PBS star takes over at Kingston botanical garden

Heronswood Garden, the botanical garden in Kingston, has named Patrick McMillan as its new garden director.

McMillan takes on his new role after two decades as a professor at Clemson University, 10 years as the director of the South Carolina Botanical Garden, the publication of several books on horticulture and biodiversity, and a successful PBS series, Expeditions with Patrick McMillan.

“The reputation of Heronswood immediately drew my interest. After visiting the garden, there was no question that this was the place and challenge that suited my next journey in life,” McMillan said.

Heronswood is owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. It is one of only a handful of large-scale botanical gardens in the nation wholly owned by a Native American tribe.

“The S’Klallam world view and my philosophy are so well knit that there was no question — this was the place I wished to serve,” McMillan said. “I am incredibly excited about the expansion and growth that is occurring in the garden, and I am dedicated to continuing the legacy that Heronswood has established, as well as expanding the outreach of service and education to the community.”

The tribe is just as excited to have McMillan.

“Patrick shares our tribe’s vision for Heronswood, including an emphasis on conservation, diversity, best practices, education, collaboration and community,” Tribal Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said.

After founding Heronswood with Robert Jones in 1987, outgoing garden director Dan Hinkley helped build it into a destination garden with a robust nursery sending plants to fans throughout the U.S. and internationally. The property was sold in 2000. Unfortunately, several decisions made by the new owners caused the garden to fall into disrepair. Heronswood went up for auction in 2012 where the tribe — with land holdings and their reservation adjacent to the property — made the winning bid. Hinkley came back on board to help with restoration and will continue in a consulting role as director emeritus.

“We are so grateful to Dan for his guidance, expertise, and patience in making Heronswood what it is today — a place visited and adored by people all over the world,” Sullivan said.

Hinkley said McMillan is a great fit.

“To have someone of Patrick McMillan’s stature in American horticulture take over the reins of Heronswood speaks volumes of our garden’s reputation on a national as well as international stage. Patrick’s interests encompass the entire natural world — well beyond simple botany — to our local birds, amphibians, and reptiles to the geology and the customs of the tribes of the PNW. I look forward to years ahead of learning about my own backyard through his very knowledgeable and unique vision,” Hinkley said.

Since the tribe purchased the property, Heronswood has been reopened to the public with seasonal plant sales, weekly garden opens, and a series of lectures and classes. In 2020, these programs had to be cancelled or scaled back due to COVID-19 concerns. Garden staff is exploring ways to hold events and classes safely in-person or remotely in 2021.

Today, Heronswood is home to 9,000 plant species from six of the world’s seven continents. In addition, three new gardens are under development, including a crevice garden prototype and the x̣ə́w̕əs shəyí ( meaning “new life spirit” in the S’Klallam language) Renaissance Garden, featuring several unique touches paying homage to Pacific Northwest and tribal culture

Heronswood is operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation and is overseen by the Heronswood Steering Committee, which is made up of Tribal leaders as well as experts in horticulture, fundraising and marketing. The garden is located at 7530 NE 288th St. in Kingston.

Details can be found at HeronswoodGarden.org.