I had one when I visited the Hortulus Farm Garden and Nursery for the first time in June 2017.
Once you get to this idyllic Bucks County farm it is nearly impossible to believe it
is only about 30 miles away from Philadelphia. The farm house, still used as a residence, was built back in 1793. It is very easy to believe you have time-travelled back to the 19th century, if not the 18th. The 100-acre property was acquired in 1980 by Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub. Staub is a garden author whose work has appeared in House and Garden, House Beautiful, Organic Gardening, Country Living and numerous other publications, as well as books about gardening.
I have visited botanical gardens/arboretums where there were hardly any paths at all, others with paved paths as smooth as a linoleum floors and everything in between. But the wide lush mown grass paths that escort you through this estate are in themselves reason enough for a visit. You pay your $15 admission at the little store at the nursery, are given a brochure with a map and let loose to wander on your own. You can, if you have a group of 8 or more, make arrangements in advance for a group tour guided by one of the owners. As it was, it was just my sister and myself so we wandered around on our own, although we did accidently run into the owner and his friends twice.
The rest of the time we never saw another soul. You can rent the entire gardens, all 100 acres of them, for a mere $2,500 per day for an event or a photo shoot. I still can hardly believe we had the place to ourselves by the sheerest good luck. Our own private Eden indeed.
Thirty acres of the property are broken up into several types of gardens – edible plants, woodland walk, yellow garden, pool garden, herb garden, etc. But a tree-lover would not want to miss the “Specimen Arboretum.” At the entrance to the arboretum is a delightful little garden gate to welcome you.
Once through the gate, the first tree that will stop you in your tracks is a catalpa tree. In mid-June it still had a fair number of flowers as well as some seed pods. Maples, shaggy bark hickory and dogwoods are just some of the other trees on the property.
When we spoke with the owner he said it was a shame we hadn’t been there at the end of May because more things were blooming then. But as it was there was still plenty of botanical eye candy in terms of Indian Paintbrushes, irises and roses. There are also swans, ducks, at least one peacock and horses.
If you visit: the gardens are open May – October on Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10 – 4. The location is 60 Thompson Mill Rd. Wrightstown, PA. If you have a group of 8 or more you can call 215-598-0550 to arrange a tour. Make sure you take water! Once you leave the little store at the nursery there are no rest rooms and no place to procure water, so be sure to take some with you!
Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
With that thought in mind, I visited a botanical garden last week that I have toured before, the Morris Arboretum, and endeavored to look at the landscape with ‘new eyes’.
To my mind, Morris is both an arboretum and a botanical garden. I base this on the fact that Morris boasts many large, old, beautiful ‘specimen trees’ including these: Katsura, Bender oak, Trident maple, Blue atlas cedar, Lacebark pine, Weeping Canada hemlock, Japanese Stewartia and Threeflower maple which make it an arboretum. The Katsura is massive. The Weeping Canada hemlock feels mysterious and the Japanese Stewartia festoons itself with white flowers.
It is also a botanical garden as it boasts within its rose garden not only roses but also oak leaf hydrangeas, mountain laurel, clematis, foxglove and others. Altogether there are more than 12,000 labeled plants of approximately 2,500 types. Although the tags can be annoying to a photographer, I find them infinitely useful for learning to identify trees and plants and I appreciate them greatly whenever I see them.
Since I have completed my tree book I decided to wander the arboretum without an agenda. I have already photographed most of the major ‘specimen’ trees and I decided to just amble about in my sunhat, with my camera and tripod, and allow myself to be surprised by beauty.
How could I possibly have overlooked the Dragon Spruce? The trunk and needles of the tree are not terribly remarkable, but the roots are! They curl and stretch like ocean waves caught and held fast by soil and rock.
A tree that stopped me in my tracks and literally dropped me to my knees to permit closer inspection of its bark is the White Tigress maple. Look at the bark closely, doesn’t it look as though it is deliberately inscribed? But is the ‘inscription’ meant as decoration or to communicate something? It is said the tree got its name because someone thought it looked like a tiger had scraped the bark with its claws. To me the lines are more delicate than that. Take a look and let me know what you think.
I’m also including a picture of the Chinese Witch Hazel here, although it is a shrub and not technically a tree. But I loved the texture of its leaves. I only discovered after I got home and looked it up that it flowers from January to March and that it has a particularly lovely scent. I never suspected that while admiring its summer leaves.
Of course if one is not on deadline, why not linger awhile in the well- manicured, terraced rose garden? The roses in mid-June were in full bloom as were several other flowers, including a glorious purple poppy.
The Morris Arboretum, part of the University of Pennsylvania’s holdings, is in the greater Philadelphia area. Its address is: 100 East Northwestern Avenue, Pennsylvania.
As I type this, the book, “These Trees,” has been picked up by UPS from the printer and is en route to me in North Carolina. I feel like one of the townspeople in the musical, “The Music Man,” who is waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon to arrive. Except that I’m waiting for the familiar brown van of UPS.
It feels like it is taking ‘forever’ for this book to arrive, which got me wondering -- How long did it take me to make this book? Photographs were taken as long ago as 2009 and as recently as 2017. I first conceived of this book in 2014 when I had a show in a gallery and was very frustrated because the gallery curator wouldn’t let me show only tree photos. She wanted variety of subjects. I thought there was plenty of variety in tree bark alone, not to mention leaves! shapes! flowers! Well, you get the idea. But she prevailed and half the photos in the show were non-trees. All the photos that sold, however, were of trees!
Since 2014 I have been deliberately photographing trees with the thought in mind they might one day find their way into a book of tree photographs. In May 2016 I began going through the thousands of photographs I have on my computer and made a separate file of those I thought might find their way into the book. Then, in November 2016, I joined forces with Gary Perrone, a brilliant Dallas art director and we began working together in earnest to create a book that would showcase trees in some of their many glorious manifestations.
Also in November 2016 I sent out a call for poems about trees to a national network of poets and received submissions from almost 100 poets from California to New Jersey. It was a pleasure to read so many lovely poems and a delight to find that many were about trees I already had photographs of, such as a ‘nurse log’ in the Hoh Rain Forest, redbuds, dogwoods, and paperbark maples.
We had the first draft of the book done in early March 2017. Looking at the first draft evoked a mix of emotions in me: pride that we had gotten this far, pleasure in some of the lay-outs and an intense need to change some lay-outs! But that’s what first proofs are for, right? Fortunately for me it was spring in the Appalachians and I was able to get out and take more photographs without getting too cold and Gary and I revised the book to its current form by the first week of May 2017.
I’ll be using this website to update you on the book, “These Trees,” as well as related pursuits. There will be the occasional updates with more tree photographs. Please drop me a line about the book – especially if you have suggestions for other places where I can photograph interesting trees. I’d love to hear from you!
Ruthie photographs trees because she loves them.
Saturday, July 22,
10am - noon
Tryon School of Arts
373 Harmon Field Road, Tryon, North Carolina
Readings and music by Carol Pearce Bjorlie
Book signing and readings by
Book Launch Party
Saturday, August 26, 2:00 - 4:30pm
60 Caledonia Road, Asheville, NC 28803
Music by Debbie Nordeen, Carol Bjorlie, Leo Bjorlie, and Ed Hauschild, followed
by a sing-a-long.
"Just Desserts" themed
fruits and sweets.
"These Trees" – Annelinde Metzner,
Jean Cassidy, Robert Ratliff and Carol Bjorlie will read their poems from the book.
Book signing and readings by Ruthie.