Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Visit to Dancing Oaks Nursery

The road up to Dancing Oaks

Over the Fourth of July weekend, David and I took a little road trip from our home in Portland to Monmouth, Oregon - a couple of hours on the road south to visit Dancing Oaks Nursery. Neither of us had been before so did not know what to expect. I have heard people speak highly of this place and after reading about it in Pacific Horticulture Magazine and realizing it was (relatively) close to Portland, it became a destination.

The landscape was farm-like and dry with the foothills to the Coast Range mountains to  the west. Really beautiful. Quite an unexpected place for a nursery, to tell the truth.

I regret I did not get a photo of the front gate. I was too excited and only remembered the camera once we parked. We thought we would be the only people there, however there were at least a half a dozen cars parked upon arrival. And we thought we left early!

 This is as close as we got to a photo of the entrance. We were swiftly greeted by nursery staff and shown the ropes - where each greenhouse was. Heaven.

Just for fun, after all I married one.
We learned quickly there are several acres to take in, so we took our time at each greenhouse then wandered around the many garden areas.

A lovely shade house collection

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

A really funny Eucomis - not sure the variety, but I love the little "hats".

Eryngium 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost'...  sadly they had none for sale that day... :(

Sedum spathulifolium in a mega-mound. Wow! Native to Oregon. SO cool in the garden, too. Several varieties, cape blanco, purpureum, harvest moon....nice! I have it scattered throughout my garden, many varieties and it's done well.

A view of the house and meadow, facing west I believe ... a place I would love to live!

Backlit gorgeousness

This was, I believe, my favorite part of the gardens. This was the area on the west upper end of the gardens - open meadow-y areas with foxgloves, Eryngiums, all kinds of lovelies. I think I really liked it because it was so open and casual but dramatic with the tall spikes of blooms and bees everywhere.

I love the combination of forms and colors.
Backlit glow-y goodness!

 This was the pond area, lovely aquatic plants and a totally different feel from
 the rest of the gardens.

One of the many garden rooms to explore. Plants are allowed to grow to their full, glorious size ... a luxury I don't have at the current time so it's great to see plants in their full best.

Kind of weird llama-esque trees.

Verbena bonariensis ... something I really enjoy seeing but I know a lot of people consider it a pest.
A small slice of the veggie garden - they had a lovely setup, to be sure. It must be something of a necessity since they are so far out there. Plus, they have such great hot weather! Who wouldn't grow veggies, given the space? Heck, there were even chickens and eggs for sale! How cool is that?!?

A neighbor's peacock found itself a new home at Dancing Oaks ... did not want to leave according to the staff. Who would want to leave?
A beautiful HUGE container planting, there were several in the main courtyard.

Looking at the road as we were leaving underscores the beauty of this landscape. I was in heaven, really. I understand there are several events at the nursery throughout the growing season - some music, food, etc. It all sounds wonderful. The staff were wonderful, so helpful, the gardens are glorious and varied, the plant selection was epic. 

Sadly, I did not photograph my loot - but I can remember most! I bought a couple Japanese Blood Grass for the eco-roof, a penstemon also for the (other) eco-roof - Penstemon kunthii, from Oaxaca, a Cotton Grass -Eriophorum latifulium, David picked out a Heuchera "Ebony and Ivory' and Solidago 'Little lemon' to replace a GIANT version I have out front. The Little Lemon variety is only supposed to get about 12" tall vs. the four-foot giants I have now. Oh, the trials of trying to plant native varieties! I often find the native ones, however great they are, can get quite large for my small space.

 All in all, a FAB day, we really loved it there and would seriously consider moving to the area if we could find such an epic plot of land for a **ahem** good price. Dream on....

We'll be back.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Magic of Bird Creek Meadows

A few weekends ago David and I enjoyed a local adventure on the southeast shoulder of Mt. Adams in Washington state across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon.

We were aiming for a good ol' Cascade Mountain hike. A kindly forest ranger in Trout Lake recommended the Bird Creek Meadows loop. So up we drove through burned forest land, through the Yakama Nation reservation on the worst road I have ever been on to the best wildflower hike I have ever experienced. 

I'll save you the butt-numbing trip details and share some images instead.
Here's some of the burned forest land on the way. Don't take it as an omen of things to come. Of course, with burned areas, the loss of trees means grasses and native shrubs thrive.

Native Penstemon, not sure which variety.

Bear Grass or Xerophyllum tenax (I have three in my garden - new this year, lovely grassy foliage, purchased at Portland Nursery) - they were EVERYWHERE...I went crazy with happiness! We drove and drove and parked at the end of the road. About 30 minutes into the hike up the gentle trail we encountered our first wildflowers. Little did we know the beauty that lay ahead.

Native Lupine and Aster and Indian Paintbrush flowers. Everywhere.

Our favorite color is green!

The wildflower season must be short up there. We visited the first weekend in August. 

I think this is native Spiraea and an unknown to me variety of Arctostaphylos.

Had we not carried water with us, these little creeks and seeps looked pretty tasty.

Higher up the creek, a field of gray green colored Lupines, beautiful!

Dagger leaf rush or Juncus ensifolius- I have this in my garden, purchased at Bosky Dell Natives. Lovely.

Anyone know what this lovely is? 


This is Hellroaring Canyon. It is deep, kind of spooky and the apex of the climb. We plan to visit it again and perhaps climb Little Mt Adams in 2014.

Lovely combination!  Nature...she is amazing.


Lovely moss-covered brambles.


As you can imagine, birds own all of these meadows. We spied bluebirds, chickadees (yay!), a western tanager (WOW!), juncos, bluejays, mystery black and white birds the size of seagulls, black-backed woodpecker and many others which we can't remember.

Combination of Lupines, Aster and Indian Paint Brush (not sure of the plant in the foreground...anyone?)

Gorgeous moss-covered streambank.

Some might think this the perfect place for a blanket and a nap. A picture perfect place, it looked landscaped, almost surreal.

Indian Paint Brush or Castilleja miniata.

A field of dreams and a boulder.

Several trails loop around this area. Some come up from Mirror Lake and one from Bird Lake itself. We met few hikers; each was very friendly and in great spirits.

We will return to Bird Creek Meadows but David plans to put on the rough-road tires next time. That mountain road is just too darn tough! What a hike, highly recommended with the right tires. Enjoy! -Tamara and David