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.
Our first stop was Valley Nursery, where beautiful pebble pots were on abundant display.
A stunning Grevillea met us…
… and more beautiful and interesting choices awaited us within.
A blue brontosaurus guarded the Gunneras – no doubt its favorite meal.
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.
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. 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…
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…
…which unfortunately was corded off, and closed to visitors. As you can imagine, this added to the feeling of lost opportunity.
An uprooted tree root covered in Tillandsias and Woodwardia ferns provided drama along our path toward the more manicured gardens.
A paved walkway covered in vines inspires a leisurely stroll toward the house.
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.
The famous Hornbeam hedge of Heronswood. Interestingly, it is entirely constructed by weaving branches together, intermittent with pruning.
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 giant chanterelle. How fun!
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.