23 Aug 2014
69° Light Rain

Wrightstown Gardens to be Perserved for Public

Hortulus Farm, Nursery and Gardens will be preserved for future generations through the work of a generous couple.

 

Nestled about a quarter mile off Thompson Mill Road in Wrightstown sits what the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation calls “one of the region’s most significant private gardens.”

The owners of the over 100-acre Hortulus Farm, Nursery and Gardens - filled with meadows, streams and luscious gardens - Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub plan to turn the farm into a preserved public garden that will be open to the public for generations to come.

Thirty-two years ago, the New York City couple bought the Isaiah Warner House and surrounding land as a weekend home, said Staub. “Renny found the farm 'unspoiled,'” he said with a slight chuckle.

After years of work, the dilapidated and overgrown property was cleaned, cleared and began to resemble its current state of idyllic beauty.

“About 15 years ago, we thought to leave the property as a public garden. We want to transition it from a home to a place for the public,” Staub said. “Everyone needs a mission in life, and this became ours.”

Staub said him and his partner are just “stewards of the land.”

The couple, both who have had illustrious careers, opened Hortulus Nursery around the same time they decided to make their slice of Eden a public garden. The nursery proceeds fund the Hortulus Farm Foundation, which is set to preserve the property.

The size of Hortulus Farm, which was part of the  original William Penn land grant of 1690, has grown as the couple bought up several nearby parcels over the years.

The couple resides in Isaiah Warner farmhouse that is the architectural centerpiece the grounds. The house began as a cottage in the early 1700s and was built out several times since. Over the years, the house has been restored to original look.

Using original maps of the area the couple discovered a silted-in pond that once sat near the farmhouse. In recent years, the pond has been restored to what it was believed to have been like.

The grounds of the property, which was once covered by thick underbrush, is now blanketed with acres of gardens filled with thousands of daffodils, Delaware Valley white azaleas, perennials and many other examples of colorful flora.

Reynolds and Staub have a small crew that help maintain the house and surrounding property. Staub said groundskeeper Bob Ritchie was “dropped to Earth by God.” Ritchie, passing in a golf cart, smiled as Staub bestowed the compliment.

In the years to come, the couple hopes to build a visitor center to welcome those who visit the property. Staub said they also would like to built a small museum to house their collection of impressionist paintings.

“It was a lot to bite off in the beginning, but it’s wonderful now,” Staub said as he recalled how much work went into clearing the grounds. “People can come here to seek calm and comfort from nature.”

The couple, Staub said, plans to live out the remainder of their lives in their little slice of heaven on Earth.

If you go

The farm is open to the public May through October. For more information, contact the farm by phone at 215-598-0550, or via their website.

 

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