Edmonds in Bloom celebration showcases the S’Klallam-owned Heronswood Garden

More than 150 attendees gathered in the Edmonds Center for the Arts lobby Tuesday evening for the 27th annual Edmonds in Bloom Garden Celebration. The event recognizes this year’s activities supporting the group’s mission to promote the floral beautification in Edmonds by uniting the residents, organizations and businesses — and supporting horticultural education. Highlighting the evening was a presentation by Dr. Ross Bayton, director of the tribally-owned Heronswood Garden in Kingston.

Edmonds in Bloom President Carol Murray welcomed attendees and provided a quick summary of the group’s 2023 accomplishments, including maintaining plantings and installing new landscape lighting at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, assisting the city with the summer hanging floral baskets and street-corner gardens, the annual Kids Plant event, installing a new garden irrigation system at College Place Elementary, and the annual Edmonds in Bloom Garden Tour.

Scholarship winner Jeff Oliver, right, a third-year sustainable landscape management and urban agriculture student at Edmonds College, was on hand with his wife Joanna (also an Edmonds College horticulture student) to receive his award.

In addition, the group provides scholarships to students in the Edmonds College Horticulture program. This year’s $1,500 scholarship went to Jeff Oliver, a third-year student in sustainable landscape management and urban agriculture, who was on hand to receive his award.

Then it was time for the keynote address by Dr. Ross Bayton, director of the Heronswood Garden. He spoke on “Heronswood After 10 Years of Tribal Ownership – Connecting People, Plants and Place.” Located a short drive from the Kingston ferry terminal, Heronswood is owned and operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. It is the only botanical garden in the U.S. owned and maintained by a Native American tribe.

Since acquiring Heronswood in 2012, the tribe has been transforming the garden into a museum for tribal culture, with a special focus on documenting the interaction between indigenous people and plants.

“Heronswood began in 1987 when the property was purchased by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones to establish a garden using plants collected by Hinkley from his travels around the world,” explained Bayton. “They originally launched Heronswood as a mail order nursery. They sold it in 2000, and the next decade saw Heronswood fall into disuse. Then in 2012 it was purchased by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe with the intent of using it as a vehicle to preserve and celebrate tribal culture, to bring their community together, and nurture a sense of protecting the resources around them.”

Dr. Ross Bayton, director of the Heronswood Garden in Kingston, spoke on “Heronswood After 10 Years of Tribal Ownership.”

During more than 10 years of ownership, the tribe has expanded the garden from 10 to 15 acres as it moved the facility toward a more significant reflection of tribal culture and values. Today Heronswood is home to a number of tribal cultural artifacts and hosts early childhood, summer youth and re-entry programs for tribal members transitioning out of the criminal justice system. Additionally, its buildings provide space for tribal meetings and offices.

Heronswood is not a single garden, but is comprised of several garden areas designed to showcase particular plants in the collection. The newest of these is the S’Klallam Connections Garden, which is aimed at preserving the link between plants and people by restoring traditional uses of culturally significant plants. Part of this is the recognition that to preserve a plant it is necessary to preserve the environment in which it grew, and that the people who lived and interacted with the plants are a critical element of this environment. You can’t remove the people from the equation.

“It’s really all about the tribe,” said Bayton. “One of the goals is to reconnect the tribal members — especially the younger ones – with traditional plants that at one time had been part of their culture but over the years have mostly lost that connection.”

He cited the camas plant as an example.

“Significantly, camas was the primary source of carbohydrate for many indigenous people,” he explained. “It was their potatoes, their rice – and sadly most tribal youth have never tasted it. We are now planting camas in the S’Klallam Connections Garden at Heronswood, and we look forward to harvesting, collecting, preparing it.”

Heronswood is an easy day trip from Edmonds, and visitors are always welcome. The garden is open year-round Wednesday through Sunday in summer, weekends only in winter and holds several events including a summer hydrangea festival, spring and autumn garden sales, and a Halloween Haunted Heronswood. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for youths, and free to children under 7. Learn more about Heronswood here.

An estimated 150 people packed the ECA lobby on Wednesday evening for the celebration.

The evening concluded with door prize and raffle drawings, after which Carol Murray thanked attendees for their participation. “Edmonds in Bloom is always looking for new members and volunteers,” she added.

Learn more at the Edmonds in Bloom website here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. So great to hear about the S’Kllalam and their work with the Heronswood Garden! I so appreciate the Edmonds in Bloom group!! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.