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.

come to a birthday party


I met Doug and Joyce many years ago. They were remodeling a barge into a floating home and we were doing the same with a decommissioned tugboat. We were moored side by side at the tip of Tomahawk Island when it was still undeveloped and wild. Such conditions breed close relationships that stand the test of time, even when later contact is sporadic and widely spaced. Indeed, the last time we visited them in the hills above Sheridan, they were living in tents and logging the land to build their house.

clay sculpture

Doug is an architect/furniture builder and Joyce is an artist/teacher, so artistic touches wait around every corner…like this clay sculpture with its arms raised in celebration.

andiron plant stands

I can only imagine how great it would be in high summer, but the stripped down winter face allowed little touches, like the repurposing of a pair of andirons to hold a metal pot, to stand out.

the wrap-around deck

The wrap-around deck has pergolas, roof lines and decorative elements to keep it interesting.

save the trees

A cutout in the decking accommodates a tree growing close to the house.

whimsical handrail

I didn’t take many indoor shots because the party was in full swing, but here’s a whimsical handrail.

huge jade plant

A huge jade plant filled an alcove.

jade with lights

It was dressed for the season.

Doug in his shop

Here’s Doug in his woodworking shop.

carving on a panel in progress

A peek at some of the carving on a panel he’s working on. Every door in the house is its own miniature landscape.

the four daughters

I failed to get a picture of the birthday girl, but the four daughters are like versions of Joyce. They regaled the crowd with song and dance and silliness back there with the tree in the window for a backdrop. It is such a joy to reconnect with old friends. I hope you got to do some of that during the holidays.

a visit to Idaho

Kath & John’s house in Orofino

Our drive to Orofino ID was a forced march. As usual, we got a late start and finally arrived in the dead of night. Next day dawned bright and clear and I headed out with my camera to take a look around.

veggie garden with deer fence

This is a place where the deer must be taken seriously. Hence the elevated vegetable garden surrounded by a sturdy fence.

closer look

squash blossoms

The neighbor up the hill has horses…which accounts for the vitality of the veggies-on-steroids.


beans and squash

Vegetarian Nirvana, and the start of some mighty fine meals for the rest of us, too.

barn plantings

Outside the fence, plant selection must take the deer into account. Barberries, opium poppies and iris are pretty successful. Bishop’s weed covered this area along the side of the barn for years, until some of the herd developed a taste for the stuff and wiped it out in one short season. Maybe they could rent them out?

Clearwater River from front yard

The beautiful Clearwater River rushes by the front of the house.

Allen pond

Plus, there is a small pond on the property.

chickory and thistle among grasses

Nature does a swell job of landscaping on most of the land. Here, chickory and thistle punctuate tall grasses with splashes of blue.

our apartment

We were visiting R’s sister Kathryn and her husband John. Here is the entry to the lower level of the house, where we had our own apartment. They should be careful about making guests so very comfortable.

main entry

This rather grand entry was part of the latest remodel. They bought a little, nondescript house on a blank piece of land when they were first married and have been remodeling, in stages, ever since. With this last round, the house almost lives up to its “location, location, location!” Now they’re starting on the barn.

falling down barn

On the return trip, we got an early start so that we could dawdle along. The hay inside looks to be the only thing holding up this falling-down barn. When we pulled up, a couple of horses were nibbling through the openings.

old fashioned windmill

Up the hill from the barn (one of many old barns that are sinking back into the landscape) sits an old fashioned windmill…

new-fangled windmills

while looking down the road, you can see the new-fangled versions marching across the hillsides. I love these things. I know many people consider them a blot on the landscape, but they are so slim, so aerodynamic, so space-agey. To my eye, they take very little away from the scenery. If you squint, you can barely see that they are there.


I don’t know what this guy was doing here amid the cows, horses, sheep and buffalo, but he definitely got our attention.

ghost town?

Ghost town? Movie set? What do you think?

lavender fields forever

Just on the outskirts of the charming little town of Waitsberg we spotted a lavender farm. I would have called it Lavender Fields Forever, but they went for Lavenders R Us, and yep, that R was backwards on the sign.


But a cheesy sign could not detract from undulating seas of lavender, interplanted with a few xeric companions like Echinops & Achillea



Oh, to be a bee.


unknown cedar

Can anyone identify this shrub we found as we bid the lavender fields goodbye?

cedar close-up

A Close-up provides a little more to go on.

Walla Walla

When I was in France, many years ago, everyone knew about Walla Walla WA because of the Pogo cartoons. Remember “Walla Walla wash and Kalamazoo”? Now it has a new claim to fame as the center of a rapidly growing wine center. In a town full of old brick buildings, this one faced with glazed tiles stood out.

roadside stand

And then we were back in Oregon. Time to stop at a roadside stand to pick up some Hermiston melons and Walla Walla Sweet onions. The last leg of our journey took us through the Columbia River Gorge, where my puny photographic skills had no chance of capturing the majesty of the scenery. Great trip! Good to be home!

Rowena Plateau wildflowers in early April

The giant HPSO plant sale, renamed Hortlandia with a nod to the Peabody winning (WWTT) TV series ‘Portlandia’, which lifted its name from the sculpture on the Portland Building by Michael Graves (I know, I know…way more info than you need) has come and gone. Here is why I missed the first day: Saturday.

Bob n Laurie

Our good friends Bob and Laurie are avid wind surfers. Since the Columbia River Gorge offers some of the best, they built a house in Mosier to be closer to the wind, the sun and the river. We have had a standing invitation to visit, and when that Saturday dawned bright and sunny, off we went.

rock outcropping

If you have been following this blog at all, you know that I never met a rock that failed to capture my heart. The Gorge, then, is pure bliss. After visiting over snacks, we headed for Tom McCall Park, also known as Rowena Plateau, where many trails lead from the road to the cliff overlooking the river.

the Columbia River beyond the cliff

In the springtime, the main attraction is the parade of wildflowers strewn along the path. I made an effort to track down the names, with only moderate success. There is an informational board at the trailhead, but I was not equipped to take notes. Maybe next time.

Lomatium columbialum

Columbia desert parsley, or Lomatium columbialum



Later in the season, when the balsamroot comes along things get showy and bold, but now one must look closely to spot the dainty blossoms sprinkled here and there.

grass widow

The hand is there to steady the ‘Grass Widow’ for the camera, but it also gives you an idea of scale.

Fritillaria pudica

Yellow Bells, or Fritillaria pudica

So that, my dears, is what kept me from the first day of ‘Hortlandia’. Next, I will fill you in on what led to my second day of truancy.

bamboo garden birthday

Yesterday was R’s birthday. I asked him what he would like to do, fully expecting a visit to the Portland Art Museum and/or galleries around town. But no, he wanted to take a trip out to Bamboo Garden in North Plains. One of these days, we must take this little drive on a beautiful day…which yesterday surely was not.

driveway of Bamboo Garden

But no matter what the weather, coming to this 20 acre bamboo haven just outside Portland, Oregon is a treat.

bamboo forest

Here’s a little closer look at that bamboo forest behind the fence that greets you as you drive in.

bamboo fence

Of course the fence is fashioned from bamboo canes.

outdoor hanging bamboo sculpture

…just the first of many imaginative uses in evidence. This woven piece hanging in the trees is probably close to 25′ long.

bamboo doorway

Pass through this doorway and you will find more…

bamboo sphere sculpture

like this woven sphere hanging in a greenhouse filled with an assortment of potted bamboo

hanging tillandsias

and even some Tillandsias.
bamboo pod sculpture

On the warehouse side hangs this pod sculpture woven from bamboo

poles of all lengths and diameters

Just in case you can’t wait for your own bamboo forest to produce the materials you need, that warehouse is chock-a-block piled high with poles of every length and diameter.


Plus a propagation area with tables full of tiny starts just getting underway.

our guide

Once we had met our guide and described to her our needs.

electric cart

we were invited to hop aboard one of the electric carts, and away we went…

clump of bamboo

past clumps

mixed bamboo border

along mixed borders and through forests

pond and greenhouses

all the way to the bottom of the property, where extensive greenhouses overlook a large pond.


The signage is clear and informative, but hardly necessary because our guide kept up a running commentary, with stops along the way so we could take a closer look at anything that tickled our fancy. We were after timber bamboo, and we wanted something that would spread quickly (we’re no spring chickens, after all). Since we have managed to kill our last two trials, we opted to take home only one tub of the recommended Phyllostachys vivax. We left armed with two care sheets and a lot of verbal support for our efforts. If all goes well, we will definitely be back to give P. atrovaginata a try. Nicknamed “incense bamboo” the canes smell just like lemongrass when chafed.

Sasa veitchii

Sasa veitchii is another that will haunt my dreams until I can get back there and claim a pot of it to introduce as ground cover. Couldn’t have had a better birthday if it had been my own.

heat wave – Rooster Rock

Rooster Rock is a huge park just outside Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. I can’t believe that I have lived here most of my life and had never been there. It was not for want of trying: the place fills up pretty fast on weekends and holidays. When our friends suggested a picnic in the middle of the week it was one of those “Aha!” moments.

the Columbia River

This is the view from our picnic spot looking down at the river (the hills rising on the other side are in the state of Washington).

vista lookout

Looking the other way, across the parking lot (see! no cars!). Despite temperatures in the mid-nineties, we had the place nearly to ourselves except for a gaggle of nude sunbathers and the odd dog walker. For a truly scenic outing, one can take the old Columbia River Highway that winds past a number of waterfalls and to the top of that cliff in the distance, where there is a picturesque lookout with an incredible view of the gorge. Silly me: I failed to take a picture of the rock outcropping that gives this park its name (it looks like a giant rooster’s tail).

late afternoon

After a refreshing swim, we settled down, with our wine and all sorts of good things to eat, to watch the sunset.

later still

It just got better and better,

full-on sunset

The haze from nearby forest fires does wonderful things for sunsets…reminds me of sunsets seen from Griffith Park in Los Angeles when I lived there in the 60’s. A guilty pleasure, but it is beautiful.

Sauvie Island Farms

Usually, a drive to Sauvies Island (just minutes away from downtown Portland) means a visit to Cistus Nursery, a nature hike or a picnic and a swim. This time, I wanted to check out a farm stand I had heard of. If you go left off the bridge and keep straight rather than turning right onto Reeder Road, begin watching for:

white fences andcars

pristine white fences and many cars on the right.

entry with tykes

The tykes playing around the entry sign look tidy enough here, but by the time I left, their shirts and faces showed their appreciation for the berries and other goodies.

everything you need to “pick your own posies”

Before heading out to the fields, a stop at this station provides buckets, seacateurs, check lists and pencils: all of the supplies needed to “pick your own posies”.

road through the fields

The fields stretch as far as the eye can see.


So if you don’t feel up to the trek, or you just want to show the kiddies a good time, a transport is readily available (with hunky teen boys driving the tractors).


Who needs a cutting garden when fields of zinnias (among many other types of blooms) are offered up for 25 cents a stem?


I think repeat visits will be a must. I see a bouquet of sunflowers in my future, once the zinnias pass their prime.


My mission was to get peaches for a pie. Store-bought peaches are almost always a disappointment. Here, one is primed with information about what to look for in the perfect peach: a deep red blush, a slight give to gentle pressure, and no resistance when plucking the fruit with a tug straight down (twisting tends to break the skin).

peach trees

The trees in this orchard have been kept small, so that it is easy to wander among them to choose and pluck fruit at its peak of perfection. I have visited many farm stands on the island, most often as an afterthought on the way to some other destination. This farm is well worth a planned trip with nothing else in mind…though you might want to meander up the road a bit to check out the lavender farm, or venture out Reeder Road to the Herb Farm.

Here’s what I plan to do with the peaches: arrange slices in a hot pre-baked cornmeal crust; pour over a mixture of 1 c sugar, half c flour,1 tsp ground cinnamon, quarter tsp each salt and ground nutmeg and 1 c whipping cream; bake at 400 for 40 min and chill well before serving.

a weekend in the high desert


I am leading with this photo because I just read a post over at Lost in the Landscape where James has a few things to say about dead trees as ART. I happen to think (and I think James would agree) that Mom Nature has done a pretty good job of turning this dead tree into ART all on her own. We spent the weekend at Sunriver, a resort near Bend, OR. It is a kind of wilderness version of Disneyland, where families can access entertainment for all ages, and an event like the wedding that brought us here can achieve the iconic status that will burn itself into the memories of all who attended.

great hall

Just get a load of this room, where the reception took place. The “Great Hall” was a part of the fort that was later renovated as one of the key buildings giving the resort its character. It would be hard to top this as a setting for a wedding reception.

horseback riding

But we had lots of free time, during which we chose to explore the outer limits of the resort. The stable offers many levels of equestrian adventures. In that field behind the horses we spied many ground squirrels. Overhead, the red tailed hawks were perusing the menu. I did not happen to see one zeroing in on his dinner, but R claims that he saw one of the hawks soaring overhead with something dangling from its beak. It’s one thing to watch these things on “Nature” and quite something else to experience them first hand.

old horse

This old horse looked like it would be about my speed, if we had not been committed to proceeding on foot.

grasses and Indian paintbrush

We did, at least, stick to the horse trails, which took us off the paved paths for bicyclists and into areas where wildflowers like Indian paintbrush flourished.

more Indian paintbrush

Backing up a little bit, we can see the grasses and shrubs where the paintbrushes have chosen to proliferate.

pine forest

The pine forests have none of the underbrush typical of the other side of the mountains.

evidence of beavers

We might not catch sight of all of the creatures living here, but there is no mistaking the signs of beavers working the woods.

great meadows

The meadows are composed of many different grasses. It is hard to capture the undulating beauty of these seas of nodding seedheads, shimmering in the breeze.

wildflowers and grasses

Some of the wildflowers and grasses are familiar, but others are peculiar to this region.

bioswale landscaping

Where landscaping has taken place, there is a heavy reliance upon grasses, day lilies and willows. I think they must water these bioswales with some regularity to keep them looking this lush.

the “Great Hall”

The wedding took place on the lawn, cocktails on the terrace, and then we retired to this magnificent room for dinner and dancing. The site was originally a fort, so when, in the sixties, it was reconfigured into a resort, the log structures became the main lodge and the great hall. I’m repeating myself here, but the first photo showed the chandeliers, while this one features the spiral staircase built around a huge tree trunk. What a romantic setting for two young people to join hands and set off into their future.

more oddities on the road


Excuse the poor exposure. The light was all wrong, but I just had to share this guy with you. My preference is for plants that already have personality. Still, the personality that has been imposed upon this plant did stop me in my tracks and make me dig around for the camera.