Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe cleaning up Heronswood

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is undertaking the restoration of the internationally known botanical garden called Heronswood.

The tribe purchased the 15-acre property, located near the tribe’s reservation, in July 2012 mainly to preserve it for the community, said Noel Higa, the tribe’s economic development director.

“I think there was a real sense that a treasure could be lost if the tribe didn’t do what it could to rescue it,” he said. “Tribal council has been incredibly supportive of the garden restoration effort.”

PGSK Heronswood Celia Pedersen April 2013 8571 web

Acting head gardener Celia Pedersen cleans vines from an arbor. Click on the photo for more of Heronswood.


Heronswood was established in the late 1980s by local horticulturist Dan Hinkley and gained global recognition as a nursery of rare plants collected from around the world. It was purchased by corporate nursery retailer Burpee in 2000 but then shut down by the company in 2006. The property was put to auction in July 2012 and was purchased by the tribe.

The tribe’s goal is to restore the gardens back to their historic internationally-acclaimed level but also to reflect tribal ownership, culture and traditions, said Laurie Mattson, executive director of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation, the non-profit arm of the tribe that is overseeing Heronswood.

“We want to see the tribe get more involved in the development of the gardens too,” said Nancy Heckler, Heronswood general manager. “After all, it’s their garden now.”

There has been discussion about developing traditional and medicinal plant gardens as well as opening the grounds to private events. The tribe has already hosted one event – same-sex marriage ceremonies in February – and will host its first garden open and plant sale on May 18.

The conditions of the gardens are currently being assessed by the tribe and professional gardeners. Volunteers, including tribal citizens and former employees of Heronswood, are weeding, mulching and fixing up 6 acres of garden beds that are filled with native and non-native plants.

“The gardens are in restoration mode, including weeding, cutting back plants that have taken over, determining what plants currently exist and if they are properly associated with the garden’s naming system,” Heckler said. “Heronswood was known for its international collection and everything was catalogued. It’d be a shame to see it go to waste. Plus, there’s enough land to do all sorts of things.”