Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Heronswood: A Happy Spring Visit.

Heronswood, the garden created by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones, played an important role in my (and many other PNW gardeners') ongoing development as a gardener.  It was here that I first learned to love foliage.

It was here that I first encountered Helleborus hercegovina small leaf form.

Here that I first encountered any members of the podophyllum clan and in later years this strange and wonderful member of that family P. delavayi - so new then that it wasn't available for sale anywhere.

It seemed like with every visit to the garden, there were were new plants for me to discover. The garden then was still being expanded and planted.  Who wouldn't have a soft spot in his/her heart for such a magical place?

My personal first sighting of a large group of Cardiocrinum giganteum was at Heronswood.  My introduction to blue poppies also happened here.

When the garden and nursery were closed, gardeners were saddened.  Fortunately, just a few years later the property and name were purchased by the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe.  Unfortunately, the years of little care and the removal of many plants by the interim owner left many parts of the seven acre garden looking a bit neglected. Fortunately, the tribe has hired Hinkley as a consultant in bringing his creation back to it's former glory and the three years of work really show!

The garden is waking up for the coming growth season.  I didn't notice any blue poppy plants coming up.
One of the charms of a large part of the garden is that it feels like walking in some magical woodland where around every corner are special plants!
I was saddened when I first saw the garden again shortly after the last purchase and, although I seldom missed shopping at the sales held on the grounds, the garden was to be left alone, just a beautiful memory from a more innocent time.  I've been following posts on Heronswood's facebook page and decided this spring to stroll through the garden again and was thrilled at seeing what's being done.

The more formal garden areas closest to the house received most of the care during the time the garden was closed but still have had some freshening up done.
I remember the year when this feature was added and also the year when the Heronswood strain of double hellebores, filling the bed below, were the hot new plant introduction at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Back then, the show was much more plantcentric than it is now and Dan himself was standing behind the sales table getting fifty dollars a gallon for these beauties.

The garden, a living thing, will continue to evolve and charm those of us in love with playing in the dirt.
I think that these Mahonias are seedlings of M. 'Indianola Silver' from Mr. Hinkley's new garden, Windcliff.

It was here in the, then new, potager that I first saw concrete spheres made by Little and Lewis which inspired me to learn how to make them for my own garden.  In  case you're wondering, they're not here anymore.

I look forward to coming back later in the season to see the soil covered with these emerging fern fronds.

Variegated Daphniphyllum.

Quite a nice-sized specimen!

The large perennial borders will soon be in all their glory!

Pulmonaria delicious in it's blue abundance!

After a 20 year wait, the Rhododendron sinogrande bloomed this spring.  With foliage this grand, no one grows this one for the flowers!

In the midst of towering Doug firs, a  group of Trachycarpus fortunei  are a fun surprise.
As are the tree ferns. 

The ruin is also by Little and Lewis. 

I remember when these Little and Lewis pieces were still in crates in the driveway.

My specimen of this variegated hemerocallis was the last thing I bought at Heronswood before it was closed.  Until this visit, that plant in my garden served as a bittersweet reminder of a treasure lost.  Now seeing it fills my heart with joy at the knowledge that this exceptional garden will be preserved to be a place of inspiration for future generations of gardeners. 


  1. You've certainly made my day! I've never seen so many pictures of Heronswood even in its hay day. Nice to think that it is being cared for again. I still have my Heronswood catalogs. I felt like a real gardener when I was able to read them since they're all botanical Latin. And I read everything to see what snide comments Dan had snuck in! My regret is that I did not buy more and take better care of my early purchases. I foolishly thought they'd be around forever just like Roslyn Nursery and Seneca Hill. Those shots of the Erythroniums have me drooling. I am just getting started on those and anxiously awaiting the appearance of the ones I planted last fall.

  2. I am thrilled at your excitement and look forward to visiting again myself sometime, maybe in September? Thank you for so many pictures!

  3. It's so glorious! I'm glad it's now in the hands of people who truly care about the property and the plants.

  4. What a thrill that it is being restored. Great news. It looks like a magical place.

    What would you say is the best time of year to visit, to see it at its best?

  5. You are a master of discretion judging by that phrase "interim owner." I remember an amazing stand of Angelica gigas with underplanting of acid yellow creeping jenny. Such an exciting garden it once was -- so glad it's getting its mojo back.

  6. The first time I visited Heronswood was just before the S'Klallam sale, and I remember being very disappointed. I'm so glad it's being restored under Hinkley's supervision. Thanks for sharing your photos of it and your reminiscences.

  7. Thank you, Peter. We too loved Heronswood. Your photos reassure me that it is well on it's way to being wonderful again.

  8. I can't remember when, but ages ago I heard Hinkley speak and saw slides of his garden. It made me want to move to the other side of the continent. I am glad Heronswood is coming back to life.

  9. Joining the great gardens of the world. I may never make it to Sissinghurst, but Heronswood is not bad as a consolation prize.


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.