About the Heritage Garden Program
The Heritage Garden Program promotes the appreciation of Washington State's native plants while familiarizing participants with low water-use landscaping and irrigation methods. Through this program we educate our community about the history and biodiversity of the Columbia River Basin and help participants achieve the joy and fulfillment of creating a beautiful garden. The program is managed by the Benton Conservation District, where it all began. Through several partnerships and with the assistance of generous funding sources, the Heritage Garden Program has grown to serve seven counties in Washington.
The Area We Serve
Heritage Gardens are currently offered in Benton, Chelan, Franklin, Grant (and a portion of Adams), Kittitas and Yakima Counties in partnership with the Benton Conservation District, Cascadia Conservation District, Franklin Conservation District, Columbia Basin Conservation District, Kittitas County Conservation District and the North and South Yakima Conservation Districts.
Interested but not in our service area? Connect with your Local Conservation District and request that they adopt the program.
December of 2010, Donna Lucas, a member of the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society (CBWNPS), approached the Benton Conservation District (BCD) about developing a program to promote low water-use landscaping utilizing native plants. At the time, the BCD was struggling with developing and implementing a xeriscaping program due to the public perception of low water-use landscaping being drab and ugly. Donna’s concept of Heritage Gardens seemed like the perfect answer to the dilemma.
Together, the BCD and the CBWNPS spent the next 18 months refining the Heritage Garden concept and developing resources for potential gardeners to ensure that the program would be successful. The result was a comprehensive program designed to promote the use of native plants in developed landscapes, especially those of cultural significance; promote low water-use landscaping and irrigation methods; and provide a way to educate our community about the history and biodiversity of the Columbia River Basin. In the fall of 2011, the BCD and the CWBNPS signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize their relationship moving forward. Donna Lucas was appointed as the Heritage Garden Program Chair and Heather Wendt was assigned as the Program Director in charge of implementing the program for the Benton and Franklin Conservation Districts.
In July 2012 the Heritage Garden Program officially certified its first Heritage Garden.
Summer 2016, the Heritage Garden Program was expanded by the BCD Board to include CBWNPS’ Purple Heart concept as an additional feature to a Heritage Garden. Purple Hearts are a great way for public entities as well as private gardeners to honor our country's veterans. CBWNPS member Ernie Crediford created the concept and planted the first Purple Heart at Richland's Wye Park.
In the fall of 2018, the Heritage Garden Program expanded into Yakima County in partnership with the North Yakima and South Yakima Conservation Districts and the Central Washington Chapter of the WNPS. In the Fall of 2021, the program expanded into Kittitas County in partnership with the Kittitas County Conservation District. Heritage Gardens in Yakima and Kittitas Counties are funded by a grant from the Municipal Water Use Subgroup of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan through a Washington State Department of Ecology grant.
In the Summer of 2022, the program then expanded into Chelan County in partnership with Cascadia Conservation District and the Wenatchee Valley Chapter of the WNPS. In 2022 the program also expanded into Grant County and a portion of Adams County in partnership with the Columbia Basin Conservation District.
Today the Heritage Garden Program is offered in seven counties in partnership with seven local conservation districts and three chapters of the Washington Native Plant Society.