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Twinflower and starflower

Native twinflower (Linnaea borealis) and starflower (Trientalis latifolia) in the Woodland Garden.

At Heronswood, we tend to look toward distant horizons. Our plant collections contain exciting species from around the world, Tasmania to Turkey, Myanmar to Mexico, Chile to China. And yet, the Pacific Northwest, and Washington State in particular, has much to offer us gardeners. Since becoming part of the Port Gamble S’Klallam family, we’ve revived our interest in the local flora, adopting the Tribe’s policy of protecting natural resources. Yet it’s the coronavirus outbreak that has really brought into sharp focus the benefits of collecting plants locally.

We are currently pricking out seedlings from our trip to the Siskiyous last fall and have recently explored and collected in the Umpqua National Forest of Oregon and the Wenatchee Mountains of Washington (see this week’s Bark-a-Lounger). These plants will form the nucleus of a new collection highlighting the great diversity and beauty of Pacific Northwest native plants. Not only do we hope to show that many of these plants deserve a place in everyone’s garden, but also to direct attention towards the conservation of this State’s rare and endemic plants, many of which are almost entirely unknown to Washingtonians.

Though largely populated with Dan’s international collections, a few natives already find their home at Heronswood. Linnaea borealis, or twinflower, is one of my favorites. Not only does its name honor Carl Linnaeus, the father of my field of study, plant taxonomy, but as a native of the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere, it can be found both in my Scottish homeland and my adopted state. As its English name suggests, the flowers are in pairs and they sit atop a carpet of glossy, evergreen foliage. Twinflower makes an excellent groundcover in damp shade and always reminds me of happy hikes in the mountains. In one of our clumps in the Woodland Garden, it’s joined by starflower, Trientalis (now Lysimachia) , another dainty native of shady forests.

As we continue to prepare the garden for a long-awaited opening, I remain entranced by the great diversity of plants we have on display here at Heronswood. Whilst deep amongst the foliage, weeding out introduced European celandine (Chelidonium majus), I was pleased to see a Vietnamese collection of the witch-hazel relative Disanthus ovatifolius bloom for the first time here. Far flung forests still have much to offer our garden, and we will continue to collect excellent plants abroad, but with a renewed enthusiasm for all that our home state has to offer.

– Dr. Ross Bayton, Heronswood Assistant Director