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Mr. American Horticulture

No doubt there are a whole lot of crowns he'd rather wear — a whole lot of sequined costumes, too — but once you've won most of the awards in your field plus won over all the people, not one of whom (damn it all) has an unadoring thing to say about you, it's time to ascend the throne and wave to all the little people.

Meet Dan Hinkley, as he's never been seen before.

Lest you think I jest, be assured, I most certainly do. Not about the man's talents or achievements, just about his fame. Dan himself is easily the most uncomfortable about it -- he is, after all, just a gardener in ugly pajamas who stoops to weed -- yet it's his very modesty that is an enormous part of his charm. In the foreground, flowers from the infinitely more graceful South African bulb, Dierama. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

I have no intention of being "fair and balanced" about DJH. Not after a dozen years of seriously irreverent friendship. It's hard enough having a friend who is absurdly talented and internationally feted; imagine how it pains me to have to share him with Martha.

Anyway, the reason for this post (the same reason as hers, alas) is that I'm just back from a 12-hour overnight stay at Dan and partner Bob's home in Indianola, Wash. (From Portland, figure a round trip drive of 10 hours.) Why a 12-hour stay, you ask? Why not 18 or 24? Well, you see, being such a good friend, I am simply grateful for the few waking hours we had together, before I was bodily removed from the house and chauffeured to the ferry before the arrival of the higher-ranking, European, 48-hour guests.

But hey, look what I saw:

Dan's full sun, windswept garden has a lot of DJH signature moments, such as this "blueaceous" combination of the South African genus, Agapanthus (left; no idea which cultivar) and a selection of the so-called Chilean potato tree, Solanum crispum 'Glesnevin' . photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

There's just no end to the list of different species Dan's introduced to horticulture in his nearly two decades as a force in the plant world (not counting his years before that teaching). Thousands have been grown from the seeds he's collected on plant-hunting expeditions in the temperate world; thousands more were existing but little-known plants he popularized during his years as a nurseryman. I still have notebooks filled with the Latin names of plants I first encountered and fell in love with at his previous home with its vast, magical woodland garden.

Now he's worshipping the sun.

Mid-summer in the garden is total exuberance. In the foreground is a species gladiolus (that means it's unimproved, looking just as it does in its South African home). The upright red panicles behind it belong to the perennial, Lobelia tupa. More blue agapanthus in the background and behind that, well, I forgot to ask. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

I'm looking forward to blowing your mind with tomorrow's entry about Dan's purple-leaved, tangerine-flowered HARDY bromeliad ... and I've got the pictures to prove it.