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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Blogaversary Post About Heronswood

It was 9 years ago today, on September 5, 2009, that I started this blog, primarily as a way to keep track of changes in our new garden, and 10 years ago this October that Nigel and I moved here to Washington state and began our big adventure.

On Labor Day weekend, on Saturday to be exact, Nigel and I drove up the Kitsap Peninsula for a visit to Heronswood. It seems to me that I share a lot of photos of Heronswood on my blog, but after doing a Google search I realized that there have actually only been a couple of posts. See posts here and here. I took lots of pictures, because I thought the entire garden was looking particularly bright and full and glorious. Also, it wasn't a sale weekend for them, so it wasn't crawling with people, which meant I could take lots of pics without having to dodge other humans. And I do mean a lot of pics. This is going to be a very picture-laden post.

I often ignore the area around the parking lot, which is always full of people and cars coming and going, because every other time I've been there it has been during a plant sale. This time there were only a handful of cars, so I could wander without fear of being run down and I could take my time. I've seldom paid much attention to this mostly sunny area.

Looks like a Beschorneria on the far right, and the red next to it might be a Fascicularia pitcairnifolia -- too bad I didn't actually notice it till I looked at my pictures

I noticed a new area being worked on as you enter by car, on the left in the photo below. There were signs saying they are building a stumpery.

Garrya, I think, with last winter's old flowers, right near the entrance to the parking lot

Beschorneria, dripping with seedpods

Peter has told me the name of this shrub many times, but I think it always goes in one ear and out the other

Clerodendron? It smelled fantastic!


Another Hydrangea, near the driveway that leads to the house

There are many tantalizing paths that lead into this shady area from the parking lot

Some kind of Aralia, judging by the seedpods

They look a lot like the ones that form on my Aralia californica

Another inviting path

Huge Gunnera, dwarfing the Darmera nearby

I managed to ward off the temptation of shady paths and headed down the driveway.  I often follow more or less the same clockwise path through Heronswood every time I visit -- down the driveway, through the yellow and blue garden, along the perennial borders, into the gardens near the house, the hornbeam hedge and the potager/parterre, and then out through the shady garden.

This large Aralia is at the side of the driveway

Enormous Woodwardia frond

Peony seedpod starting to burst open

Little and Lewis columns with a carpet of ferns and spires of Cardiocrinum seedpods

Frothy bifurcated ferns

No idea what this is, but it looks Geranium-like (It's Saxifraga fortunei 'Pink Geisha' according to Peter, available from Windcliff, I must buy it next spring)

Obligatory Sinopanax shot

Enormous rootball covered with ferns and Bromeliads

As the house comes into view the garden starts to open out into more sun

The blue and yellow border

You step through a hedge and into this:

The Perennial Borders

Chocolate Cosmos

There are lots of touches of red in these borders

At the end of the long perennial borders is a curved pergola, which you enter:

They've been working for a while on an area beyond the borders, and now it's finished!

You may have noticed the white tent on the left edge of the above photo. The new area is an event space, for weddings, etc.

More Woodwardia

Can you believe that color?

From there you cross through the pergola and into the house gardens.

And then around the corner of the house you come upon the pleached hornbeam hedge and the bog.

Beyond the hedge is what they call the Potager. I've always thought the grandness of this area seems more akin to a Parterre. It's a large area, hard to get in one shot, divided into triangular sections that is each bordered with low-cut boxwood (I think), with very colorful borders all around it.

Here you can see a couple of the sections, there are more to the right

Lobelia tupa

As you leave the Potager/Parterre, you come around to the front of the house again.

The other side of the hornbeam hedge

Around the curve of the driveway you can just see the blue and yellow border

An opening leads you into more shady areas and lots of crisscrossing paths


Not to gardening staff about the Roscoea

Can't help wondering what their plans are for this stump/rootball

Another enormous Woodwardia

Tree ferns come into view, which means you're near the Little and Lewis Folly

This rather ugly view from the Folly also leaves me wondering what's in the future.

Stepping stones lead away from the Folly through a boggy area

Moss-covered ferny urn

There's always one flower stalk that just refuses to behave

More Cardicrinum seedpods rise to the heavens

The garden has come a long way since 2012, when the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe bought Heronswood and began to revive it. While I never saw it during its heyday, in the last couple of years it has given me a great deal of pleasure every time I've visited. 

Heronswood is open to the public for self-guided tours, Fridays and Saturdays, March through October, from 10 to 3.


  1. Loved every picture! Thanks for the tour; Heronswood is looking great. I asked about plans for the area viewed from the L & L ruin and was told something but, of course, have forgotten. The fragrant bush is Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii 'Carnival' and the geranium-looking plant is Saxifraga fortunei, probably 'Pink Geisha.' In the early years of the potager, it contained almost exclusively vegetables and other edible plants but since no one lives there to consume such things it's now full of gorgeous ornamentals. Makes a much nicer background for event pictures. Such a special garden. You were wise to explore on a non-plant-sale day!

    1. Got so excieted by all your beautiful pictures that I forgot to wish you a happy blogoversary!

  2. Wow. That is an amazing botanical experience; what a great tour. The plants are other-worldly to me, such an assortment. Congratulations on your blogaversary! When so many other blogs have dwindled off in favor of FB or other social media, it is sad. I started my blog for the same reason, to journal our garden and life, and as the years go by, we find ourselves consulting the blog to remember exactly when it was that we did this or that. (It's been therapeutic and useful.) Always a pleasure to visit with you. :-)

  3. Thank you for this photo heavy tour, I've only been the one time, back in 2013 when our group visited for the sale and day-long adventure. I do hope to get back!

  4. Hi Alison! Happy Blogiversary and all the best to you and your blog!
    Thank you for the pictures; it's always a pleasure to go through Heronswood images! I was sorting some papers recently and found its 2005 catalogue with the words: "Heronswood is dedicated to the chase for a good plant". Thank you for capturing and showing so many good plants in your post!
    Maybe, see you at the Hardy Fern Foundation's sale this Saturday (Bellevue Botanical Garden)?

  5. Thanks for a great tour. But I must also say that these gardens are almost laughably gorgeous. Since I can't grow a lot of these plants it is nice that I can just enjoy the images and not always be trying to figure out where I can buy a specific plant and where can I squeeze it in in my garden. Loved the photo with the Gunnera and Darmera. I've never seen them contrasted like that and it is very educational!.

  6. Heronwood must be a large garden, so many photos, so many different plants, just beautiful!

  7. My one visit was in August 1996, with a group of online garden friends. I'm sure there were grievous losses during the low point before the sale to the S'Klallam, but it is all the way back now. The maturity of so many uncommon shrubs means that there really is no other garden like it; what a treasure.

  8. Happy blogaversary! And what a way to commemorate the occasion. Over the changes in ownership one can't help but worry that the garden will be "dumbed down" in terms of favoring ease of maintenance over complex planting, that the old excitement of Heronswood just won't be there anymore. Boy, does this post ever put that worry to rest! Thanks so much for this fabulous tour!

    1. A big factor helping keep the planting complex and high quality is probably Dan Hinkley's continuing involvement. Periodically he gives tours (designed as rewards for maintenance volunteers), and I imagine he's available for some consultation by the Heronswood staff.

  9. Reading this post was like a trip through a garden fantasyland! If (when!) I get up to Washington, a personal visit will be on my must-do list. In the meantime, thanks for sharing your tour. And hearty congratulations on 9 years of blogging - wow!

  10. Happy Blogiversery Alison, and thanks for this fantastic post. My last visit there was during the bad-old-days of the Burpee administration-not a good era for this legacy garden. I hope to make it there next year. And I will be sure to schedule my visit for a non-plant sale day !

  11. Congratulations on your 9 years blogging. That is quite an accomplishment. I'm a latecomer to your blog but always enjoy your posts. I left Portland in 2007 and never made it to Heronswood, so it's fun to tour it through blogs. I'm so glad it is doing well. Thank you.

  12. That garden is QUITE a bit more well-maintained than I thought it would be. It is rare a garden thrives to such an extent after the leaving of the original gardener. I've been so curious what Heronswood looks like now, and your photo-heavy tour hit the spot! Thanks so much for this blogaversary post--well done (for me), and (for you) well-deserved!

  13. Congratulations on your blog anniversary. What an amazing garden. I particularly love all the fabulous foliage. And the gorgeous purple roscoea.


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