Plants, People & Place

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Staff working on the new S'Klallam Connections Garden at Heronswood
Heronswood staff work on the new S'Klallam Connections Garden

Tribal staff members Ralph Purser, Berni Folz and Olivia Bidtah planting the S’Klallam Connections Garden

A decade of progress

Ten years ago, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe purchased Heronswood and just last week, the first plants were added to the S’Klallam Connections Garden, our most recent garden addition. Thanks to the tribe, Heronswood was saved from an uncertain future and through their generosity, and the great support of many volunteers, visitors, donors and of course our wonderful staff, the garden was brought back from the brink. Today, with the renovation complete, we can look forward to new developments here and the S’Klallam Connections Garden is perhaps the most significant. Bringing together plants that feature significantly in S’Klallam culture, on S’Klallam land, planted and cared for by S’Klallam people, this garden will serve as a living museum for the tribe and as a gathering place, wellness preserve and teaching resource.

The phrase ‘Plants, People and Place’ should perhaps be Heronswood’s motto. For many years, we’ve brought together people who love plants and the result is one of the greatest collections in the world. With plants hailing from almost every continent, we can tell the stories of peoples and places from far beyond our home state. This is a central aim of our new Traveler’s Garden, which focuses on the plants of three places – Vietnam, Chile and the western USA. As this garden grows, we’ll be able to transport visitors to these far-flung lands without the need for passports and show how plants and people interact around the world. It is fitting that the S’Klallam Connections Garden sits next door to the Traveler’s Garden as the two share a similar ethos. Wherever plants live, they share their place with people and by understanding these connections, we can better protect both wild plants, the places they live in and the people who live with them.

Today, as I write this piece, I can hear a loud pounding sound. Outside my office, a group of S’Klallam are beating mountain goat wool with diatomaceous earth, a clay-like substance. This prepares the wool for weaving. Over the coming months, S’Klallam experts will be demonstrating a range of crafts here at the garden as they pass on their skills and knowledge to other tribal members. Garden visitors can view these classes and some of the finished products. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of Heronswood’s acquisition by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, it is appropriate that this beloved garden has become a place of respite, renewal and cultural interaction for tribal members, as it has long been for the wider community.

Dr. Ross Bayton, Heronswood Director