Cyrus Hyde, owner and operator of Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, New Jersey, died at home on June 19, 2020, at the age of 90. Hyde was an experienced horticulturist and educator who transformed four acres of run-down land into a 120-acre farm that grows and sells unusual and boutique varieties of herbs, many of which were hybridized by Hyde himself.
Hyde was born on April 5, 1930, in Totowa, New Jersey. He grew up learning the lore of herbs from his family and began his career as a horticulturist when he worked in the herb gardens at Waterloo Village Historic Site, part of Allamuchy Mountain State Park in Stanhope, New Jersey. In 1969, Hyde and his wife, Louise, purchased the initial four acres of Well-Sweep.
Hyde transformed the poor, rocky soil of the site using organic and sustainable methods, and soon, Well-Sweep became a self-sustaining farm with a greenhouse, drying barn, and livestock. Using his creative eye and the colorful variegated herb varietals that he grew, Hyde designed elaborate display gardens. In addition to plants, Hyde also bred long-tailed onagadori and Phoenix chickens.
“When I visited Well-Sweep Herb Farm in 1980, the herb gardens created by Cyrus Hyde were some of the most beautiful in the country at that time, including a charming knot garden [a garden of aromatic plants with an intricate design] and well-maintained herb beds,” wrote Holly Shimizu, executive director emeritus of the US Botanic Garden (email, October 1, 2020). “As I was developing plant collections for the National Herb Garden at the US National Arboretum in the 1980s, Well-Sweep Herb Farm was an essential source for many of the otherwise unavailable herbs. Cyrus Hyde was masterful at growing and propagating herbs and spices from all over the world.”
According to the company’s website, Well-Sweep currently is home to one of the largest collections of herbs and perennials in the United States, with 104 new varieties added in 2019 that brought the total up to almost 1,900 different varieties. Following Hyde’s vision, the farm is completely organic and provides not only plants for sale around the country but also educational lectures, classes, and events. Hyde was a sought-after lecturer and was happy to spread his knowledge and experience to garden groups, schools, conventions, botanical gardens, and visitors at Well-Sweep.
In 1991, Hyde received the Nancy Putnam Howard Award for Excellence in Horticulture from the Herb Society of America and in 2008 he presented the Otto Richter Memorial Lecture for the International Herb Association. Hyde also gave the 10th annual Audrey Harkness O’Connor Lecture at Cornell University in 1998. In addition, he gave talks at James Madison University, the New York Botanical Garden, the Minnesota Arboretum, and more.
Hyde is remembered by his family and friends as a man who loved people. “He was a collector of people,” according to a post on Well-Sweep’s Facebook page on the day of his death.1 “[He was] so interested in different nationalities and cultures and countries, he made so many friends over the years.” He enjoyed meeting and learning from people from all walks of life. He also had a passion for food and cooking, which was an extension of his love of herbs.
The farm will remain in operation under the leadership of his wife Louise, son David, and grandchildren. Cyrus Hyde is survived by Louise, his wife of 60 years; children David (Maria) Hyde, Holly (Thomas) McDuffee, and Mark (Gwen) Hyde; and grandchildren Patrick McDuffee, Melissa (Tyler) Passarelli, Daniel McDuffee, Sarah Hyde, and Jason Hyde. He is predeceased by his parents, James J. and Alida Jane Hyde (née Berdan), and siblings Margaret Donato, William Hyde, and John Hyde.
- Well-Sweep Herb Farm. Facebook.com. June 19, 2020. Available at: www.facebook.com/WellSweepHerbFarm/posts/4505725276120352?__tn__=-R. Accessed September 30, 2020.