Helen Waite and John Feliciani: Black Hog Farm Bed and Breakfast in Lewes

Living High on the Hog: A couple puts down roots at a B&B and boutique farm near Lewes.



At a Glance

Who  Helen Waite and John Feliciani
What  Black Hog Farm Bed & Breakfast
Where  Near Lewes

At Black Hog Farm, Mother Nature is a trusted decorator, painting the landscape with ruffled orange squash blossoms, verdant Atlantic cedar and waving stands of lavender.
The constant gardeners who tend the land are Helen Waite and John Feliciani, who exult in good soil, healthy plants and dreaming up new plots together.
“That love of the garden is something special that we share,” John says. “Even weeding isn’t as tedious when you have someone to share the load.”
Both spouses inherited their green thumbs. John, who retired in 2010 as Winterthur’s curator of horticulture, was the fourth generation of his family to care for the grounds at the iconic estate. Helen, a gifted and insightful designer of gardens, is the daughter of passionate gardeners.
“Both my parents were master gardeners,” she says.
They put down roots together when they married in 2009, blending families—each partner has two adult children—as well as shared interests and values. Together, they operate Black Hog Farm, a bed-and-breakfast inn and boutique farm offering such specialty products as heirloom veggies, hard-to-find ornamental plants and eggs laid by pasture-fed ducks.
“It’s a combination of things that appeal to us and the things we think will appeal to other people,” she says.
Helen and John married on the farm, tucked away along a rural route in Sussex County outside Lewes.
“Everyone gathered outside by the cutting garden,” she recalls. “We set up the bar under the trees.”
As part of the celebration, they planted a pair of bald cypresses as their bride and groom trees, a regional practice dating back to the 18th century that is symbolic of growing love and commitment.
“Soon after we planted them, one of them got knocked down and had to be replanted,” Helen says. “John and I went back and forth as to whether it was my tree or his that took the hit.”

This cozy room offers a nice view of the farm. HOME ON THE FARM

Sited at the end of a long, cypress-lined drive, the farmhouse was built in three parts. The first two, constructed around 1900, consist of two-story sections stacked side by side. The third single-story wing was added by previous owners in the mid-20th century.
Helen and John repurposed that section as a cozy bed-and-breakfast suite with a bath, sitting room and bedroom for visitors who want to get a taste of farm life.
The facade is very much classic farmhouse, clad in clapboards painted an earthy beige. A wide, welcoming front porch is lined with rocking chairs.
Inside, the largest space is a pleasant living room, which also serves as a library and music room. Helen’s father was an organist and she plays the upright piano. A quartet of recorders in varying ranges, passed down by her mother, is displayed on the wall above the piano.
One wall is devoted to books, many of them horticultural volumes. There’s a colorful, poster-sized photograph of John’s father immersed in flowers at Winterthur, where he nurtured plants for half a century. A black-and-white portrait of Helen’s father, a pipe clenched between his teeth, was taken when he served in the Royal Air Force.

The grounds are covered with various plantings and greenery. TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE

Helen isn’t especially fond of fussing with knickknacks. But the mantel on the fireplace in the living room needed some dressing up.
So she turned to a friend, Michelle Jennings, “who is quite good at arranging things so that they look planned and artistic.”
Michelle came up with a vignette that included a whimsical ceramic hog, brass candlesticks and other decorative pieces.
“Then I went in and made a few small adjustments,” Helen recalls. “Having Michelle’s design to work with was so much easier than starting from scratch.”
Gardens are more her style. A small ante room with a flagstone floor has French doors that open to a deck with a dazzling view of the artfully informal gardens she designed, balancing beds and plants in various shapes, heights and volumes. A broad expanse of emerald green flows through the beds, a corridor of sorts connecting open-air rooms.
The rustic trestle table crafted from European oak is well-traveled. Helen’s parents bought it in England and transported it to Canada, where she grew up. Today, the table is at home in an informal dining area between the living room and kitchen, where she makes quince jelly and asparagus quiche.
“I like that I have things that belonged to my parents,” she says. “Clearly, this table was built to last.”

A list of the offerings of the day. A BLOOM BOOM

Their home is a jewel box of a farm, a scant 4.2 acres watered by the Black Hog Gut, a tiny tributary of Canary Creek. Among its gems are ruby red Brandywine heirloom tomatoes, amethyst stalks of Russian sage and the pearl-white blossoms of the magnifica rhododendron, known for its luxuriant perfume.
John grew the fig tree from cuttings from a tree grown by Henry Francis du Pont at Winterthur. He admires the paper bark maple for its exfoliating bark and sculptural shape. Six filbert saplings will serve up nuts in years to come.
The molded concrete garden bench Helen received on her 50th birthday is tucked away in a grove of shrubs, a secret pocket within the garden that is ideal for meditation or a child’s game of hide-and-seek. Spigelia marilandica, the wildflowers known as Indian pinks, erupt in scarlet blooms, a vivid contrast to green shade plants.
A vegetable garden covering three-fourths of an acre can easily produce enough food to feed 30 families. Helen views her vegetables as living, evolving art: “the feathery tops of the carrots, the chartreuse of the baby lettuces, the mottled leaves of the squash plants.”
The raised beds behind the barn keep tender greens out of reach of rascally rabbits. They also are easy on the back—and benefit gardeners intent on keeping the soil free of weeds in other ways.
“In the morning, you can sit on the ledge with your cup of coffee and weed the beds,” John says. “In the evening, you can bring your cocktail and finish the job.” 

G​et the Look
  • Define your garden with outdoor “rooms,” each with its own purpose. A sunny patch of zinnias might be a cutting garden. A small bench in an enclave of shrubs becomes a secret hide-away.
  • Develop your own signature. There aren’t any live swine at Black Hog Farm, but there are several artistic interpretations, including a logo designed by Helen’s daughter. In the living room, there’s a ceramic piggy on the mantel and a wrought iron pig doorstop.
  • Turn symmetry on its head. Instead of straight lines and a formal layout, Helen balances her garden by varying the heights and shapes of plants and plots.
  • Honor thy fathers. In the living room, there’s a large color photograph of John’s father amid the blooms at Winterthur. There is a black-and-white portrait of Helen’s father in his Royal Air Force uniform.
  • Launch a collaborative effort. Helen asked a friend to arrange candlesticks and keepsakes on the mantel in the living room. She started with that base and then made a few tweaks to reflect her own artistic sensibilities.
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January 2016

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View map »


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, DE

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Website »

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Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all cancers combined. On Friday, Feb. 5, the American Heart Association (AHA) asks that everyone wear red to raise awareness for...

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center
1131 N. DuPont Hwy
Dover, DE
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Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Ave., Lewes, 2nd Floor Time: 8:40 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Fee: Free

Where:
, DE

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Wear red and dine out at a participating restaurant to receive a free heart-healthy menu item. Tell your server you’re wearing red to celebrate “Wear Red Day.” “Go Red...

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Wilmington, Del. Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction will host the 22nd annual Block Kids competition. It’s a free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hodgson Vo-Tech High School
2575 Glasgow Ave.
Newark, DE  19702
View map »


Sponsor: National Association of Women in Construction
Telephone: 302-453-4000
Contact Name: Laura Massimini
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romance. Join Macy’s Christiana for an afternoon of Valentine’s Day cheer to celebrate all the loves in your life—including yourself!...

Where:
Macy's at Christiana Mall
Women's Department, Level 1
502 Christiana Mall
Newark, DE  19702
View map »


Contact Name: Jessica Chan

More information

First Saturdays in the First State Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for details. Free admission. Something new every...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
43 The Green
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

The Chadds Ford Historical Society hosts its 8th annual Plein Air art event. Artists will be painting around the local area as well as the Barns Brinton House, John Chads House and Brandywine Creek...

Cost: General Admission: $10 | Exclusive Preview Party (includes 2 Tickets): $50

Where:
Chadds Ford Historical Society
1736 Creek Rd
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Telephone: 610-388-7376
Contact Name: Derek Larson OR Allison Schell
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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