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Originally published October 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2012 at 3:55 PM

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Heronswood to live on, and other garden news

"There'll be no casino or condos," promises Noel Higa, economic development director of the S'Klallam tribe, new owners of Heronswood Nursery near Kingston.

Local news partner - Plant Talk

Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them.

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Olympia gets a fanciful fence

Whidbey Island metal artists Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle designed and crafted the recently installed botanical fence at the new Department of Information Services building in Olympia. The showstopper of a fence was commissioned to screen the building's loading dock and to extend a green screen laced with hundreds of honeysuckle vines.

Built of hand-forged steel, the fence panels are intricately patterned in rhododendron leaves and tubular, footlong honeysuckle flowers so lifelike you can almost smell them. The fence is painted a soft gray-green to emphasize the wildlife-friendly gardens growing up around it. Scarlet oaks and burning bushes already on the site were dug, stored during construction, and replanted along with native grasses and blueberries in dense, geometric patterns.

"The fence is a gem for people to discover behind the new building," says project manager Sally Alhadeff. The project is on the east side of the state Capitol campus at 1500 Jefferson; the botanical fence is off 16th Street.

Heronswood is resurrected

"I want to put everyone's mind at ease ... There'll be no casino or condos," promises Noel Higa, economic development director of the S'Klallam tribe, new owners of Heronswood Nursery near Kingston. The tribe had been looking at the 15-acre property for three years before George Ball, CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., put it up for sealed-bid auction last summer.

"We had this world-class garden right next to our reservation," explains Higa. "We want to preserve it and use it for the good of the tribe."

Ball closed Heronswood in 2006, and moved plants and operations to home base in Pennsylvania. His original asking price for Heronswood was $11 million. According to assessor's records, it sold for $859,500.

So what did the place look like when the tribe took over? "There were six years of no one being there; it had been minimally maintained," says Higa, adding that it is still a beautiful, remarkable place.

Dan Hinkley, who along with Robert Jones founded Heronswood in 1987, has volunteered to help reclaim the garden, offering plants from his Windcliff garden to replace those that died, were removed or damaged over the past six years. "Robert and I sense that the garden will be well-cared-for and nurtured in the years ahead," says a relieved Hinkley.

Higa says the goal is to restore Heronswood's gardens, and open them to the public for classes and events. The tribe is figuring out how to add native culture and art to the mix while staying true to the original garden.

Showing us gardens for a quarter century

For gardeners who've trekked down to the Washington State Convention Center for a springtime fix every February since 1989, it's a shock to realize 2013 will be our flower show's 25th birthday. The celebratory theme will be "The Silver Screen Takes Root: Gardens Go Hollywood," with gardens inspired by classic films such as "Roman Holiday" and "The Wizard of Oz." The show dates are later than they've been in recent years, so mark your calendars for Feb. 20-24. Vancouver gardening star Thomas Hobbs and popular author Amy Stewart ("Wicked Plants") will be here for the show. Stay tuned for updates on more speakers and judges.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.

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