The History of Heronswood Garden

The process of making a garden called Heronswood began on September 1st, 1987. That evening the cofounders, Daniel Hinkley and Robert Jones, taking possession of the house and property, pulled open the gate while startling a great blue heron from the nearby pond. Over the course of two decades, Heronswood Nursery and Garden took on a life of its own. While its garden showcased a vast inventory of rare and unusual trees, shrubs, vines and perennials, the nursery was dedicated mostly to plants Hinkley had collected in his lengthy bi-annual botanical adventures throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, Central and South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The nursery ultimately sent thousands of plants each year to all 50 states, Europe and Asia. 

Hinkley and Jones sold the operation to W.Atlee Burpee & Company, a national seed and plant distribution firm, in 2000. Within six months Burpee had declared Chapter 11, and by 2006 the nursery and garden was shuttered and its large family of workers, known as the Heronistas, were scattered to the winds. This was the beginning of a six-year period of virtually complete neglect of the garden and its rarified inventory of plants. 

In 2012, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe purchased Heronswood at auction, and the rebirth and revealing of the now overgrown landscape began. Though many of the original plants that comprised the garden were lost during the period of neglect, many important collections have been recovered, while an exciting inventory of new plants recently collected by Hinkley’s ongoing plant exploration—from China, Vietnam, Chile, Myanmar, New Zealand and Tasmania—are already settled into their new home. The current staff of Heronswood Garden and the managing Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation, not wishing to simply recreate a monument to the past, are committed to making a new Heronswood with a greater polish and botanical wonderment than its original fore bearer. 

Scenes of Heronswood’s formal gardens became iconic, making the incredible diversity of plants in the Woodland Garden a delightful surprise to many first time visitors.

We hope you will visit our garden often to observe the sojourn of rediscovery we have undertaken. When here, admire the rarity of its original and thriving collection while taking note of its titillating additions. Heronswood has not changed in its original path of a passion for plants, yet we hope you acknowledge that our new direction is taking us to greater heights than was ever imagined possible.