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.

Kalanchloe belhariensis

Elephant Ears

When I brought in the tender plants, the Elephant Ears, Kalanchloe behariensis surprised me. I bought it as a tiny thing several years ago. It had been sharing a pot with several other things that had begun to straggle. When I cut back its scruffy pot mates and took off the few lower leaves that were less than happy…Voila!

Elephant Ears up close

The texture of the huge leaves reminds me of a mohair couch my gram had years ago. It’s impossible to pass by it without caressing them. I hope they can stand up to all this love. I wish I had the photographic skill of some of you so you could see how remarkable this plant truly is. I think it deserves a name…any ideas?

Pop on over to Digging and let Pam introduce you to others with a passion for foliage with Foliage Follow-up. It happens on the 16th of every month, the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

here’s what November looks like

leaves caught in cherry tree

This strikes me as the epitome of autumn: leaves settled in the crotch of the ancient cherry tree.

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’

As the leaves begin to fall from the Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’, the quirky, taloned branches form a tracery through which the colors of the season can be glimpsed.

kousa dogwood

The Kousa dogwood is doing its bit as it rises from the golden arms of the Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’.

Callicarp ‘Profusion’ and Nandina

Not to everyone’s liking, but reds and purples is one of my favorite combinations: Beauty berry backed up by a common, low-growing form of Nandina.

Joe Pye Weed

Even in death, the Eutrochium nee Eupatorium (grrr) pleases my eye…

Eutrochium silhouettes

especially as seen silhouetted against a leaden sky.

Anemone ‘Honorine de Jobert’ silhouette

Speaking of silhouettes, how about Anemone ‘Honorine de Jobert’? The petals having fallen neatly away, we are left with perfect round balls.

Anemone balls

Here’s a less dramatic shot of Mme Jobert. The balls are shiny and green and provide a long-lasting element for late season bouquets.

‘Henry Eilers’

Some things are struggling to make a showing before frost hits. I don’t think ‘Henry Eilers’ is going to make it. He will be moved to a sunnier spot next spring.

Kniphofia multiflora

Kniphofia multiflora is giving Jack Frost a run for his money. I’m pulling for him.

hardy Aloe

I’d given up on this hardy Aloe long ago, but here it is, putting in its first appearance after hiding underground for a few years. Moral of story: never give up.

Phlomus russeliana

I never tire of the architecture of Phlomus russeliana. I will not cut these seed bearing stalks of pom poms until spring, and the whorls of leaves will hang on through the winter.


I spy the hips of Rosa ‘Dortmund’ through the stalks of Joe Pye. Have any of you made culinary use of hips?

Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

I leave you with a peek at the last flowers holding on: Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’. Where once there was a profusion, only a few intrepid die-hards remain. I love this season, how about you?

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!

RED ALERT! one day left to see cacti & succulents

I went to the show at Portland Nursery, Stark Street, on Friday so I could report in plenty of time for you to catch the show. Well, guess what: I got so sidetracked talking to the experts and admiring the plants that I left my camera behind on the checkout table. Sorry about that, but, as usual, Loree was way ahead of me with a post about last weekend’s sale at the Division St store. As everything was for sale, I am sure she got to see many plants that were no longer available by the second weekend. Still, I saw plenty that was new to me, so here goes:






This one was big: maybe 8-10″ across.


Not all the guys at this party were especially good looking, but they were all interesting.




Can’t say I’m crazy about the mylar table covering, but I can get past that.


some of them almost seem to invite petting, but that would be a big mistake.


I was drawn to the pink shades.


And also to the very pale specimens.


And no, this is not my haul (she noted wistfully). I discovered, too late, that I did not have a card on me.


So I was only able to scrape together enough coin to purchase these two little beauties. The one on the right is Gasteria nitida v. armstrongii. The other one had no label, but when I asked, it turned out to be a Gasteria as well…a name totally unfamiliar to be up to now. Providence was looking out for household harmony, as I don’t know where I could have overwintered all of the plants I desired. I learned a good deal about plants I already harbor from the enthusiasts manning the show and was invited to join the Oregon Cactus & Succulent Society and/or drop in on a meeting any time. You can still catch the tail end of the show on Sunday, July 22, at the Stark Street Portland Nursery.

Euphorbia wulfenii gets a haircut

Euphorbia wulfenii in spring

When they are good, they are very, very good…

wulfenii at its worst

But when they are bad, they are horrid! I am something of a timid pruner, but when Euphorbia wulfenii reached the above state, I had nothing to lose. I cut it back hard, with the expectation that I was performing stage one of a removal project. Guess what? It bounced right back, looking bigger and better than ever this spring.

pile of E wulfenii prunings

So this year, when the blooming stalks began to discolor, I went right after it. The pile of debris with the wheelbarrow behind it for scale, is what was removed from the plant.

the core of E wulfenii after haircut

Each blooming stalk was cut back as close as I could get to the core of the plant, where a tangle of old wood can be seen.

E wulfenii trying to adjust

And here’s the wulf…reeling a bit and trying to adjust to his new look. I have confidence that he will snap out of it and start strutting his stuff in no time.

Fiskars and Lysol

At a Joy Creek pruning seminar, Mike emphasized the importance of keeping blades clean between cuts. The milky sap of Euphorbias leaves no doubt. In fact, I had to let a heavy spray of Lysol soak in for several minutes. then wipe and repeat three or more times. Finally, before putting them away, I gave them a good going over with an SOS pad and a spritz of WD-40. I have handled these plants before with no ill effects, but this time…despite long sleeves and gloves, I found myself with Popeye-proportioned forearms. Three days later, the itching and burning are epic still, but the swelling has subsided. I don’t know if it was the timing of the project, the scale of the operation or what, but I will never again scoff at cautionary tales. Next time (and yes, of course there will be a next time…I’m a gardener) heavy duty gloves and shirt fabric will come into play…Oh, and be sure to resist wiping your brow while engaged in this activity. I am not a pretty sight just now.

iris chronicles

mahogany & blush

The mahogany in the foreground is the last of my tall Siberian irises to bloom. The blush, behind it, is the first, but since it is atypically long-blooming, the two bloom cycles overlap to create this stunning combination.

‘Beverly Sills’ (?)

A closer look reveals the orange beard, a little surprise that sets off the blush tones perfectly. I would be happy to find more, besides Alstromeria, utilizing this color combo. This may be ‘Beverly Sills’, but there is a problem with names when it comes to irises. I ordered a collection and was careful to label each rhizome as it was planted. Only one, a white, came true to the picture in the catalog.

a white (’Immortality’)?

It may actually be ‘Immortality’ or it may not, but by any name it is stunningly pure white, opening from an ice blue bud. The collection was also billed as reblooming, and I have not found that to be the case. Oh well…


‘Champagne Elegance’ was supposed to have a pale blue/lavender tint to the standards (upright petals). Guess I will just call it champagne with a little c.


I’m calling this one brass, because the shading of yellow, brown and white give it a shining, brassy look.

two-tone purple

I have lots of these two-toned purple irises. I suspect that after having been tampered with to produce ever more unusual colors, the iris wants to revert to this basic color. I have no concrete proof of this theory, but how else am I to explain the preponderance of purple in a bed that began with many colors represented?

small, deep purple

The first iris to bloom in my garden is this smaller, deep purple bearded, in early May. Now, only a few of the tall ones are left, but the month and a half-long parade has kept things lively. I try to divide just one or two clumps per year, as described here. I use the fence line as a kind of testing ground, to see what colors I will get and where they might work in other beds. The fans of sword shaped leaves make a nice statement, and contrast with other foliar textures. When first transplanted, the blooms can be top-heavy and pull the whole rhizome out of the ground when they fall over. I would suggest staking the bloom stalk in the first year. After that, the rhizomes will begin to form a mat to anchor the flowers. A hard rain can still knock some over: perfect opportunity to cut them for an opulent bouquet to enjoy indoors. They can also be used to great effect singly, in Ikebana style arrangements. The scent is quite delicate and non-perfumy.

I will not be ordering any more irises through the mail, and why should I? We have some of the best growers right here in the Pacific Northwest. Scott did a post on his visit to one of those growers. Go there for more iris love.

hawthorne tree love

aralia tree

I have always admired this house in the Alphabet District of Northwest Portland. It has a classy, sophisticated paint job and a lovely yard. I fell for one of those Aralia trees back in the days when I was working for Max & Hildy’s, but couldn’t justify the $400 price tag. I visit this one every once in a while, and it is, in some ways, better than owning one.

hawthorne tree in bloom

On one of these visits, I just happened to hit upon a day when the hawthorn tree at the corner of the property was in full, glorious bloom.

tree from across the street

The house is three stories, so can get an idea of the scale of this tree.


As I was poking around, trying to get a good angle on the tree, I began noticing the other plantings doing their part to set the stage.

more foliage

front walk


down the street

Things were looking pretty nice down the block as well.

in the other direction

There is a soft spot in my heart for hawthorn trees. My Gram had a row of them in the parking strip in front of her house when I was growing up. When new people bought the house, their first act was to chop them all down. Perhaps, had they waited long enough to see them in bloom, the hatchet might have remained safely tucked away in the toolbox (where, in my humble opinion, it usually belongs).

shopping: Concentrates, Portland Nursery, Means, Cistus (whew)

What would you do if you awoke to no electricity? Our first thought was “coffee”, so we headed for The John Cafe in St John’s (sorry, Din, but we wanted breakfast, too). This place whips up a mean omelet, the proportions of which are plenty to split and fuel two people to face the day. That accomplished, we decided to take a trip to Concentrates to check out their new digs and pick up a few things. This was a long drive out into the suburbs of Milwaukie, where they gained a lot of space but lost the funky vibe that was a big part of their charm. Well, the next thing to spring to mind was “plants!”. If we took a particular, circuitous route we could justify winding up at Portland Nursery on Division.

Cryptomeria japonica spiralis ‘Granny’s Ringlets’

Richard and I have very different taste in plants…which is OK, because we wind up with twice as many whenever we go shopping together. I love everything about this Cryptomeria japonica spiralis: its color, its form and especially its common name, ‘Granny’s Ringlets’. It will eventually reach ten feet, but right now it is no more than a foot high. My kind of gardening is a waiting game. Most everything I am attracted to would be far too expensive to purchase as an adult.The thing is, so much is going on in the garden that it hardly feels like waiting…more like “gosh, look how much THAT has grown while I was paying attention to something else.”

Populus tremuloides

R, on the other hand, is all for instant gratification, so it is a good thing that his taste runs toward the less exotic in plant material. He was after something that would soon provide some shade for the front deck. Remembering the effect of a grove of Quaking Aspen shimmering and golden in late summer at Black Butte, he sought out Populus tremuloides. I quite agree that it will be lovely to have, so maybe two heads really are better than one.

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Gold’

Next stop: Means Nursery. We had agreed that a focal point was needed just as one turns into our drive. There is lots of gopher activity in that area, so several things had been tried, but failed…including a hawthorn tree that survived for six years before all of its roots were chewed away to leave the above-ground part lying on its side, dead and helpless. That was when the plan was hatched to encase the root balls of all new plants in wire cages before planting. That post is about four feet tall, but Italian cypresses grow fast, so ‘Swane’s Gold’ should make its presence known in good time. It will be a nice introduction and segue into the several regular deep blue ones that provide exclamation points throughout our landscape.

R was eager to get started planting, but I had only had my appetite whetted. Off to Cistus I headed.

the jungle look

First, a stroll around the grounds for inspiration. It’s a jungle out there, which suits me to a T.

unknown phormium looking good

On an overcast weekday with intermittent showers, I had the place to myself. By the time I was ready to call for help, I had forgotten to ask about this thriving Phormium. Clearly these guys have the magic touch.

monkey puzzle tree

This image will be stored away for when I start to worry about overplanting.

Araucaria araucana

Several Araucaria araucana have been woven into the landscape in close proximity to their neighbors. My monkey puzzle tree looks positively lonely by comparison.

trilliums with gravel mulch

Gravel mulch sets off trilliums every bit as nicely as woodland duff…never would have thought of it.

Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’

Hanging over the path, these flowers caught my eye. When i found them in the sales area they turned out to be Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’.

‘Rana Creek’ close-up

If you look closely, you will see that Rana is armed with very dangerous thorns.


I have always given my cardoons plenty of elbow room, but I like the way it is crowded into a border here.

rusted metal cattails

I like the restraint of just a sprinkling of garden art as we close in on the shopping experience.

metal fern cut-outs


Always the plants steal the show, especially when raised to new heights in a dramatic red container.

Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’

Just when I was beginning to think that I could take Echiums more or less in stride, I stepped into the greenhouse area of Cistus and there was thisEchium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’. Words fail me.

Yucca aloifolia ‘Spanish bayonet’

I bought this Yucca aloifolia, which I plan to put in the large green glazed pot (unusual for me to have an actual plan in mind…maybe R’s ways are rubbing off a little).

Buddlieja globosa

Buddlieja globosa will live in a pot for a while, with Sedum ‘Angelina’ spilling over the edge. Its eventual size is nine feet, and those knobby balls turn bright orange and are fragrant. Once Angie fills in a bit, I’ll show you this interim composition. I also came home with a couple of charming sedums that do not photograph well, at least with my limited skills. By the time I came across Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’, I had blown my budget and could only justify a four inch baby. Visit The Danger Garden and scroll through this post if you want to see ‘Night Heron’ as it should be seen.

One would think that with all the visits to Cistus, and all the posts, it would begin to seem repetitive or boring, but it seems to be an entirely different experience with each visit. I know I will keep going back for more. Would you like to come along?

may day! may day! incoming!

bouquet of lilacs

I just rang your virtual bell and left you this fragrant bouquet of lilacs to celebrate May Day. Old fashioned flowers are appropriate for an old fashioned tradition. Pay no attention to the giggling in the virtual bushes.

old lilac tree

This old lilac tree came with the property. I have been pruning it, but timidly: trying to let vigorous new shoots replace gnarly, tired branches. The short but heavy snowfall of this past winter used a heavier hand, breaking off large chunks. The tree is liking its new haircut and flowering more generously than ever.

lilac blossom close-up

The flowering is powerful, but brief. With several years of trial and error (mostly error) we finally got it right. The last picture shows the right moment to cut some branches for indoor enjoyment: a few of the individual florets have opened, others are still in bud. Cut too early or too late, they will go limp almost immediately. Fill a vase with lukewarm water and crush the ends of the cut branches (this is one of the few times I get to break out the meat tenderizing mallet). An arrangement on the dining room table fills the entire house with its delicious aroma. Same for the one on the front deck. We have been enjoying them for almost a week. I wish that I could waft that scent your way. Instead, I will send you over to Lelo in NoPo for another scented post.

Oh, and Janet’s Plant Sale is this Friday and Saturday 9-3 at 2090 SW Crest Drive in Lake Oswego (97034 if you need to Mapquest). Prices start at $1, and I can vouch for the gardenworthiness of her plants.