The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe recently made a very exciting acquisition: Heronswood, the world-famous botanical garden and nursery in Kingston.
Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones established Heronswood in 1987. The two toiled over the gardens for more than 15 years, growing it into an internationally recognized example of incredible plantsmanship.
In its heyday, master gardeners, aspiring green thumbs, and those with just a growing curiosity visited from all over the world. Heronswood became a shining example of what can bloom (literally and figuratively) with passion and hard work.
In 2000, Dan and Robert decided to sell Heronswood to W. Atlee Burpee & Co. The relationship between local gardeners and Heronswood’s new Philadelphia-based owners was punctuated by difficult periods, especially when the company chose in 2006 to close the nursery and gardens to the public (save for a few tours a year).
Despite rumors of its demise, Heronswood lived on. The staff was reduced, but the gardens were maintained and, often, thrived.
A few years ago, my Tribe began discussions with representatives from W. Atlee Burpee & Co. to purchase Heronswood. We certainly weren’t the first — the Northwest Horticultural Conservancy had tried for years.
Like the Northwest Horticultural Conservancy, we saw beauty and promise in Heronswood. Earlier this year, when the property came up for auction, we just couldn’t resist making a last pass at ownership.
Heronswood is actually a natural fit for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Our culture teaches a connection to the land and our families have worked with the soil and sea for generations. While Heronswood is certainly of a much larger scale and variety than our community gardens, we understand the pride at seeing an idea take root and grow.
Purchasing Heronswood also allows our small Tribe to diversify economically. Two of our major revenue generating ventures are the Gliding Eagle Marketplace and the recently expanded Point Casino. Noo-Kayet and Port Gamble Development Authority, who are charged with making economic development decisions for PGST, recognize that, as the old adage goes, it’s not good to put all your eggs in one basket. To make sure that we’re always able to meet the needs of our growing population, we must broaden our sources of revenue.
As for the future of Heronswood, opportunities abound: a wedding pavilion, an on-site nursery, incorporation of Tribal art throughout the gardens, a corporate retreat center, classes on plants traditionally used by Tribal ancestors — all of these ideas and more are currently being discussed.
While we want Heronswood to be at least self-sustaining financially, it is far from our only goal: it is our hope that Heronswood can blossom back into a place area gardeners are proud of, tourists seek out, and our Tribal members feel is representative of our culture and values.
The only way Heronswood succeeds a second time is with collaboration between our Tribe and the broader community. We’d like to thank groups like the Northwest Horticultural Conservancy and the Garden Conservancy, who have warmly welcomed us as the new owners. We’ve been talking with former Heronswood staff and volunteers, as well as Dan and Robert. Everyone seems to be as excited as we are that this precious gem is back in local hands. We want to hear from you: Do you have thoughts on Heronswood’s future? Do you want to be a part of the journey? Contact us at HeronswoodGardens@gmail.com.
It’s an exciting time. Come watch Heronswood grow!
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.