Hartley Magazine

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Meadowbrook – A Study in Plant Artistry

Meadowbrook, a 25 acre-estate in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, was designed and created by the floral artist, J. Liddon Pennock, Jr.  Mr. Pennock grew up in Philadelphia, where his family had operated a florist shop for over 100 years.


He attended Cornell University, but was called home to help save the family business in 1933. That business thrived and Mr. Pennock went on to become florist to the well-connected. “I would have done Grace Kelly’s wedding if she had been married in Philadelphia,” he told a reporter. “I did her sister’s.”  Perhaps best known for the decorations at Tricia Nixon Cox’s wedding, he also decorated the White House garden party for Prince Charles and Princess Anne, and oversaw decoration of the White House for Christmases between 1971 and 1973.


Asked about his horticultural expertise, he once said, “In a way, I’m a fake.  People think I know a great deal more about plants than I do. My main forté is knowing how to use plants better than anybody else.”

After selling the florist shop in 1970, Mr. Pennock built the nursery, greenhouses and garden shop at Meadowbrook Farm. The house and grounds had been a gift from his in-laws when he married Alice Herkness in 1936. The couple was often on lists of the best-dressed—he favored sweater vests and bow ties in the garden.

A visit to Meadowbrook offers many delightful illustrations of his gift. Visitors encounter virtuosic display beds when they enter the parking lot. From there, lush plant combinations spill from planters and along the path leading visitors to the nursery sales area. When I visited, a new vegetable display garden featuring garlic and artichokes within stone-edged beds was backed by a towering bamboo trellis of hop vines. Just beyond the temptations of the nursery sit the gates to Mr. Pennock’s personal compound. There, the English Cotswald house is surrounded by a series of artful garden rooms.


Pennock was generous with his talent, serving as chairman of the Philadelphia Flower Show in the 1980’s, as well as chairman of the Morris Arboretum’s Board in the 1990’s. He died in 2003.

Today, Meadowbrook Farm Nursery offers workshops and tours, and the property is a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The site includes extensive nursery display gardens, greenhouses bursting with well-grown plants, an excellent gift shop and plant sales area, and the impressive home and gardens that Mr. Pennock once built and occupied.

For so many reasons, it’s worth the trip.