The Hudson Valley is blooming with plant-focused businesses, whether catering to the native-grass aficionado, the rose-lover, or the herb enthusiast. So, when the community begins buzzing about one establishment in particular, you know it must be onto something pretty special.
The spot is Hort and Pott (short for horticulture and pottery), a botanically driven destination in Freehold with major word-of-mouth. With its unusual mix of plants, natural designs, and uncommon goods, Hort and Pott channels the creativity of its founders, Todd Carr and Carter Harrington.
At their home and studio, they have created a magical alternative reality with inspiration at every turn. It’s the culmination of a long and abiding passion for home and garden.
Carr, who grew up in northern New Jersey, became fascinated with plants as a kid; his resume includes over a decade as a garden designer and a stint as senior garden editor at Martha Stewart Living. All the while, he was also developing a ceramic-arts practice on the side.
Harrington, who hails from Virginia, describes himself as having held “1,000 different jobs, from graphic design to interior design to welding.” The thread uniting his work: creating unique spaces, whether that meant concept design or picking up power tools.
Their business came into being when their day jobs hit a pause. In 2016, they both found themselves laid off. It was a major “Now what?” moment. With no office beckoning them, the couple headed upstate for a few days to visit friends who owned an inn in Oak Hill. Carr and Harrington were instantly smitten by what they describe as the pure beauty of the landscape; they also loved the palpable history of craftsmanship embedded in the area.
In a nutshell, they didn’t want to leave. So they didn’t. They rented a nearby Airbnb for one month, then another. The owner of their rental mentioned that the house next door was for sale. “It was on a dead-end road, and there was this teeny, somewhat-abandoned farmhouse,” says Harrington, “but it was so cute and very, very affordable.”
Soon enough they were homeowners. Next, it was time to get busy reinventing their work lives. Carr had done Hort and Pott pop-ups before, featuring his ceramic and garden designs, in Maine. Why not give it another go? Serendipity nudged the project along when a close friend offered them her vacant carriage barn as a retail space.
Their new enterprise made its debut on Main Street in Oak Hill in 2017, with a maximalist vibe: a profusion of plants and flowers, garden pieces (new and antique), handcrafted items, and vintage pieces, from globes to typewriters. This first Hudson Valley iteration of Hort and Pott quickly became a conduit for connecting with the community. “We were doing a lot of exploring and foraging around the back roads through the mountains, and we made friends with locals who would occasionally call us over because they needed to eliminate grapevines, for instance, that were taking over their trees,” recalls Harrington. “We were happy to harvest it for them so we might create wreaths and light fixtures,” he says, describing two of their signature offerings.
About those wreaths: During that first year, Hort and Pott truly found its footing with naturalistic designs melding traditional greenery with grapevines, winterberries, milkweed pods, and more. Customers, hungry for something besides typical balsam-plus-big-red-velvet-bow creations, began flocking to the business.
Soon, they were ready to expand, personally and professionally. Seeking more space, Carr and Harrington closed on a property in Freehold in March 2020, with 22 acres to cultivate, plus a rural Italianate house and outbuildings.
March 2020 was, of course, a memorable date for another reason. “We fared pretty well in the pandemic,” says Carr, perhaps because they had built up a solid social media following (@hortandpott now has nearly 30,000 followers) and the fact that, hunkered down at home, people were looking to re-feather and refresh their nests.
Their new shop on their property began scheduling appointments in 2021; now, shopping the Hort and Pott look is a matter of watching their website to know when they are open. Visiting hours are an immersive experience keyed to what’s in bloom. In spring, shoppers can wander the fragrant knoll and see how Carr and Harrington display armloads’ worth of lilacs and other flowers. In late summer, it’s a celebration of neon-bright zinnias; later in the year it’s full-on dried-flower mode.
There are visual delights at every turn: “Carr will take weeds and make big arrangements,” says Harrington, “and people are inspired by that. It’s humbling at times to see all the messages and tags we get on social media and to know that we’ve evoked such a response.”
It’s humbling to see the messages and tags we get on social media and to know we’ve evoked such a response.
There’s also plenty to shop: lighting, planters of all sorts, Harrington’s hand-cast concrete leaves, salt-fired ceramics, nesting eggs, and more. Soon, there will be more hand-thrown planters and lamp bases as Carr installs a kiln, and hopefully additional collaborations with local designers and artisans. Plus: Possibly some unusual plants to help clients enliven their outdoor spaces.
As they renovate their new old home, the duo expects it to be a laboratory for their creative ideas. “We’ll use it as the backdrop and translate our dreamy world in the shop into the home environment, so people can see how to live with these pieces every day. We may do workshops and other events, invite people in to see new collections,” explains Carr. Adds Harrington, “We’re moving away from the Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. retail model and embracing the unconventional.”
In that way, they feel they are perfectly situated. They find inspiration on long drives around the area, from Innisfree Garden in Millbrook to Opus 40 in Saugerties to Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson. And they are excited by what’s popping up near their home base: Personal pursuits like A. THERIEN in Cairo (read our profile at hvmag.com/atherien), Gardenheir in Windham, and Julia’s Local in Round Top.
Of these business with their distinctive viewpoints, Harrington says, “It’s a delight to witness others bringing new ideas and options into the community here in the Hudson Valley.” Certainly, this is a case of “it takes one to know one,” as Hort and Pott reinvents what a garden shop can mean today.