Well Sweep Herb Farm

By Robert Gluck

Touring Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray with its proprietor, Cyrus Hyde, is truly an exciting learning experience; part herbal lesson, part horticulture history flashback, part taste test. Recognized as one of the premier herb farms in the United States, Hyde's 120 acres dazzle herbal newcomers into an eagerness to learn more about a subject native medicine men have mastered since the time of the ancient Egyptians. "We can tell the ancient Egyptians used herbs because we've identified certain plants in their paintings and drawings," Hyde says as he walks, tears off a small leaf of a plant and asks this writer to taste test.

Sundial garden at Well Sweep

Hyde runs the Well-Sweep Herb Farm with his wife Louise and his son David. The farm has been in business for fifty years, and Hyde's family can trace part of its history back to George Washington. "I grew up in Totowa and my great-great-great grandmother brought herbs, food and milk to Washington and his hungry troops who were camping near Dey mansion," he explains, pointing to a pewter kneebuckle presented to his relatives by the great general.

Standing near show chickens with eight foot tail feathers-- onagadoris from Japan-- Hyde begins a remarkable lesson in herbs and their history. He's such an expert that he's in demand as a speaker at garden clubs and college horticulture classes. Dedicated to offering his customers the widest variety of quality herbs, flowering perennials, dried flower arrangements and other related herbalware (including many books on herbal remedies and cooking recipes), Well-Sweep is a stop herb lovers can't miss.

"We have a way of life here," Hyde notes, explaining the entire system at Well-Sweep. Cold frames, hot-beds, one of the largest collections of herbs in the country; any visitor will, indeed, marvel. And, they'll marvel at the expanse of Hyde's knowledge. "Here's something interesting and very rare," Hyde says, pointing to an herb. "It's double bloodroot. It's used medicinally. This is unusual to have the double. I see a resurgence in the use of herbal remedies. People are trying to get away from a lot of the different medicines that have side effects, they want to go back to nature. I'm no doctor and I'm not telling you to do it, I'm just telling you what I'm doing."

For inspiration and ideas, Well-Sweep remains unmatched. Nestled in the scenic hills of Warren County, the farm's pride and joy is its breathtaking formal half-acre display garden. The the brick-pathed garden boasts a wide array of herbs and perennials. And, admidst the scenic gardens you'll find 36 types of basils, 60 different lavenders, 80 varieties of thyme and over 100 scented-leaved geraniums.

"Herbs come under four categories," Cyrus says, walking and pointing. "Medicinal, culinary, dying, and fragrance. "Here we have poppy flowering celendyne. This is one of the first things to bloom. It likes semi-shade so it does very well under this rose bush. Celendyne had many uses medicinally, but this was one use-- it would be painted on warts. When you break the stem an orange sap comes out and that would be painted on to dry up warts and corns."

Among the many herbs at Well-Sweep are silver corkscrew chives, angelica, blackberry lily, borage, savory, cinnamon, stawbery blite, cilentro, sweet woodruff, fragrant heliotrope, lippia dulcis, dianthus, sweet cicely, catnip, cuban basil, allspice, milk thistle and on and on. The Hydes know about them all.

They'll teach you, if you're interested; Hyde consults those who want to grow their own herbs, and Well-Sweep offers classes, lectures, open houses, herb festivals and garden tours. And you can bring the children--Cyrus , his wife Louise, and their son David, always welcome families who care to bring a picnic lunch, play with their kids in the farm's sandbox, stroll the gardens and visit the exotic animals.

Call Well Sweep Herb Farm at 908/852-5390 or visit their website for hours, a mail order catalog and more information.

Upcoming Events

  • June 1-June 2 • SPRING OPEN HOUSE. Two days to celebrate our 50th year: free informative lectures, herb & perennial presentations, as well as tours of our spectacular gardens. Our largest selection of herb plants will be available on this day. Homemade refreshments can be enjoyed by all. Feel free to bring a picnic lunch. 9am - 5pm. Free admission and parking..
  • June 7 • MEDICINAL HERB WALK & STORYTELLING. David Winston, renowned herbalist and ethnobotanist, will present an educational walk to locate and identify common medicinal herbs in their native habitat. Learn about the healing properties of nature’s pharmacy, perhaps just beyond your own doorstep. Following the walk, David will share a Cherokee Indian story as we gather around a campfire. 6:30 - 9pm. $45.
  • June 22 • HERBAL TOPIARY WORKSHOP. 1 - 2:30pm. $39.
  • June 29 • WONDERFUL LAVENDER & LUNCH. A presentation by David Hyde on growing, enjoying and harvesting this herb with a tasty lavender lunch to follow 11am - 2pm. $53.
  • July 6 • LAVENDER CRAFTS. 1:30 - 3:30pm. $40.
  • July 13 • CARNIVOROUS CREATION. Learn about Venus Fly Traps, sundews, and pitcher plants and how to grow and maintain them in living sphagnum moss. 10am - 2pm. $49.
  • July 13 • CERAMIC PLANTERS. 1 - 3pm. $40.
  • July 27 • MIDSUMMER HERB FESTIVAL. Well-Sweep’s 30th annual Midsummer herb festival celebrates ‘Anise Hyssop’, Agastache, the 2019 International Herb Association’s Herb of the Year. In honor of our 50th Anniversary we will be having guest speaker Delaware State University Professor Emeritus Arthur O. Tucker. Tucker is an internationally renowned botanist, author of “The Encyclopedia of Herbs”, and friend of Cyrus & Louise. He will be speaking on “Agastache and Some Herbal Hacks” as well as discussing his new book, co-authored by Susan Belsinger, “Grow Your Own Herbs: The 40 Best Culinary Varieties for Home Gardens.” 11am - 2pm. $42.
  • August 24 • BRINGING IN THE HARVEST. The art of drying, freezing, and canning your herbs, vegetables and fruit will enable you to enjoy the benefits of your garden year-round. 10am - 2pm. $30.
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