Heronswood Gardens sold to Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

Heronswood Gardens - Contributed
Heronswood Gardens
— image credit: Contributed

KINGSTON — The Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe has bought back some of its ancestral lands. World-renowned Heronswood Gardens estate and Heronswood Nursery business were sold for an undisclosed amount to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

Noel Higa, Port Gamble S'Klallam economic development director, said the Tribe has been looking at the property for three years, and the auction “sort of forced our hand.” The Tribe has ancestral lands located within the property.

“The thought of someone else getting it and shutting it off to the community was not appealing to us,” Higa said. “We’re not horticulturists, we’re not gardeners, but [we thought] if we make a commitment to maintaining the gardens and finding a way to make it work for us, then let’s do it.”

The Tribe doesn’t have any “grandiose plans” to change the garden, and plans on increasing its public access. Higa said the Tribe is working to create a partnership with local schools, such as Olympic College, to allow the gardens to be a part of a horticulture program.

Higa said the Tribe would like to bring incorporate its culture — install some artwork, and perhaps start a native medicinal plant enterprise. It could also be a horticultural education center.

“Everything right now is sort of a thought — what are we going to do, how are we going to approach it.”

The property was purchased in a sealed-bid auction conducted by Sheldon Good & Company under the direction of the estate’s owner, W. Atlee Burpee & Company, the largest gardening company in America. Jane Woodward, an agent with John L. Scott in Poulsbo, handled the auction on behalf of Burpee. She said she saw nearly 40 qualified buyers tour the property in the last four weeks, and a handful made serious bids.

W. Atlee Burpee is not releasing the amount of the bid until the sale closes in 30 days. The minimum bid was $749,000; the property was previously offered $1,795,000, according to Racebrook, the investment firm that handled the auction. The auction also included the Heronswood name and trademark for an additional cost, which the Tribe also purchased.

“It’s going to be great to have somebody local to maintain and enhance it even more,” Woodward said of Port Gamble S’Klallam.

The 15-acre property is a private complex of botanical gardens that has played a pivotal role in introducing the United States to thousands of exotic plants gathered from remote regions across the globe, according to a news release. It was founded in 1987 by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones, who sold it to W. Atlee Burpee in 2000.

It currently features more than 10,000 plants derived from more than 7,000 taxa (genera and species), many of which were collected during expeditions to Central America, South America, China, Nepal, South Africa and other exotic locales by Hinkley, an acclaimed horticulturalist who continued to be involved in the estate. It is comprised of six separate components, including three homes and three parcels of land.

“Heronswood represents the pride and hard work of this community and we’re happy we’re able to play a role in its future,” Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, said in a announcement of the purchase.

“We understand how passionate people are about Heronswood and, as a neighbor, we are committed to maintaining this local treasure. We look forward to gaining insight and expertise from the previous owners as well as working with the community to help shape Heronswood’s future.”

George Ball, chairman of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. which owned Heronswood for the past 12 years, stated, “The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has agreed both to preserve the historic gardens, and to use the facilities to educate their members, as well as the public, about native plants. We hope to assist it in carrying out its mission with support from the Burpee Foundation, since it is entirely consistent with the work we are currently involved in throughout the nation.”

The gardens will be open for tours June 30 for the last time under current ownership. Heronswood is located at 7530 NE 288th St., Kingston. Call (724) 263-0363 or (215) 605-5603.


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