I forgot to have lunch.  But when traveling with friends, I always find it best to make sure they're well fed.  So we stopped at Robert's in Kittery, Maine just over the border from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  On a good day, it takes about 1 hour, 15 minutes to get from Boston to Kittery but today, it was about a 2-hour trip. 

And how can you go to Maine without having a lobster roll on a toasted homemade hot dog roll?  Served with sweet potato fries, it seems extra decadent.

On a normal leisurely day, I'd stay on Route 1 and hit a few outlets and antique shops but the traffic is horrendous so we hop back on the Highway 95 for about 15 miles to Exit 19 for Wells where Snug Harbor Farm... off Route 1 just about three miles down Route 9 in Kennebunk.

Snug Harbor Farm is well known for their topiary and that's the reason I wanted to check it out.

I thought having two old iron urns with a topiary in each flanking my new front entryway would look great.

...and there are several greenhouses filled with topiary of every kind.  These are coleus which would be lovely against my new gray color palette.

But my overwhelming first reaction to the place is, "I want to live here!"  It doesn't feel like a commercial nursery; it feels like home.  I feel like I've been invited to a friend's house in the country.  The perennials are set in the "yard" in perfect rectangles like raised beds...

...where you're drawn down the alleys by the colorful perennials.

  But everywhere you turn, there are vistas to capture your attention.
Photo:  An Urban Cottage
My attention is then drawn down a corridor created by a row of large terracotta pots on one side and a potting shed on the other.  At the end of this corrider is this rusted iron gate flanked by roughly hewn granite posts to what I thought was a huge millstone.   It's too irregularly shaped to be a millstone, perhaps an old granite trough or basin of some kind, set here like a foyer with a welcome mat of grass in the middle.

Immediately adjacent is an old shed covered with climbing hydrangrea that, in places, is growing up through the eaves.  The hydrangea in a huge terracotta pot references the treasures inside.

...beautiful aged terracotta pots awaiting a new turn to house a lucky topiary...

Hydrangea Madame Emile Mouillere
But I'm captivated by the "hostess" at the door to the potting shed.  Please meet, Madame Emile Mouillere.  I've been looking for a hydrangea just like this beauty.  I love the spectrum of color from creamy yellow, to green, to pale blue all splashed with dark alizarin crimson.  And the older blooms seem to turn green with a blush of dark park.  The effect is stunning.
Hydrangea Madame Emile Mouillere
photo:  An Urban Cottage
I track down one the farm staff to ask about this plant because, surely, at least one is going home with me.  Unfortunately, this Madame is not hardy in our neck of the woods.  She goes into the greenhouse for the winter.  What a tease she is.
Hydrangea Madame Emile Mouillere
photo:  An Urban Cottage
So, if you're reading from Zones 7-9, you may want to look into this gem of a hydrangea.  Maybe I should consider a greenhouse?

Across from the potting shed is a sweet little dovecote.  You can see the doves up by the pigeon holes on  the roof.  Occasionally a dove drops down to take a little dip in the birdbath.

There's a great selection of beautiful succulents here.  As I'm shooting an image of this hanging succulent basket...

...I'm drawn over to the pens where unusual chickens and peacocks are enjoying the afternoon sun.  In fact, throughout my visit, a variety of ducks and geese and roosters make an unexpected appearance to play a supporting role in the experience of this farm.

But back to the succulents.  Not only are they presented in unusual containers...

...the succulents themselves sometimes steal the show.

Every doorway greets you with unusual plants and lead you in... unusual varieties of plants...

...and then you're led out another door where a cast of cement and stone goods offer ideas for planters or water features.

And around the corner is a field of conifers, standard boxwood and hibiscus and a large variety of hydrangea.  These apple and pear espalier make me wish I had more property.  I've always wanted to have a "fence" of fruit tree espaliers.

Another large shed is packed with the larger imported terracotta planters.  These call out for an olive or fig tree.

Here the bamboo meets up with asian statuary making the perfect vignette.  I've been considering splitting my side garden into two different rooms.  The front half which is the shady part would have a zen-like feel and this tall Buddha would be a welcome guardian.  It would then transition with a water feature or fountain opposite the arbor to the back room that is more like an English cottage garden...but I digress.

On each my two trips to Snug Harbor Farm in two days, I find something different to experience.  I look forward to finishing my front porch project so I can plan the front garden.  I expect to be renting a van so I head back up Maine to visit my new friends...

...but this is better than any friend's house; I don't have to wait for an invitation.  I can go anytime I want!

If you would like to see more of Snug Harbor Farm, check out this youtube video or the Snug Harbor Farm blog.

Snug Harbor Farm is on Route 9 a more than three miles from Route 1 in Kennebunk Lower Village.  There are plenty of other places to visit in the area but this place alone is well worth the trip from Boston.


  1. A beautiful place. Hubby and I could actually visit there. Most places people talk about are just too far away for us. You should be a travel writer!

  2. holy shit steve!

    there is so much good stuff in this post i don't know where to start.

    the place looks Amazing! i love nurseries like this one. ones you never want to leave. the topiaries, buddha's, succulents, dovecote, yikes!

    we have a little nursery in so cal that is so beautiful you never want to leave either. it's run by 2 sisters and in the middle is a little "shed" that they seasonally decorate with plants, etc. but it is set up like a little bedroom with an iron bed and chandelier in the center. i never want to go home after a day there.

    your day looks so fantastic. i'm seriously jealous that is was not there with you & your friends.


  3. I'm sure I've driven past that several times and never noticed. Your photos are amazing and I can't wait to go on my next visit up there.

  4. You really did seize the day! I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lovelier place to spend a stolen afternoon. This nursery is absolutely gorgeous - don't you wish it really was a friend's home in the country that you could spend the night at!
    It makes me wish I had some land! :)
    I hope you came home with some pretty things or at least ideas so you make another trip back. The first thing I would have grabbed were the succulents in those fabulous shell pots and I can't believe how big the sedum was!
    Next time, I'm not toooo far out of your way...swing on by and pick me up! :)

  5. hi Steve!
    a lovely tour through "our" house!! I have two topiaries from SH, and besides loving them for them, I love them because each time I look at them, or water them I feel the love and energy from SH!
    You now have me needing a Maine fix... but only during the week day as that traffic is crazy! I'm not familiar with Robert's but that lobsta roll looks fabulous!!
    Glad you and your friends had a nice day!

  6. It looks like an enchanting place! I have a friend that's moving up there. I'll have to make sure she knows about it.

  7. Hi Steve, well...what can I say. Amazing and Beautiful and WOW....loved it all. I will be seriously stealing a few of your photos for my idea folders..OK?

    : ) kelley

  8. What a lovely day for you and your friends! I would LOVE to go there! Joan was telling me about her visit awhile back and it just looks and sounds like a dream. I'd also like to pet that cute little pony!

  9. Hola Steve, I understand very well why you would love to live in such a great place as this one!!! Such beauty!! Would love to see your topiaries in your front door when you get them, is a so very good idea for your entrance.
    maria cecilia