Dancing Oaks Open House

the approach to Dancing Oaks Nursery

We had dinner at Cuvée Friday night and spent the night in Carlton. The next day, my friend Susan and I headed even further into the countryside to visit Dancing Oaks Nursery. I had only been there in high summer and Susan had never seen the place. It is far FAR off the beaten path, but well worth the trip through gorgeous countryside. The above scene is the one that greets you as you approach the nursery. Having driven through pounding rain, we were heartened to see the skies clear.

a spiky greeting

Nothing like a spiky greeting to get things off to a good start.

one of the hoop houses with resident cat

Where to start? We followed our noses through several hoop houses jam-packed with plant life, and in this case overseen by one of the many cats who rule here (see him stretched out over the door at the far end?).

magnolia Michelia yunnanensis

Most of the plants under cover are well marked, like this Magnolia.

the Magnolia itself

Here is the plant that goes with the label. Isn’t it a beauty?


It was the red leaves that attracted me, but knowing that this is a Tibouchina lets me know that velvety flowers are its real calling card.


Nice to know that it has another season in which to shine.

a touch of humor in the hoop house

Can you tell that the people here have a lot of fun doing what they do?


Having combed through the greenhouses, it was time to stroll around the grounds. Still stripped down to winter bones…

white barked trees (?)

sporting their own spare beauty. I neglected to ask about these trees, but I love them.

art in the garden

This is a good time to appreciate the garden art sprinkled about.

glass fish art

This colorful glass fish is nestled in grasses bordering a pond.

grasses and cat tails

Across the pond, grasses and cat tails have been allowed to dry in place.

rill feeding the pond

A little rill feeds the pond and serenades us all.

fence around pond

A rustic fence surrounds the rill, with seating nearby.

rough wooden structure

Transitioning to the pergola is this rough wooden structure.


Standing sentry at the entrance to the pergola, an Edgeworthia is just beginning to come into flower.

looking through the pergola

It will become a dark tunnel when things leaf out, but the sun plays peek-a-boo now, as we head down the path through the pergola.

large pot at tunnel’s end

Looking back the way we have come, a large pot catches the light and beckons to us.

weeping blue atlas cedar

A weeping blue Atlas cedar has been trained up one upright and allowed to weep down from above.

Eucalyptus berm

Some newer looking berms act as a buffer between the cultivated garden and the natural areas beyond. The star of this berm is this Eucalyptus, while beyond Agaves, Opuntias and Yucca reign.

Iris r. ‘Pixie’

A few flowering plants have broken dormancy to bejewel the landscape. These Iris r. ‘Pixie’ are joined by Hellebores

and random clumps of snowdrops.

Agave, rain chain and bowl

At the pavilion, where goodies were being served, I loved this arrangement of pots, one holding a dramatic Agave, another filled with rocks to receive the runoff captured by the rain chain.

willow chairs

Don’t these willow chairs tempt you to sit a while and bask in those rare rays of sunshine?

blue pots

As we wandered, refreshed, back towards the sales shack, I couldn’t stop clicking away. Here’s another of many rain chains, this time hanging from a tree branch. Pots are used throughout the garden as containers and as stand-alone sculptural pieces.

Magnolia buds about to burst

An ancient looking magnolia stellata seems to be saying “Come back soon and see me strut my stuff”.

valley view upon leaving

You would be doing yourself a disservice if you hurried away without indulging in some chit chat with the owners of this edenic corner of the world. Here’s the view out over the valley as we reluctantly bid adieu. I know you will want to know what came home with me, but that will come in a later post. I have used restraint at each stop on this spring’s buying spree, but the plants are piling up. I will soon need to deal with them, and then all will be revealed…I promise.

playing catch-up

I’m impressed how so many of you can keep up your blogging and commenting even with spring springing and garden chores beckoning. I’ve been overwhelmed, with two gardens to clean up, spruce up and prune into shape. Sooo…I’m rolling blooms and foliage into one post, and if I have failed to comment on your recent posts, please know that I love you still and will be back in the saddle as soon as the rains return.

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’

Out here at the R&R Ranch, it’s slim pickins in the bloom department. The Hamamelis with the split personality is having its ‘Diane’ moment. Earlier (sometime in January) that middle tall part bloomed yellow. The plant I purchased was meant to be ‘Diane’ so your guess is as good as mine about what’s going on here.

‘Diane’ close-up

‘Diane’ was ready for her close-up, with the sun catching her against a background in shadow. The only other things blooming here are snowdrops and slug-tattered primroses.

bergenia flower

In town, we are getting ready for new tenants to take over. They say they will maintain the garden, but we have heard that song before. At any rate, it seems only fair to get them off to a good start. The garden here has a southern exposure, is surrounded by concrete and gets reflected light from the house. The Bergenias are in full flower,

Bergenia bud

With those around the corner, in the shade, fattening up their buds, ready to star in the second act..

mystery plant

I can’t recall having planted this low-growing charmer (i know…I sound like I’m testifying before congress) . Anyone know what it is? This just in from The Mulchmaid: the plant in question is Lesser celadine, and is on the invasive species list. Jane included a link to Kim Pokorny telling us all about it. Sorry, Linda…I guess I won’t be passing this one along.

yellow crocus

I’ve never been big on crocuses (they seem to bloom for about five seconds, tops), but these cheerful little fellows emerging through the duff make their case pretty convincingly.

valentine bouquet

Since Bloom Day fell the day after St Valentines Day, I think it only fair to include this mixed bouquet from my Valentine. Some of these flowers will go out early in a blaze of glory and the nature of the arrangement will morph over time…just as relationships do.

Melianthus Major

And now for the Foliage Follow-up. Melianthus Major was one of the first plants I ever spent serious money on (well, $20 seemed like a lot at the time). It was my first (and, so far, only) visit to Gossler Farms in Springfield OR. The plant was in a one gallon pot, with three or four leaves…but what leaves! They were a very pale green with a bluish cast and deep serrations. Lightly brushing the leaves produced the scent of peanut butter. It was love at first sight.

the long view of Melianthus Major

Backing up a bit here, you can see that my one little plant has colonized an entire area (it goes on some ways beyond the left of the picture frame, but I wanted to include the bright red dogwood twigs encroaching from the right). I have tried several times to divide and move it to our current digs, but it will have none of it. I will keep trying, because this is one of my all-time favorite plants. In the meantime, I hope our new tenants give it the love and attention it deserves.

You could do worse than to shower your love and attention upon May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and Digging for Foliage Follow-up.

Yard, Garden & Patio Show impressions

Ming Fey sculptures

Portland’s show is held in the convention center, where the stage is set by these sculptures by Ming Fey: sprigs of poppies dangling overhead and giant pods resting on pedestals at each end of the great hall.

outer display with greenhouse

Outside of the exhibit hall is a taste of things to come.

sculpture from Cracked Pots

Including an orb sculpture from the Cracked Pots booths. I must confess to rushing by that area of the show, and only appreciating it once someone has pulled out a nice piece like this to feature in a garden setting. Scott has the good eye for such things and has purchased some terrific garden art.

forced bulbs

A pet peeve for many is the practice of forcing things into bloom for the display gardens. Sorry, guys…this is Fantasy Gardening. You want realism? Go to the arboretum.

hpso booth blooms

Or…you purists could head straight for the HPSO booth, where you will find cuttings and plants only in their natural state. Here you see a table populated by blooming branches. This time of year it is dominated by witch hazels, daphne, a few viburnums and sarcacocca.

hpso berries

Another table was devoted to berry bearing branches. Everything in the HPSO booth is labeled with the proper Latin name, there are informational signs like the one you see here, and there are reference materials and live bodies to help you answer your questions.

overview of booths

Here’s an overview of the exhibit floor, filled with booths selling everything garden related, from plants to artifacts to wine (that last may be a stretch, but believe me: after a few hours tromping around the show, you’ll be ready for a glass of wine).

vendor display with truck

A few of the vendors shun the commercial route and go for a more inspirational approach.

red metal arches

My mission is usually to cull the display gardens for ideas. These red metal arches led into one of the gardens.

excess rules

Where you really have to look past the excess to pick up on the good ideas lurking here. Speaking of excess: see the weeping lights in the weeping tree to the left? They also morphed into different colors! And that blue tree in the back? That is no lighting trick…the tree is painted blue.

sculpture with up-lighted trees

But in a quieter part of that same garden, the up-lighting silhouetted the bare trees against the dark evergreen background. I could maybe use that idea.


Fire pits were big this year. This one is surrounded by seating formed by steel mesh crates topped with pillows. The pavilion in the back is topped by an eco-roof in a pattern of squares. If we wanted to get nit-picky here, we might mention that a) the seating has no opening for entry and those crates look pretty heavy b) plants rarely consent to retain a geometric pattern c) pillows left outside will soon sport muddy footprints, or worse. But again, I remind you that this is Fantasy Gardening.

50s theme

One display had a 50’s theme, right down to the outfits worn by its attendants.

recycled BBQ

It’s a fire pit! It’s a fountain! It’s a repurposed Weber!

in-ground tank with bass

It’s unusual to see a stock tank in-ground…more unusual to see the fish be large-mouthed bass.

metal flower fire pit

This flower cut out of shiny metal and used as a fire pit lit up a dark corner in a dramatic way.

chair uphostered in succulents

Did you notice that the back of that chair is upholstered in succulents? And look at the cutouts in the plywood floor.

closer look at floor cutouts

Here’s a closer look at those floor designs: some filled with moss, others with daffodils.

flooring and edging

I liked the use of simple 4 x 4’s for edging and the on-end branches as a transition zone (perhaps an alternative to the more commonly seen pebbles?)

pool house

I’ll close with my favorite of the display gardens. The little house on the left is cantilevered over the pool. Tricks of lighting emphasize the already flaming vine maples (or something…I didn’t check) in the back. Small trees with bright bark were a popular trend, as were Edgeworthias (foreground, right). The whole area of the display gardens was dimly lighted, the better to emphasize the use of dramatic lighting.

And there you have a rundown of the things that caught my eye. I’ll be cruising your blogs to see what others thought. If you have strong opinions, I hope you will voice them (in your blog, or in the comments). It makes it all more fun, don’t you think?

a couple of little parks

near the convention center

I may have to take a closer look at this little park when I go to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show this weekend. It’s near the convention center, covering one block. I love the large cement orbs and the serenity this space brings to a hectic, high-traffic part of the city. By the way, I will be in the HPSO booth Friday evening, so if you happen to be at the show in the 4:45-7:30 time slot, stop by to say “Howdy”, won’t you?

NW park 27th & Upshur

I lived in NW for many years, but this little park escaped my attention. Those low walls surrounding the plaza would be a perfect perch for brown bagging it.

closer look at the sculpture

Here’s a closer look at the whimsical sculpture that anchors the plaza. I’m delighted by these little surprise parks tucked here and there around the city. I’ll share whenever I find a new one…hope you will too.