In June of 1987, our realtor brought us back to the property at 7530 288th St NE for a second look. We had been uninspired by our first viewing on a cold, dreary January day earlier that same year. And besides, the asking prices of $89,000 was appreciably beyond our budget.
On that early summer’s day, however, the skies were crisply blue while from the canopy of Doug firs and cedars came a cacophony of birdsong. I ventured into the thick native undergrowth of the woodland to get a better feel of the property and its potential for garden making.
On a mound of duffy soil surrounding a rotting stump, I encountered a generous colony of Linnaea borealis in full blossom. As I kneeled down to admire the plant that had long been a favorite, a black-capped chickadee arrived to the stump with a fat grub in its beak and entered a hole to a chorus of hungry nestlings inside. We made an offer on what would become Heronswood that evening.
Linnaea borealis, the endearing twinflower; two shyly nodding pink bells on wiry stems rising to 4″. Considered to be a low, creeping, evergreen shrub-let, and closely related to honeysuckles, Weigela, Abelia and numerous other garden-worthy genera in the plant family Caprifoliaceae, it is a circumboreal species, i.e., occurring in near identical form across N. America, Europe, Russia and E. Asia.
Thus its namesake, Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish physician, botanist and zoologist who put order to our world by devising the modern binomial system of nomenclature (think Homo sapiens-present day man, Turdus turdus-the American Robin, Malus domestica-the apple), grew fond of Linnaea as a child, considering it his favorite plant, but long before it was called Linnaea. And it nearly wasn’t….
During the publication of his tome, Systema Naturae, Linnaeus placed his favorite pet into a new genus, that of Rudbeckia, in honor of a father/son Laplandic exploring duo, Olaus and Olaf Rudbeck. Yes, admittedly, this sounds like a set up for a joke by Garrison Keillor, but it is all true.
The genus name of Linnaea was later proposed by Linnaeus’ teacher, Jan Frederik Gronovius, later edified by Linnaeus himself in his publication Species Plantarum in 1753. Indeed, a long path to the naming of an endearing plant.
As we developed the woodland at Heronswood, our only specimen of Linnaea on the property (in all likelihood a clonal colony incapable of producing seed and considerably older than the towering second growth trees above) became sacrosanct. As we plotted the paths that weave through the woodland garden, two were made to intersect at the alter of this species, the singular plant that was and is the inspiration for an entire garden, now owned and guided by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.
We invite you this Friday to visit Heronswood. While with us, please seek out our charming colony of twinflower at peak blossom; kneel down to admire its beauty.