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Garden Visit: Jewelry Designer Janet Mavec’s Bird Haven Farm in NJ

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Garden Visit: Jewelry Designer Janet Mavec’s Bird Haven Farm in NJ

June 16, 2023

“Someone once said that’‘gardening is straddling creativity and labor,’ ” says Janet Mavec of Janet Mavec Jewelry. “I think that’s so accurate. I love the juxtaposition of those two things.”

For more than 25 years, Janet and her husband Wayne Nordberg have been doing just that, digging and planting to coax a magical garden into being at Bird Haven Farm in western New Jersey. Set among rolling hills and woodlands, the 100-acre farm is a bucolic dream, replete with a picturesque old barn, spring-fed pond, century-old orchard, and a stone house (once the home of Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the author of the beloved Nancy Drew mysteries).

In 2002 the couple worked with the great Spanish landscape designer Fernando Caruncho to design the garden’s master plan, including an elegant courtyard with a reflecting pool that is central to many of the couple’s social gatherings. Garden designer Lisa Stamm created the monastery garden, prolific vegetable garden, and perennial border, where Mavec spends much of her time plotting and planting. “Every year, I change up what’s in each bed, add compost, and rotate flowers and vegetable crops,” she says.

“When we originally put the garden in, it was all about editing,” recalls Mavec. “Now years later, there’s still editing, but we focus more on maintaining things in a healthy way.” Inspired after attending a lecture on gardening for birds, she recently added a border of berries and native shrubs such as bottlebrush buckeye and clethra. “I feel like I can tell what kind of winter it’s going to be by how quickly the berries get eaten,” she says.  

These days Mavec is a little more laissez-faire in the garden than in the early days, preferring to spend time on things like color combinations, rather than cajole a fussy plant into bloom. “If it doesn’t come back, we don’t need it,” she says. “I like to garden with colors I would never wear, or even have in my house,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t want my sofa to be barbie pink, for example, but I planted poppies in that color and I love them.” Her palette runs the gamut—from seductive mauvy irises to bright orange marigolds. “I’m not a plant snob,” she says, “I look forward to planting pansies every spring.” Mavec also holds a party every year to celebrate her exuberant festive marigolds, one of the first plants she grew as a young child. “I adore color and love that you can have so much of it in the garden.” She takes us on a tour. 

Photography by Janet Mavec.

“The emerald ash borer has been in New Jersey for years now. This central ash tree is being fed every year with the hope that it can live. Tree care is such an important part of the garden maintenance,” says Mavec.
Above: “The emerald ash borer has been in New Jersey for years now. This central ash tree is being fed every year with the hope that it can live. Tree care is such an important part of the garden maintenance,” says Mavec.
All of Mavec’s designs for her jewelry collection is inspired by the farm, including this necklace which is an homage to her favorite apple, Pink Pearl, which ripens in late August and flaunts pink flesh. “The necklace is made of brass and dipped in \18k gold. It is ripe for the picking!” says Mavec. 
Above: All of Mavec’s designs for her jewelry collection is inspired by the farm, including this necklace which is an homage to her favorite apple, Pink Pearl, which ripens in late August and flaunts pink flesh. “The necklace is made of brass and dipped in 18k gold. It is ripe for the picking!” says Mavec. 
“Fernando Caruncho envisioned this as the center of our Medieval village. And he was right. This is where we gather and the parties happen!” says Mavec, who uses non-toxic Airmax pond dye to color the pond black to highlight the reflection of the tree and clouds.
Above: “Fernando Caruncho envisioned this as the center of our Medieval village. And he was right. This is where we gather and the parties happen!” says Mavec, who uses non-toxic Airmax pond dye to color the pond black to highlight the reflection of the tree and clouds.
“The orchard at Bird Haven Farm is about \100 years old and has apples that ripen from July (early sours) to October (Rome). When there is an extra-large crop, I donate apples to our local food bank,” says Mavec.
Above: “The orchard at Bird Haven Farm is about 100 years old and has apples that ripen from July (early sours) to October (Rome). When there is an extra-large crop, I donate apples to our local food bank,” says Mavec.
The Monastery Garden was inspired by the cloister at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is planted with a selection of iris from Schreiner&#8\2\17;s Iris Garden. When they’re done blooming, Nigella and Lady’s Mantle fill in the beds. 
Above: The Monastery Garden was inspired by the cloister at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is planted with a selection of iris from Schreiner’s Iris Garden. When they’re done blooming, Nigella and Lady’s Mantle fill in the beds. 
“Everyone is a pond swimmer at Bird Haven Farm,” says Mavec. The pond is fed from an underground spring and is a favorite spot of her grandchildren. After a long day of gardening, you’ll often find Janet and Wayne relaxing in the pond hut. 
Above: “Everyone is a pond swimmer at Bird Haven Farm,” says Mavec. The pond is fed from an underground spring and is a favorite spot of her grandchildren. After a long day of gardening, you’ll often find Janet and Wayne relaxing in the pond hut. 
Janet with bushels of apples. Every year the couple hosts an apple cider party, where guests help grind apples through the cider press and feast on oysters. 
Above: Janet with bushels of apples. Every year the couple hosts an apple cider party, where guests help grind apples through the cider press and feast on oysters. 
 Above: “We grow what we like to eat in the vegetable garden,” says Mavec. She also has a mixed border there, which is just awakening in the beginning of spring. Mavec makes sure to order next year’s tulip bulbs while the flowers are still blooming, so the design and colors is fresh in her mind. “If you don’t do it then, you might forget.”
Above: “We grow what we like to eat in the vegetable garden,” says Mavec. She also has a mixed border there, which is just awakening in the beginning of spring. Mavec makes sure to order next year’s tulip bulbs while the flowers are still blooming, so the design and colors is fresh in her mind. “If you don’t do it then, you might forget.”
“Here is a view of the vegetable garden planted in the spring. My beloved pansies line both sides of a bed and the cardoon in the front winters over. Wayne protects his tomato plants from the cold with red plastic. On the right side is the white Orlaya blooming, which is one of my favorite spring and early summer bloomers. They last so long in a vase!” says Mavec.
Above: “Here is a view of the vegetable garden planted in the spring. My beloved pansies line both sides of a bed and the cardoon in the front winters over. Wayne protects his tomato plants from the cold with red plastic. On the right side is the white Orlaya blooming, which is one of my favorite spring and early summer bloomers. They last so long in a vase!” says Mavec.

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Frequently asked questions

Who is Janet Mavec?

Janet Mavec is a jewelry designer.

What is Bird Haven Farm?

Bird Haven Farm is the name of Janet Mavec's garden.

Where is Bird Haven Farm located?

Bird Haven Farm is located in New Jersey, USA.

Can visitors go to Bird Haven Farm?

Yes, visitors can go to Bird Haven Farm by appointment only.

Do visitors need to pay to visit Bird Haven Farm?

Yes, visitors need to pay a small fee to visit Bird Haven Farm.

How can visitors schedule an appointment?

Visitors can schedule an appointment by contacting Janet Mavec's team through their website.

What can visitors expect to see at Bird Haven Farm?

Visitors can expect to see beautiful gardens, various species of birds, and artwork.

Is Bird Haven Farm accessible for people with disabilities?

Unfortunately, Bird Haven Farm is not fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Are pets allowed at Bird Haven Farm?

No, pets are not allowed at Bird Haven Farm.

Is there parking available at Bird Haven Farm?

Yes, there is parking available for visitors at Bird Haven Farm.

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