i like those plants that like me

Phoreum rostrata, a favorite in Hinkley’s garden.

They say you can’t go home again.  Dan Hinkley disagrees, well sort of.  He qualified that statement on Thursday at NYBG:  “they say you can never go home again.  This not the case with plants.  There is always another chapter to be read,  I am privileged to be able to still read.”  Plant explorer, author, nurseryman, owner of Heronswood nursery, Dan Hinkley has moved on.  His new home and garden is Windcliff in Indianola, Washington.

Windcliff is six and half acres, a 200 ft. bluff to Puget Sound, south facing.

When Hinkley and his partner bought the property, the grounds were mainly turf and a few trees.  “I wanted to make a landscape that you could discover by yourself.”    Hinkley killed off acres and acres of turf with vinegar from Costco, which he said works when the temperature is above 70 degrees. This is not a one application process.  Caution:  vinegar will also kill plants.

Derek Jarman Garden at Dungeness, UK

Gardeners often talk about influences.  Surprisingly, Hinkley celebrated Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness, UK.  For Hinkley, Jarman’s garden perched next to the Dungeness Nuclear Power Plant is about honoring the simple, using found objects, embracing the wind, the sky and most of all finding inspiration in a wild landscape.

“He put wild with cultivated, made art out of rubbish and declared the garden a gallery where nature played the most important part. He sought refuge in his garden, but chose a setting with no boundaries, where everything is an edge: shingle, sea, sun, wind all shifting and changing.”  Alys Fowler, The Guardian, Sept. 24, 2015

Jeff Bale, Council Ring at Windcliff

Stone Face Moon Sculpture by Marcia Donahue set in fire pit mosaic designed and built by mosaic artist Jeffery Bales at Windcliff.

“The Council Ring is one of the most important projects I have built to date, in large part because it has symbolism and coloration that relate to the cosmos and the passage of time, and the sacred mountains of Tacoma and Sun-a-do, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Range.” Jeff Bale 

Arbutus menziesii, the Pacific madrona tree,native to the western coastal areas of North America. The cinnamon brown/red bark inspired the inside colors of Hinkley’s house.

Most power point presentations are slides.  In Dan Hinkley’s power point every slide was a video.  This allowed the audience to experience walking from the house into the garden, viewing the grasses swaying the wind and watching the birds. A big birder, Hinkley’s video of eaglets leaving the nest was especially lovely.

Helwingia, native to Himalayas and eastern Asia. The flowers appear to directly from the leaves – the stems are fused to the leaves.

When asked how many gardeners it takes to maintain Windcliff?
Answer: TWO.
There was disbelief in the audience.
To which HInkley replied, “I like to weed.  It’s a pleasure.”

As expected in speaking about Windcliff, Hinkely talked about plants, many of which he has collected on trips to Asia, New Zealand, and South Africa (some of which are pictured below).

Melianthus major “Honey Bush” native to the southwestern Cape in South Africa.

Agapanthus praecox, native to Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. HInkley has developed many new varieties of Agapanthus, his garden is full of colors you have never seen before.

Phoreum rostrata (beaked yucca) native to Texas, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Hinkley fell in love with it at Chanticleer.

During the Q&A that followed, a member of audience queried Hinkley  about soil amendments at Windcliff. Hinkley stated categorically  “I don’t amend the soil.  I like those plants that like me.”

seed head of Agapanthus

I used to have a rule for my garden, three times was not a charm. These days a plant has to make it or it is gone, no second chances. It’s a tough love garden.




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