Heronswood Garden Turns the Reins to New Garden Director

Heronswood GardensPatrick McMillan took over garden management at Heronswood Garden, owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, from founder and renowned plantsman Dan Hinkley.

McMillan takes on the role of garden director after two decades as a professor at Clemson University, 10 years as the director of the South Carolina Botanical Garden, the publication of several books on horticulture and biodiversity, and a successful PBS series titled Expeditions with Patrick McMillan.

“The reputation of Heronswood immediately drew my interest. After visiting the garden, there was no question that this was the place and challenge that suited my next journey in life,” said McMillan on why he decided to pursue the role at Heronswood.

Patrick McMillan
Patrick McMillan

He added, “The S’Klallam world view and my philosophy are so well knit that there was no question — this was the place I wished to serve. I am incredibly excited about the expansion and growth that is occurring in the garden, and I am dedicated to continuing the legacy that Heronswood has established, as well as expanding the outreach of service and education to the community. Indeed, Heronswood is the place where my life’s philosophy of celebrating the intersections of life comes alive.”

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST) leadership is equally enthusiastic to have found a garden director whose personal philosophies align with the tribe’s values and goals.

“Patrick shares our tribe’s vision for Heronswood, including an emphasis on conservation, diversity, best practices, education, collaboration and community. We are excited to welcome Patrick and his family to the Pacific Northwest, and are grateful for his energy, drive and enthusiasm to help make the team at Heronswood even stronger,” said Jeromy Sullivan, PGST chairman.

McMillan’s transition to Heronswood’s garden director comes as Hinkley — master plantsman and Heronswood’s co-founder — steps down after seven years in the role.

After founding Heronswood with Robert Jones in 1987, Hinkley helped build it into a destination garden with a robust nursery sending plants to fans throughout the United States and internationally. The property was initially sold in 2000, with Hinkley and Jones moving on.

Unfortunately, several controversial decisions made by the new owners caused the garden to fall into disrepair. Neglected and overgrown, Heronswood went up for auction in 2012 and PGST — with land holdings and the reservation adjacent to the property — made the winning bid.

After the tribe took ownership, Hinkley came back on board to help with restoration efforts, eventually being named garden director. With McMillan’s appointment, Hinkley will continue in a consulting role as director emeritus.

“We are so grateful to Dan for his guidance, expertise and patience in making Heronswood what it is today — a place visited and adored by people all over the world,” Sullivan said. “Dan helped us see the potential of not only restoring, but also expanding the garden for everyone who wants to enjoy it. While Dan’s contribution cannot be overstated, we’re happy to have Patrick on board to help us with this next chapter, bringing Heronswood into an exciting future.”

Hinkley is confident that McMillan is the right choice to lead Heronswood into its next chapter.

Heronswood“To have someone of Patrick McMillan’s stature in American horticulture take over the reins of Heronswood speaks volumes of our garden’s reputation on a national as well as international stage,” he said. “He fully understands the importance of the plant collections that currently exist, while being fully primed with the expertise to continue the process of exploring regions of the world with similar climates to our own to responsibly add to our palette of plants for Pacific Northwest gardens, furthering the enticement of Heronswood to gardeners across the globe.”

Since PGST purchased the property in 2012, Heronswood has been reopened to the public with seasonal plant sales, weekly garden opens and a series of lectures and classes. In 2020, these programs had to be cancelled or scaled back due to COVID-19 concerns. Garden staff is exploring ways to hold events and classes safely in person or remotely in 2021.

Today, Heronswood is home to 9,000 plant species from six of the world’s seven continents. In addition, three new gardens are currently under development, including a crevice garden prototype and the x̣ə́w̕əs shəy’ (meaning “new life spirit” in the S’Klallam language) Renaissance Garden, featuring several unique touches paying homage to Pacific Northwest and tribal culture

Heronswood is operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation and is overseen by the Heronswood Steering Committee, made up of tribal leaders as well as experts in horticulture, fundraising and marketing. The garden is located at 7530 NE 288th Street in Kingston. For more information, go to HeronswoodGarden.org.