May 15, 2019


A couple of weekends ago I was thrilled to have been invited to Snug Harbor Farm on the coast of Maine for a book signing. A gem of a specialty nursery. and worth a visit if you can make it - just an hour and a half north of Boston.

We have some wonderful nurseries and sources for plants and accessories here in the Northeast but one, in particular, is quite extraordinary. Snug Harbor Farm located in Kennebunk Maine is one of the more special places worth a visit in you ever find yourself in New England.  I've known owner Tony (Anthony) Elliott for years, and while I've written about Snug Harbor Farm from the first year that it opened I have never actually ever visited there. Why? I don't know other than I'm a pretty busy guy and now that my parents are gone I never seem to make time to go to Kennebunkport (where we spent every summer as kids).

Tony invited me up to speak about my book and to participate in a seed sowing workshop.

I was surprised then when I visited this weekend of where Snug Harbor Farm was. - right on route 9 about a mile from the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge -  a place where I would ride my bike often to go watch birds (geeky bird-watcher-Matt at age 12). I have to say that Snug Harbor brought back plenty of memories of Maine for me from the smell of the tidal plane and marsh grass to the sounds of gulls and terns. But what makes Snug Harbor special is what Tony and his talented team of horticulturists, stylists and workers have created - a menagerie, a botanic garden, a nursery - I'm not sure what to call it or how to describe it other than it's magical, and it recalls early visits I had made to the now infamous. Alan Haskell nursery in New Bedford, MA if any of you readers have ever had experienced that 'pleasure'.

Salvias, cut branches of crab apples and other shrubs forced into bloom along with cut flowers made the barn where I spoike and talked about my new book so beautiful.
Snug Harbor appeals to a wide audience, from flower lovers to succulent fans,there is hand made pottery and an entire indoor section with home goods that are well curated and stylish, but what they excel in are topiaries. Their signature look are tall, slender, pointed topiary and they are so well trained and tight that even I almost left with a few. I doubt that I could do any better - even though I have lots of experience in topiary craft.

Rosemary globes outside one of the greenhouses ready for sale. Each one perfectly and painstakingly trained.

Some greenhouses had long displays of potted plants that would run the entire length of the greenhouse. If you haven't noticed already, Tony styles every square inch making this plant very Instagram worthy.

Succulents and other sturdy plants for container planting are also a specialty. Tony offers selections that are rarely found at big box stores or garden centers, and most are displayed in long greenhouses.
This place is like your favorite lifestyle magazine or book come-to-life. Every corner reveals something else just as a good, inspirational book does. Hand crafted pottery, rare poultry, ccute animals, amazing hedgery,  outdoor sculptures, original installations - hidden  ideas are absolutely everywhere.

Tony designs pottery and it's everywhere around the farm. There are barns with old English pottery too.

Handmade pottery in one of Tony's barns.

As if the plants and pottery weren't enough, how about rare pigeons?  This loft alone was photogenic, but these Frillback pigeons are a rare breed - check out their curly-feathers. 

Our colder than average spring means that seedlings should be started later. Something you won't find at big garden centers who are all trying to push tender annuals far too early. Here, small seedlings will be perfectly timed for planting out at the proper size - which is small and based on weather trends, not marketing numbers. I love that. No growth regulators to stunt or force early flowering, and everything properly pinched and hardened off.
The craft of topiary isn't as easy to master as one may think, but as these myrtus show us, weekly. clipping and cold temperatures help create a tight, and proper specimen.

Few greenhouses offer such a selection or displays of succulents like this. I like how Tony's team displays plants on the upper shelves but then offers smaller plants below for sales.


At Snug Harbor, the succulent collection is like the shoe department at Barney's or Nordstroms.

A trip here entertains, inspires and fulfills any need for regeneration of ideas. If you are a creative type like me, it's just. what one needs on a long, cold spring where it seems everything is behind. Now I want privet hedges, more cold frames, larger pottery, succulent collections on stairs and a psychedelic peacock.

At every turn, there is brilliantly sited artwork for sale.

Even these concrete spheres in front of the old chicken coop are fabulous and thoughtfully set out.

Inside the farmhouse store, more product in every room from fragrance to home goods. 

Back to topiary. these are some of those trademarked shapes that Tony and his team at Snug Harbor do so well.

Hello! A lavender hedge.

Curry Plant sphere topiary - imagine the wedding that might get these?

Lemon cyperus hedgery - for the special client who wants to have an extra special terrace.

It was so nice to see other topiary that were more like something a real plantsperson might create too. LIke these Flowering Maples, which would take me a full year to get to flowering size for my containers.

Topiary filled at least three greenhouses. How perfect is this? If you could choose only one...which one would it be?


  1. This is an incredibly beautiful and amazing place. Just walking around the grounds and into the shop and barn has a calming effect. EVERYTHING about it is beautiful! I feel so lucky to have it close by. When I have company I always take them there.

  2. Your photos are stunning.

  3. Gosh Matt, that looks like my kind of place. Be still my heart on the pottery. I would be loading up for sure. I'm so glad your book is doing so well, and that you're traveling and speaking on our favorite subject. Thank you for all you do to spread the good gardening word.~~Dee


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