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 attorneys
brilliant legal career lead to his appointment to Marylands
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 farms 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 Hildredths traditions at Bittersweet Hill Nurseries.