15 thoughts on “Burpee’s Act of Garden Vandalism: Heronswood is Gone – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Interesting article. It’s such a devastating loss and we can only hope that the gardens remain intact. It’s Hinkley, btw…w/o a “C”.

  2. I’m a longtime admirer of Heronswood and Hinkley, and I’m shocked by the stupdity of last week’s ravaging of the best nursery in America, as judged by its present and future contribution to the diversity of our gardens, Burpee? Marigolds, marigolds, and more marigolds in the sun, impatiens ad infinitum in the shade. George Ball claims that Heronswood was taken over because it wanted to remain a regional nursery. Horse hockey! I must grow 50 plants here in New Jersey that came from Heronswood and are available nowhere else.. and now not available at all. Thank God I ordered 8 hardy fichsias this spring, now thriving here in NJ. Kuos to Robert Jones and Dan Hinkley… and there’s no doubt about it. Despite his self-promotiion, George Ball will go down in American horticultural history as one of its greatest villains.

  3. As the past Webmaster for Heronswood over a six year period, I’ve seen a lot of growth in Heronswood. I was appalled to see what George Ball has done to it.

    However… I do have some minor nits. Dan and Robert certainly knew that this would happen, especially after Burpee offered to sell Heronswood back to them for only $2 million ($2.5 million LESS than he paid for it). That should’ve been a warning sign and Dan and Robert should have heeded it.

    So from a business perspective, Burpee had no choice but to rape it to try and reclaim their losses.

    That said, they had no business buying Heronswood in the first place. I suspect that the original plan was to wait and see if it grew, and if it didn’t they would gut it like we saw this year. In fact, I suspect George never really liked Heronswood and dealing with Dan. He used lack of revenue as an excuse for this change, but it came on the heels of a Web site move to India and a design that didn’t work. People looking for certain plants couldn’t find them because some weren’t listed in the right category, others didn’t come up on a search, etc. When you precipitate an action that causes sales to slump, you can’t use it as an excuse to shut the business down.

    Burpee has never impressed me — it’s big business in the horticulture industry absorbing innovation from other companies. It will continue to grow and flourish until businesses learn not to work with Burpee, they offer something to customers that Burpee, Proven Winners, et al can’t, and people learn to recognize that they have a choice. I think the first one is done, but the last two will be extremely difficult.

    As a nurseryman and communicator in the business, I will do my part to ensure that there is always an alternative for gardeners out there.

    P.S. I find it ironic that the Google ads for this page are for Burpee. 🙂

  4. Christopher: Thanks for pointing out the irony of those Burpee ads. I’ve filtered them fr. my Adsense results so you won’t see any such ads on this site in future.

    I think all of your “nits” (which of course weren’t nits) are precisely right. There were warning signs that weren’t heeded. I just hope that Dan & his partner are wiser for their experience and when they enter their next gardening venture (which I hope they do as soon as their non-compete clause expires) they won’t make the same ‘mistakes’ (if they were that) again.

    As for Burpee, a pox on their house. People should buy fr. Territorial Seeds, Seeds for Change & all those other great seed sources. I wish our local nurseries would cancel their business w. Burpee in solidarity w. Hersonswood.

    You ran a beautiful site in its day & I wish you continued success in yr web management & nursery work. Thanks for leaving yr comment here.

  5. I, as a lover of Heronswood, will never buy any Burpee product and will encourage everyone I know to do the same. On my last visit to Heronswood in May of this year, my friend and I were privileged to have a garden tour by Hinkley himself! What a remarkable man and I certainly hope he will establish himself in the nursery business as soon as he can.

  6. EVERYONE IS FAILING TO MENTION that DAN HINKLEY SOLD US ALL OUT THE DAY HE GOT GREEDY AND SOLD HERONSWOOD – CALL A SPADE A SPADE – BURBPEES MAY HAVE THE LAST say in this – but we would have expected that from a large corporation NOT from someone who professes to be a man of the people and plants of the world – WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE OUT IN THE COLD – he states they are great employees and would be happy to share their names with other nurseries – WEREN’T THEY SO GREAT WHEN HE SOLD THEM ALL OUT!

  7. Virginia Brown: You’re certainly entitled to yr opinion but I think you’re being far too harsh on Dan. You don’t know what use he made of what he earned. Perhaps he plowed it back into furthering his botanical travels and research. I’m not saying he is blameless as I’m sure he feels terrible about what happened. But I just think you’re going to far in yr criticism.

  8. Remember White Flower Farms acquisition? Same thing was pulled on the owners so it’s not new in the world of big business. Once a large corp. owns our company they can promise you anything and deliver nothing.

  9. I just had a speech from George ball in one of my horticultural classes. Heronswood is now located in my town and I have been there to visit once, from what I can tell it is a pretty beautiful place. As for the original Heronswood I never heard of it nor new of its existence. I can tell you about George ball from what I know from his speech. He’s a very intelligent man from a business as well as plant breeding side of things. I’m sorry to hear of the “rape” and “pillage” of the original Heronswood but as another mentioned it wasn’t like burpee was holding a gun to the original owners head. They were doing what EVERY other business does and that’s expansion and if expansion does go well you bail out and take what u can…. Sorry for everyone who lost jobs… Hope none of you will be sour towards me if I work for burpee this summer….:( I am a student and need a variety of experiences before I can graduate….

  10. I always thought gardeners were some of the nicest people, but they seem so selfish on the west coast. I just read an article in Horticulture magazine on Dan Hinkley and his partner’s beautiful new home and garden overlooking Puget Sound. I can see where the profits from Heronswood went, which is their right. THEY decided to sell. Why is everyone condemming Burpee? They tried for 6 years. It’s a business decision. I’m mad a HGTV for taking off so many gardening shows. But I guess it’s business decision. I garden in Z 6 in the midwest and feel the Pacific NW is a very limited climate for a US gardening company. Why don’t you all encourage Dan to start a new business.

  11. Gardeners selfish on the west coast? Since when? And what do you know about the west coast, the gardeners here or the gardening climate here? Unfortunately very little it seems. Gardeners here are some of the most generous I’ve encountered & I’ve gardened in several regions of this country.

    We’re condemning Burpee because they destroyed a thriving NW gardening enterprise & then dismantled it & took it to the east coast. Hinkley had one of the most distinctive gardening companies & plant choices available anywhere in the country or the world for that matter–& Burpee came along & drove it into the ground.

    There are thousands of successful gardening enterprises in the Pacific NW. The fact that Burpee crashed & burned is a reflection on them & not on this region or gardening in general here.

    Pls. spend some time out here or at least learn something about our region before you speak. You’d come across much more persuasively.

  12. I worked at burpee for a time and witnessed George ball. Ever get that feeling around someone that they just are no good? Well thats the feeling I got around him and judging by the fears / tension of my former co workers they felt it too. George ball should donate burpee seed company to a non profit group. Spread the seeds and use the money to create wonderful public gardens. Thats what a TRUE gardener would do… I believe he would get the forgiveness and regain the trust of many.

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