Fordhook Friends

The folks working at Heronswood Nursery include these excellent employees headquartered at Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, PA. On this 60-acre estate, we have planted over 10 acres of rare cultivars, including much of what we offer on-line and in the Heronswood Catalog. Also, these are the folks you will meet at our upcoming 2009 Open Days.

Fordhook Friends
Hieu Bui is our number one seed propagator. Born in Vietnam, he now lives with his family in Philadelphia.
Fordhook Friends
Norm Grigg is our landscaper. Born in the Virgin Islands, he lives with his family in Langhorne.
Fordhook Friends
Dave Smicker is head of trials and gardens. A Pennsylvania native and graduate of Temple University’s horticulture program. Dave served as an intern at Fordhook Farm for over three years.
Fordhook Friends
Jack Forbes is an assistant landscaper. He served in the US Army in Virginia from 1952 to 1953. He hunts and fishes and resides with his wife Jo in Doylestown, PA.
Fordhook Friends
Linda Cassidy is a Bucks County native and one of Grace’s new assistants, after working for ten years at Fordhook when it was a bed and breakfast. She ably runs our test kitchens, contributing many recipes and helping to run our Open Days and scheduling visitors.
Fordhook Friends
The handsome 8-year-old “Hurricane” Nathan Hale is the top dog at Fordhook. As a puppy he was chained outside and used as target practice by stone-throwing children at a gang house in North Philly, until an Air Force enlistee jumped the fence and rescued him. The next year, after this brave hero was given his orders to Afghanistan, he dropped Nathan off at a shelter in Doylestown. I bought him over the phone when I requested a black dog, my favorite kind. Mostly Lab with some Chow and Pit. Eats almost everything.
Fordhook Friends
Five-year-old Sammy is a pure bred English Field Setter, a phenomenal bird dog, and fast as lightning. He easily runs down deer, for example. I got him from a group that rescues runts from litters at sportsmen’s clubs in the south. He is an affectionate “love dog”. Eats hardly anything.
Fordhook Friends
Sammy has spotted an art critic.
Fordhook Friends
Resting beneath the enormous Eastern sycamore.
Fordhook Friends
Mary Kliwinski has taken all the great pictures that grace this blog. Self-taught and quite gifted, she also gardens part-time at Fordhook. She lives with her family in Doylestown.
Fordhook Friends
Patty Kowski was our summer intern for the past two years and now works in Marketing at W. Atlee Burpee & Co. She assisted in every part of the trials, display gardens and Heronswood Open Days. She is a 2008 Penn State graduate with a degree in Agri-Business Management.
Fordhook Friends
Bill Rein is our present intern, which hardly describes him. A graduate of Delaware Valley College, he became their arboretum manager in 2001. A horticulturist, Bill also writes very well as his guest blogs demonstrate.
Fordhook Friends
Our Research Director, Grace Romero, was born and raised in the Philippines. A graduate of University of Michigan and Cornell University, she bred petunias and anemones for PanAmerican Seed while I was there in the 80s and 90s. She designed the Happiness Garden, as well as the many new Heronswood gardens at Fordhook.
Fordhook Friends
Dan Tompkins is a part-time intern. He has helped in the last two year’s Opens. He is studying ornamental horticulture at Delaware Valley College and plans to attend graduate school.
Fordhook Friends
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 8:36 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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53 Responses to “Fordhook Friends”

  1. Irene said:

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures & e-mails. I am quite new to your e-mails & stories but love them!!!

    I have a question on the Beautiful Hydrangea in one of your pictures. What is the name of it?
    Thank you so much,
    Irene P.

  2. George said:

    Dear Irene,

    Thank you for your comments. The Hydrangea in the image you are talking about is Hydrangea ‘The Swan’ which we offer at Heronswood.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our free blog feed so you do not miss any new blog postings.

  3. Susan James said:

    How very nice! Keep send to us here!

  4. Gloria said:

    Thanks so much for sharing your family. You made my day a little brighter.

  5. Melany said:

    Your pictures are beautiful. As winter approaches quickly, it is nice to see all the greenery pictures at Heronswood. I am a former employee of Burpee in Warminster. I love to look at all the beautiful plants that are grown in your lovely gardens. Your dogs are great too!!
    Best wishes to all!


  6. George, The pictures are glorious. Happy dogs, happy people and beautiful plants. What could be better!

  7. Dolores said:

    Just wanted to say what a very nice e-mail this was introducing all of you to everyone. You seem to have a wonderful bunch of people at Heronswood! It is always nice to know a little more about the people you are dealing with no matter what business they are in. Thank you!

  8. Patricia Fox said:

    Thank you for sharing, as all gardeners enjoy doing.
    God has blessed you with a beautiful life and wonderful friends.

  9. Scott Trees said:


    I loved seeing pictures of everyone at Heronswood. It was espcially good to see Grace–she’s ageless! It looks like everyone loves working for you.

    Congratulations and continued success!


  10. Nancy said:

    Great Idea!!! I was fun to see the people that make the nursery run.

  11. Kathy Rychen said:

    I am a member of The Rachel Jackson Garden Club in The Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., District II.
    I love seeing all the employees and pets and feeling as if I know them.
    I love your web site.
    Looking forward to ordering from you in the spring.

    Kathy Rychen

  12. Denise said:

    What gorgeous dogs! And they look so happy. Living at Fordhook must be a wonderful life for dogs, especially a couple of puppies that have been saved from cruel circumstances.

  13. SeeTee said:

    I enjoyed the lovely photos and stories about your staff. I’m in New England and have never been to Heronswood but will put you on my wish list if I ever am in the area. It’s always nice to know a little bit about the people behind a business, after all, they are the business! Good luck in the coming year. We had a spectacular autumn here and I hope yours was as beautiful.

  14. janet said:

    love sammy and nathan,,,they look happy and loved

  15. Kathy and Michael said:

    It was great to learn about those who help to make Heronswood such a great place. We especially enjoyed meeting Hurricane and Sammy.

  16. kathy said:

    I so appreciated the stories that you included about the people that help Heronswood be what it is… and the pets. I look forward to mail from you!

  17. Susan Jones said:

    What a wonderful family! this email was very uplifting and warming – thank you for sharing

  18. TC said:

    Howdy friends!

  19. Nancy said:

    I have English Setters! Both rescued as adults—GREAT Breed!
    Yours is adorable!

    Muscatine, IA.

  20. no one loves flowes more then myself I was born in arkansas moved to Illinios at age 17 moved back to arkansas age 65 not remembering how hard to grow in southern heat I order from you catalog love your newletter and wuld like a little advice HOW can I get hydranga to bloom I have them in all kinds of sun-shade all directions east,north west & south
    please advise

  21. Stephanie said:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful email. I enjoyed your fordhook family especially your dogs. Thank you for rescuing a wonderful dog that seems to love life at your farm.

    I purchased a red bark Birch for my mother and it is doing very well. I will definately order from you again.

  22. Wayne Green said:

    Thanks for the introduction to the staff it makes it more fun to do business with you.

  23. Steve said:

    You have some beautiful pictures of your beautiful staff. They all look so happy to be working in horticulture. Their love of horticulture really shows.

  24. Steve said:

    You have taken some beautifull pictures of your beautifull staff. But then anyone with the love of horticulture that they seem to have, can only be beautifull

  25. puhland said:

    I liked you fordhook friends note. I have seen and met some of you. It was interesting to learn
    more about you’all. Keep up the excellent work.
    One of Philadelphia’s treasures is Fordhook Farm.

  26. Beautiful Barbara said:

    What fun yah’ll look like you are having. I’ll bet it is a blast working there. Or do you call it play?
    What a handsome bunch! The flowers too!

  27. Zaleha Jaafar said:

    I love flowers.

    The pictures posted are beautiful especially of Sammy spotting the art critic. The picture looks so alive.

  28. Nancy said:

    What a wonderful gift for thanksgiving to see all those who love plants and our environment.

    Thank you!

  29. Stephen Gale said:

    You seem to take as good care of People as Plants; and vice versa. Very Impressive
    I’ve enjoyed the web communication, catalogues and the ” Open ” days; all first rate; however; some of the plants I’ve purchased from you haven’t performed as advertised; I’m not asking for a refund or anything, and maybe it’s my misunderstanding of their cultural requirements.
    If interested I’ll send a short list and explanation.
    Stephen Gale

  30. George said:

    Dear Stephen – Yikes!

    Please let us know what problems you’ve had, and we’ll do our best to solve them for you. Thank you.

  31. Sue said:

    God bless you for rescuing the dogs; they look happy to be living in such a beautiful place.

  32. Sandy said:

    Sounds like a great place to work!!!

    Thanks for the email – added some beauty to a dread day. I hope to visit in the Spring.

  33. Pat Pratt said:

    Great Work Keep it up. Cheers and Thank you.

  34. Jagan n Sharma said:

    Mr. Ball
    I was always your admirer, the Black dog storymade me cry. For this act alone you will be rewarded, in this life or next.
    Respects and Regards

  35. Janice said:

    Love your pictures especially the canine ones and being an animal lover did notice your black friend is a little over weight and wanted to pass along a hint that we discovered for our elderly beagle who’s food obsessed. We limit him to his 2 cups of reduced calorie very nutritious dog food and because that’s not enough for him and he’s constantly begging I buy canned veggies like carrots, pumpkin (plain ol pumpkin), sweet potatoes, and green beans especially green beans he loves them and that’s what I substitute when he’s hungry and begging for more food. He’s lost weight and the vet said that’s the best thing I could’ve done for him and he said that even though they aren’t his favorite (the vet’s) they’re very good for our beagle buddy Sammi good for him too because they’re his favorite.
    Also I don’t feed him canned corn I think that’s what they fatten cows and pigs with so I pass them by. If you love your best friend Hurricane buy him a case of green beans or carrots and just try them on him if he eats just about anything he’ll probably love them and you too. PS they don’t have to be a brand name veggie either.

  36. George said:

    Nathan is indeed overweight, and the only answer is a disciplined reduction of intake. Your suggestions are extremely helpful–especially the plain canned veggies–and I shall try it. Thanks very much.

  37. Pat Schott said:

    Thanks for the great pictures! It’s good to give recognition to the workers! Interesting reading about the varied backgrounds and education of the good folks. Thanks! Made my day!

  38. Jan Stockton said:

    We also have a rescued purebred English field setter, a female, who will eat hardly anything, and this is quite a problem. Sammy is beautiful; what and how do you get him to eat?

    We live in WA (near the original Heronswood Nursery & Gardens), and our daughter and family live in PA, so we travel back and forth.

  39. George said:

    Dear Jan,

    Sammy eats best when I am with him, or Jack or Linda if I’m at work. It seems he’s apprehensive and someone around him reassures him it’s okay to eat. Very picky. I notice that if I stir biscuits into a wet preparation or 1/2 can of whatever, it gets his attention. An occasional bone from the butcher helps a lot–about 2 times a month. Thanks. Stop by anytime.

  40. Ann Auerbach said:

    This was just splendid. I loved all of the photographs, and look forward to meeting some of them at your Open Days in 2009. Happy holidays to all, and I am so glad to have Heronswood here on the East Coast.

    From a loyal consumer,

    Ann Auerbach

  41. George said:

    Thank you, Ann. Can’t wait to say hello to you at our next Open. Please stay tuned for dates.

  42. Betsy said:

    What a treat! Thank you. It’s lovely to see the interns coming along and the great diversity and interesting backgrounds of the people who work with you. DelVal is a fabulous school, and Fordhook is a favorite destination. We wish you had more open garden weekends~your plants do so well for us.

    People stoning a puppy? My stomach is turning over…
    What a lucky fellow!

  43. George said:

    Thank you, Betsy. Indeed, little Nathan was in bad shape. Now he’s fine, but I, too, get angry.

  44. Susie Dumont said:

    Thanks for the great pictures of all of you and your beautiful dogs! I went to the Open Days at Herronswood in Kingston, WA this year and it was lovely. As a dog lover (I have three dogs myself) I am curious as to where you got Sammy. Runts are usually great dogs – we had a Llasha Opso for 13 years that we loved that was a runt. Super personality and loved by everyone he met. I would definitely like to know more about this place. Thanks! Keep up the good work! Susie from Belfair, WA.

  45. George said:

    Dear Susie,

    Thanks for the email about Sammy. The lady, whose name I forget, tells me that runts tend to be mediocre hunting dogs. Because, of all the litter, they have problems with command and control signals. I found it odd too, but I assume it’s correct, because she said that folks at these hunting clubs often kill the runts after some sort of cursory review of their “gameness”. That’s why she rescues them; they become available for her because otherwise they’d be put to sleep. Thanks so much for your note, and please come see us (and the dogs) if you take a trip east.

  46. Ruth said:

    Sorry, still don’t forgive you for what you did to the real Heronswood. When are you going to make that right?

  47. George said:

    Dear Ruth:

    Thank you for your note. Obviously we haven’t done enough for you. However, here’s “reality”: we moved the nursery two and a half years ago. That’s plants in pots. We not only maintained the original garden, but also improved it by removing crowded plants. We held three Open Day events in Kingston, Washington, and eight in Doylestown, PA, since the move. We raised thousands of dollars for The Garden Conservancy at both locations in the past two years. Perhaps the new gardens, speakers, seminars, et al, haven’t been up to your standards. Nevertheless, we improve with every Open Day. We’ve collected several hundred exciting new plants both in the wild—as permitted—and in the countryside in many places throughout the world, not only China, where the previous owners (the owners in 2000) placed their emphasis. They were excellent plant collectors and we cherish the many plants they introduced. But new owners bring a new perspective. After six years, we needed a change, and certainly better financial results.

    How you look at reality is up to you. We took excellent care of the terminated employees, giving generous severances, extending their health plans and offering free job counseling. (Name another nursery that’s done that.) The former owners’ contracts were fulfilled to the letter. We have been working in an extraordinarily diligent way to sell the original display gardens and former home of the founders to area philanthropists, despite the distortions in the local media. Meanwhile, we move ahead with plant research and production in Kingston, Western PA, Eastern PA, the southern tip of Delaware and the UK to supply new and old cultivars of “unusually great” plants. We hope you give us a chance to win you back as a valued customer.

    George Ball

  48. BBarger said:

    So nice to see an article that gives credit to all who have helped – it takes many hands -no one can do anything of this scope alone!!
    -And nice to see the animal lovers – and their devotion to all things living!

  49. Donna said:

    Really great pictures, and I totally enjoyed reading about everyone.

  50. Stephanie said:

    I have purchased some items from you in the past and they are all doing very well. Thank you so much for sharing the pictures of you staff and you lovely dogs. What a life they have. I’ll take the spot beside them under the Sycamore!!
    God Bless you and your family!

  51. Ruth said:

    Heronswood was at the heart of the horticultural community here in the Northwest. Inspiring, exciting but within reach. A ferry boat ride away. The special place to go for a day to revel in new plants, design possibilities. It was a magnet for every plant head within driving distance. Completely contagious. I bought both retail and by catalog. Attended lectures. I’ve kept every catalog I ever received. There’s information there you can’t get anywhere else. Some kind of magic Dan Hinckley had over everyone over here.

    It’s a wound that just hasn’t healed. Completely understandable that anyone else would want some of that magic. But I’m guessing you don’t get nearly the sales you could from the Pacific Northwest, because of our loss. To our community.


  52. George said:

    Dear Ruth

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. You have noticed that we continued exactly the business you described–and indeed expanded it–after purchasing the nursery in 2000 from Dan and Robert. We believed in the same dream. However, we discovered several things over the six years until 2006. First, the business was tough to operate from almost 3,000 miles, second many plants were strictly zones 8 and 9, and also that there was a substantial, and surprising, drop in local interest after we bought it. Then the money became tighter than usual, and yet costs increased. So, regardless how long and hard we tried to make it work, the business couldn’t expand headquartered in Kingston, especially since the majority was, and remains, mail order. Plants needed nationwide adaptation, production needed space, location needed more centrality, and costs needed to be less.

    Thus, we had to relocate the nursery and keep what we could of the research there for northwest adaptation as long as we could. It’s noteworthy that the water pressure–often a problem–has been greatly improved for the gardens now that the nursery has been relocated. The plants are at much less risk of drought, which is a big deal in summer there, as you well know. Two and a half years later, we still haven’t found an appropriate–or any–buyer for the “real” Heronswood, as you call it, not even at a discount from the recently appraised value of the land. So, where’s the community now? If the magic was all in the plantsmen, then it certainly wasn’t in the plants, and that’s the only sorry part, if any, in my view. For the purposes of future plant selection, please bring your catalogue/s, for example the 5 we published from 2001 to 2005, to the next Open in 2009 (there will probably be two again), and look for the plants. They are still there, tended as well as, and labeled better than, ever. Then order from the new website. Again, as last two years, we shall have both Heronswood and The Garden Conservancy staff on hand to guide folks through the many research and display gardens. Also, if you ever come east, please be sure to pay us a visit anytime. We welcome guests year round by appointment. We have a major sculpture exhibition by Steve Tobin as well as the new gardens that already cover twice the area of the ones in Kingston. Needless to say, all proceeds from the Opens go to The Garden Conservancy.

    Thanks again for your interest.

    George Ball

  53. Jan Stockton said:

    Thanks so much for the tip on feeding our picky English setter! It turns out that she loves biscuits and rolls, especially with a few drops of vegetable oil on them, mixed with her dog food and daily chicken thigh.

    By the way, is the fuchsia ‘Isis’ without variegation still available? We have three of them now, all bought from Heronswood, and they are probably my favorite plants, reliably hardy in our zone 8 garden — one in the woodland garden, and two in pots right by the house. I note you offer one with variegation, but I believe the variegation of the leaves would take away from the beauty of the plant with its tiny jewel-like flowers. I would like to purchase one or two more for a new shade garden we’re establishing in the spring. Thanks.

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