I kid you not. Anne Raver wrote another one of her terrific gardening columns (the online version is truncated unfortunately) in today’s NY Times, an epitaph for the wonder which was Heronswood. For those who don’t know the story, after buying Heronswood in 1999 for $4.5-million, Burpee closed it down last week and sent the staff packing and its 6,000 plants back to corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania: an act of botanical Vandalism of the highest order.
Raver’s column provides a careful and balanced discussion of the pitfalls of large corporate nurseries buying small, distinctive ones and notes the many failures which have ensued. She also notes that Burpee president, George Ball recognized his error as early as 2002 and offered to sell Heronswood back to Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones for $2-million. Despite the good deal it was still more than they could muster. This is pure speculation, but I know Dan and Robert built a new home with the proceeds of the original sale and I’m guessing that with the expense of that enterprise they were loath to take on a new financial burden.
George Ball, ever a man for the bon mot, continues his foot and mouth disease of a public relations campaign explaining Burpee’s motives and actions. Raver quotes the following doozy from him:
I would like to find some kind of buyer who would keep it open to the public,” Mr. Ball said. He pictures a “high-end retirement community with nice condos” built around the gardens on the 15-acre property.
In my earlier post about Heronswood’s demise, I called Ball a Vandal and worse. To this may I add “jackass?” The saddest aspect of this tragedy is that those 15 acres are worth far more to a real estate developer than they’d ever be worth to a nursery owner. Ball will more than recoup his $4.5-million investment. He clearly doesn’t give much of a shit about preserving the Heronswood site as he’s carted off the specimens. Likely, one of the finest nurseries in the nation will go the way of the dodo bird and morph into luxury condominiums.
I’ll never be able to buy a Burpee product again (not that I bought many to begin with).