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 Hildreth Morton
August 14, 1917-April 14, 2007

Hildreth Morton was an independent-minded, colorful optimist you had to love as soon as you met her. People were naturally drawn to her even though she kept a low profile, never seeking attention. She was born August 14, 1917 in Washington, DC, and had lived in Davidson, MD, since 1945.

Her father, James H. Kempton, US agriculture ambassador to Venezuela, encouraged her natural interest in growing plants. A favorite family story relates how 14 year-old Hildredth built her first cold frame using an old window she found near her Lanham, MD, home. After dragging it through nearby woodland to her yard, she dug a hole, and then put the window over the hole. A few weeks before, she had mail-ordered Burpee tomato seeds, receiving them promptly. With the early start, the family and friends harvested tomatoes all summer and into the fall.

Following graduation from the University of Maryland, College Park, she married James Cooke Morton, Jr., but only after he promised that they would live on a farm. The young attorney’s brilliant legal career lead to his appointment to Maryland’s highest court (the Special Court of Appeals). Together they raised two lovely daughters who survive them, Hildreth Bradford Clagett of Millersville and Ann Wilts Drenner of Davidsonville.

Whatever Hildreth did, she did very well. She owned and operated Bittersweet Hill Nurseries in Davidsonville, Maryland USA.

In 1961, Hildreth began raising tomato plants in earnest with the help of a cold frame. When the farm’s ancient tobacco barn blew down, she replaced it with a greenhouse. One plant lead to another; one greenhouse lead to another. Before she realized it, not only were friends and neighbors eager to purchase what she grew, but also folks she had never met. Hildreth initially specialized in an endless array of fascinating herbs. Eventually she fell in love with waterlilies. She added them, other aquatic plants, and associated water garden paraphernalia to her offerings.

Hildredth joined the International Waterlily and Water Garden Society as a Founding Member. She served the society in various capacities and regularly attended its annual symposiums until her later years. At these gatherings she always appeared well dressed with a ready smile and her trademark fresh flower in her hair topped with a sun hat (one featured a breeze-producing mini-propeller!). However, she did manage to attend the 2005 IWGS Allentown, PA, meeting with granddaughter Heather (who assisted running the nursery). Additionally, Hildredth was a long time National Herb Society member.

In the meantime, she had added wildflowers, ferns, perennials, and Christmas decorations. More greenhouses followed, one dedicated to producing herbs. Thousands of friends and customers enthusiastically attended her annual garden festivals. Her horticultural magic artfully appealed to the senses with splendid displays of brilliant colors, appealing fragrances, tinkling water, flavorful herbs, and assorted textures. All the while, she generously gave expert planting directions and gardening advice. Customers and young horticulture interns alike benefited from her words and examples. Hildreth genuinely cared about her plants and customers. Always doing the right thing was ingrained in her personality.

In addition to her two daughters, she is survived by a sister, Christine Kempton McNaughton of Grosse Pointe, MI, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Granddaughter Heather Ann Wheatley is faithfully continuing Hildredth’s traditions at Bittersweet Hill Nurseries.

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