Veni, vidi, WeHoP – a glorious garden geek adventure – part 1

It started with an invitation to visit WeHoP – Western Horticultural Products – a Pacific Northwest plant broker that tests and experiments with an enormous variety of plants to determine their suitability for the PNW climate, and then supplies them to regional nurseries. Through the inspired efforts of our fearless leader, Peter, it developed into a raucous, day-long romp of exhilarating gardens and nurseries on the Kitsap Peninsula.

For me, the first thrill of the day came with crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge for the first time in my life. The bridge that spans the Puget Sound today is thankfully a lot more stable than the one that collapsed on a windy day in 1940.

For me, the first thrill of the day came with crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge for the first time in my life. The bridge that spans the Puget Sound today is thankfully a lot more stable than the one that collapsed on a windy day in 1940.

Our first stop was Valley Nursery, where beautiful pebble pots were on abundant display.

Our first stop was Valley Nursery, where beautiful pebble pots were on abundant display.

A stunning Grevillea met us...

A stunning Grevillea met us…

... and more beautiful and interesting choices awaited us within.

… and more beautiful and interesting choices awaited us within.

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A blue brontosaurus guarded the Gunneras - no doubt its favorite meal.

A blue brontosaurus guarded the Gunneras – no doubt its favorite meal.

Alison walked away with the Schefflera of her dreams...

Alison walked away with the Schefflera of her dreams…

... Peter with a massive agave and a lovely white Daphne I had never come across before.

… Peter with a massive agave and a lovely white Daphne I had never come across before.

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I very nearly walked away with one of the red-leafed wonders you can see behind Sylvia's back, but I decided to hold off. We had over a handful nurseries left on our agenda - why shoot your wad on the first one? But good heavens, it was a tough decision, and one that I later came to regret. Oh well - next time. And it wasn't hardy anyway.

I very nearly walked away with one of the red-leafed wonders you can see behind Sylvia’s back, but I decided to hold off. We had over a handful nurseries left on our agenda – why shoot your wad on the first one? But good heavens, it was a tough decision, and one that I later came to regret. Oh well – next time. And it wasn’t hardy anyway.

Next stop Heronswood - the legendary nursery started in 1987 by famed plantsmen Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. In 2000, Burpee bought Heronswood, and later closed it down in 2006. In 2012,  the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe returned it to local ownership. On this particular Saturday, the nursery grounds hosted a plethora of growers hawking their goods, and the gardens were open for viewing. It was here that my resolve fell apart, and I bought my first plant of the day.

Next stop Heronswood – the legendary nursery started in 1987 by famed plantsmen Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. In 2000, Burpee bought Heronswood, and later closed it down in 2006. In 2012, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe returned it to local ownership. We owe them much gratitude. On this particular Saturday, the nursery grounds hosted a plethora of growers hawking their goods, and the gardens were open for viewing. It was here that my resolve fell apart, and I bought my first plant of the day.

Laura in deep thought over a plant that she later decided she most definitely could not live without. I know the feeling...

Laura in deep thought over a plant that she later decided she most definitely could not live without. I know the feeling…

The gardens were magical. Considering the history with the Burpee purchase and later shuttering, finding moss-clad urns laying about in the surrounding woods gave an almost Pompeiian feeling of sudden, unmitigated disaster. Although it was obviously there as a decorative element, I felt a little sad I hadn't been able to experience Heronswood in its heyday.

The gardens were magical. Considering the history with the Burpee purchase and later shuttering, finding moss-clad urns laying about in the surrounding woods gave an almost Pompeiian feeling of sudden, unmitigated disaster. Although it was obviously there as a decorative element, I felt a little melancholy I hadn’t been able to experience Heronswood in its heyday. You know, a tiny bit like seeing the Rolling Stones today, v/s in the 60’s. Don’t get me wrong – it is a fabulous place – no thanks to Burpee.

A viewpoint along the path leading to the Grotto...

A viewpoint along the path leading to the Grotto…

...which unfortunately was corded off, and closed to visitors. As you can imagine, this added to the feeling of lost opportunity.

…which unfortunately was corded off, and closed to visitors. As you can imagine, this added to the feeling of lost opportunity.

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An uprooted tree root   covered in Tillandsias and Woodwardia ferns provided drama along our path toward the more manicured gardens.

An uprooted tree root covered in Tillandsias and Woodwardia ferns provided drama along our path toward the more manicured gardens.

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A paved walkway covered in vines inspires a leisurely stroll toward the house.

A paved walkway covered in vines inspires a leisurely stroll toward the house.

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I like the color of the house a lot. It sets it apart from the surrounding foliage, and adds a rather sophisticated contrast.

I like the color of the house a lot. It sets it apart from the surrounding foliage, and adds a rather sophisticated contrast without being either obnoxious or boring.

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The famous Hornbeam hedge of Heronswood. Interestingly, it is entirely constructed by weaving branches together, intermittent with pruning.

The famous Hornbeam hedge of Heronswood. Interestingly, it is entirely constructed by weaving branches together, intermittent with pruning.

I enjoyed the uninterrupted sight lines with their corresponding focal points. Here it is a distant urn that captures your eye...

I enjoyed the uninterrupted sight lines that guide your eye with their corresponding focal points. Here it is a distant urn that captures your eye…

... and here it is a water feature the shape of a chanterelle. How fun!

… and here it is a water feature the shape of a giant chanterelle. How fun!

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Reluctantly, we re-convened in the parking lot as it was time to move on. The neighbor's roaming, friendly dog  had a field day among visiting dog lovers. Here is Laura's husband Charlie, offering a tummy rub, while clutching what turned out to be his favorite catch of the day - a stately Cautleya with fiery orange-yellow flowers.  We're not going far - only to the neighboring Celestial Dreams Gardens. We could have walked, but since latecomers were practically fighting over parking spots to get into Heronswood, we decided to do the civilized thing, and leave.  Stand by for more in Veni Vidi WeHoP - part 2.

Reluctantly, we re-convened in the parking lot as it was time to move on. The neighbor’s roaming, friendly dog had a field day among visiting dog lovers. Here is Laura’s Pirate Charlie, offering a tummy rub, while clutching what turned out to be his favorite catch of the day – a stately Cautleya with fiery orange-yellow flowers.
We’re not going far – only to the neighboring Celestial Dream Gardens. We could probably have walked, but since latecomers were practically fighting over parking spots to get into Heronswood, we decided to do the civilized thing, and leave. Stand by for more in Veni Vidi WeHoP – part 2.

About annamadeit

Born and raised in Sweden, my aesthetics and outlook on life are strongly shaped by a culture rich in history and tradition. I care a great deal about environmental responsibility, and my aesthetic reflects the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia. I was trained as an architect at the University of Cincinnati and as a color specialist at the Scandinavian Colour Institute in Stockholm. I'm obsessed with plants and gardens, and aim to take my skill set a step further by designing gardens as well as interiors. As someone so aptly said: " Architecture is the skin that separates the exterior from the interior". So true - you can't successfully focus on one without incorporating the other. I'm also an avid cook, and I love to ski. In addition, I put time and efforts into trying to rectify things that I feel are wrong in my immediate community. As you will see, The Creative Flux will touch on all these things, and more. For sure, it's all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blog!
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22 Responses to Veni, vidi, WeHoP – a glorious garden geek adventure – part 1

  1. Oh, you had some wonderful views! Since Heronswood was sold by DH, I thought much the same as you about the missed experience of seeing it under his ownership. Your pictures tell me it’s not to be missed regardless. What a lovely place!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Jane! Yes, I can’t imagine what it looked like before the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe took over from Burpee. In my opinion, they are doing a great job. I also owe thanks to Alison, as without her knowledge, I might have missed the Grotto altogether.

  2. Alison says:

    The weekend jaunt was such fun! I enjoyed touring Heronswood with you, and you got some lovely shots of it. I’ve had the same mixed feelings about it. Peter often laments about having seen it in its heyday.

  3. Looks like we took many of the same photos at Heronswood. Kudos to you for having already posted yours. It will be a long while before I have the chance. BTW if you find yourself unable to live without that dark leafed wonder you passed up I did see some at Bauman Farms recently.

    • annamadeit says:

      Well – it’s a very photogenic place. Bauman Farms, huh? Good to know – I really do regret not picking one up….

      A bit of info for you too; The place to buy flanged precast concrete pipe in various diameters is Oldcastle. It is located close in on Columbia Blvd – between the Humane Society and MLK, on the north side of the street. It used to be called Hansen, but ownership must have changed. Hope you find something that works!

  4. Laura says:

    The trip was a blast! I’m so impressed that you already have two posts up. Bravo. And nice shots.

    • annamadeit says:

      It was a blast, wasn’t it? There was so much to remember that I figured I’d better get it up there before my fickle memory faded. I have one more post coming with just eye candy, hopefully by tonight. You know you absorbed a lot when you need three posts to convey it…

  5. Ricki Grady says:

    Your photos make it seem like the place is being nicely maintained. I did visit in the DH Era. The wonder of seeing it for the first time can never be matched, even in subsequent visits with the master in charge. Your trip sounds absolutely fabulous.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Ricki! I can only imagine what it must have been like in those days. Considering they have only owned it since 2012, the tribes people are doing a fantastic job, I think. Until Saturday, I had only seen it in books, so my comparative powers are limited. But it wouldn’t surprise me if that is why the Grotto was closed to visitors – they are probably working on restoring it to life beyond Burpee. Again, I have very little to compare with, but I thought some of the outlying areas – like the ponds – also looked like they were works in progress. I’m very grateful to have been able to see it all, and willing to bet that if they keep going like they started, it will all be in top shape when we do this again next year! 😉

  6. Kris P says:

    What an expedition! Heronswood still looks magical despite its rough journey into the arms of deserving inheritors of its creators. Thanks for sharing your trip!

  7. Sylvia Susan Smith says:

    So glad I was able to meet you, and the rest of the blogger posse, on Saturday! Your day was awesome!! Kitsap County really does rock some horticulture!
    Come again another day!

  8. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Cool post of a fun day! I’m so glad to have spent more time with you!

    • annamadeit says:

      Me too! It was a blast, wasn’t it? Thank you so much for pulling it all together – you are amazing! If you’re not careful, you may be recruited for Fling duty! 😉

  9. Oh I wish I could have been there with you! Thank you for this fabulous tour. I love how you describe the mossy urn and liken it to the ruins of what was once a flourishing garden. I wonder if Dan and Robert have been back to see it. How bittersweet that would be for them. I think my favorite was seeing those massive tree ferns. I’ve got a small one in my garden but I’m too nervous to plant it for fear of a killing freeze. I also loved the tall spiky mahonia and the chanterelle with its surrounding rockery and plants. So very cool. Great post.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Grace! I wish you could have been there too! I hope next year, two such great events will be scheduled on different days – preferably different weekends! I saw Dan at the Heronswood plant sale, so I’m sure he knows the state of things. But seriously – I give HUGE credit to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe who have taken it away from Burpee. From a first-timer’s perspective, it seems they are doing a fab job restoring it to its former glory. Especially since they’ve only had access to it for the past year. D & R are probably elated that it is back in good hands! Yes, I was bummed the Grotto was corded off, but at the rate they are going, I have a feeling that it will be up to snuff for our next visit. I hope you can come along to that one! 🙂

      • Sylvia Susan Smith says:

        I know for a fact that Mr Hinkley has had a hand in the restoration of Heronswood. The present garden manager, Nancy Heckler is a former employee of the garden as well! You guys might consider coming back and volunteering for one of their work days! I hope to get out there at least once this winter!!

      • annamadeit says:

        That’s wonderful to hear, Sylvia! Maybe next year, we can plan it so that we spend one day volunteering for Heronswood, and the second bip-bopping around gardens and nurseries? If they’ll have us, I’d be all for it! 🙂

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