Saturday, March 17, 2012

Garden Shinanigans in Oregon Part 4: Doing the Dance of Oaks

It has been a real plant guys trip as we next hit up the boys over at Dancing Oaks Nursery.

I've heard so much about this nursery, purchased many of their plants and I met Fred last season at a North American Rock Garden Society meeting where I purchased some awesome things! So, it was really quite a treat to be able to see (AND SHOP at) their remarkable nursery and extensive display gardens. I also got to meet Leonard, a true plant fanatic!

Dancing Oaks guys
From left to right: Fred Weisensee, Matt, Leonard Foltz, and Erik soaking up the sunbreak and chatting plants before we raided their nursery and scored some wonderful plants!

Dancing Oaks 2Much like the O'byrnes, they have excellent bones and structure in their landscape. They have this stunning plot of land in the Willamette Valley that's just so rich and it really is an excursion to get to, but WOW.

Dancing Oaks 7
Though most of the wonderful herbaceous collections they have are dormant and marked only by blue flags to denote their location, the paths and the existing structures really help define what really is a remarkable garden that is really diverse in a way that people can re-create a lot of the elements in which they integrated in their landscape. With a basic bedding scheme like this simpled edged in stone, you can create an extravagant woodland garden just PACKED with treasures!

Dancing Oaks 8 focal point to pondThey also use conifers effectively and I love the simple stonework of the formal path that leads to a future focal point, which, I believe is a grand stand of HUGE Gunnera manicata aka DINOSAUR FOOD!

Dancing Oaks Hellebores with Bamboo

There were more Hellebores to be found and this patch growing amongst a grove of crook-stemmed bamboo was quite attractive.

So, luckily, Matt drove and brought his work truck so we could get as many plants in as we could. And boy did we PACK IT!!!

Dancing Oaks packing truck
Complete with the O'Byrne's Hellebores, We strategically loaded it up! No, we weren't done loading yet! LOL!

Dancing Oaks Matt packs it in
As determined Matt was to get EVERYTHING in, he had to leave behind a few plants that Fred and Leonard would graciously bring up to Washington on their next speaking/plant selling engagement.

Dancing Oaks 6
So, I thought this was their house. Nope. It's actually their guest house. Freakin' unbelievable.

Kitchen at Dancing Oaks Nursery
They warmed up their guests with tea and baked goods in a most awesome kitchen that I'd want someday. Look at that open space and the island could also serve as a demonstration platform to give talks, lectures and even film a television show!!!

At Dancing Oaks Nursery with the guys
Fred kindly took this photo of us, but the group photo of all of us turned out blurry. I always strive to capture moments I want to remember, but all the more reason to return and pay the guys another visit and buy more plants for myself and client projects.

Dancing Oaks rainbow 2

We were then treated to a nice rainbow that graced the nursery and garden making for a wonderful ending to a most awesome trip.

This is a definition of a true, retail NURSERY. It's not a garden center where you can find all your tools, composts, gloves, pots, fertilizers, aprons and other crap like that. It's an actual place where plants are grown, propagated, evaluated and truly take centerstage. OH, BUT THEY'VE GOT SOME OF THE BEST ORGANIC EGGS EVER!!  $3.50 for a wonderful dozen of assorted eggs, which Matt taught me how to fry them "over easy". Hhahhaha

Good times...good times....

Lecture and auction to commemorate a young artist and plantsman

The Northwest Perennial Alliance holds an annual event in memory of a young plantsman who tragically died before his time. Each spring, they bring in a speaker for the Kevin Nicolay Memorial Lecture and this year, they are holding an auction for one of his original works.

This is a very rare watercolor he painted of an Aricula Primrose that will be auctioned off tomorrow, March 18, at the lecture

I was reading his obituary online and was shocked to learn that he passed away when he was only 33 years old due to complications with AIDS. He had accomplished so much at such an early age and had so much natural talent that he nurtured along with his collection of very rare plants to be one of the best American botanical artists. He was from Ohio, but lived in New York, London and Victoria, BC and headed to Seattle in 1983. His paintings and sketches are in museums and have also appeared in numerous horticultural publications. Nicolay was also a teacher sharing his knowledge to garden clubs and classes at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

He was also one of the founding members of the Northwest Perennial Alliance, an organization that helped start my own horticultural career. From their website, here's a bit about the scope of his work and the impact he left.

"Many of the plants Nicolay drew were taken from his own  garden on Queen  Anne Hill, which featured masses of old rambler roses, rare  perennials  and small flowering shrubs. The late Rosemary Verey, the famous   British gardener and writer, called it “the best small garden I’ve seen  in  America.” She dedicated her book, “The American Man’s Garden”, to  him."

I've attended several Kevin Nicolay Lectures since I joined NPA years ago and they always seek out wonderful speakers. Sadly, it hasn't been well attended the past few years, but still, it's great that they honor such a remarkable young gardener and makes me wonder what our gardening community will be like if he were still around.

This year, the lecture will be given  by Greg Rabourn, who is a radio personality who you can hear on NPR on Tuesday mornings here in Seattle.

March 18, Sunday

Judith Jones will help NPA auction an original Kevin Nicolay painting!
Followed by: Greg Rabourn's Pacific Northwest Native Plants & Perennials At Our Fingertips

Doors open at 12PM for MsK Native Plant Sale

Auction & Lecture at 1 pm
NPA members $5/Nonmembers $10
Center for Urban Horticulture
3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle

I won't be able to attend this year's lecture because of a prior commitment, but I'm donating some very rare plants for their traditional raffle/door prizes!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Garden Shinanigans in Oregon Part 3: ID'ing the Unknown (Like, I'm suppose to know?)

So, here's a little clip I took of the guys wanting to show me something at Ernie and Marietta's garden at Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene, OR.

This is just a hint of what happens when plant geeks get together and spend time in the garden.

Matt is always pushing me, I swear!

At Dancing Oaks with the guys

Next installment is where this pic was taken. Visiting the guys at Dancing Oaks Nursery!!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Garden Shinanigans in Oregon Part 2: Not just Hellebores

After the drool fest and automatic debiting of our bank cards, we strolled the grounds of Ernie and Marietta's garden and, again, were treated to something truly special and awe inspiring.

NWGN grass focal point

"Every great garden as great bones" Penelope Hobhouse once said. Their garden is certainly no exception to this statement; it's actually a fine example of it. In the dead of winter, a garden doesn't need to be flat and barren. Having structural elements and shapes, focal points and other objects which direct the eye make for a successful landscape. I included this photo with the guys in the rear so you get a sense of depth and scale. You see a pedestal as a focal point with a fluffy Carex that makes for a simple yet, very effective focal point and on the right, notice the strong, bold anchor that a columnar cypress creates.

I was taught that if you take a black and white photo of a landscape, you can better define these elements and you can really see what holds a landscape together. It's not just the pretty flowers, lush foliage, the color, the texture of it all, it's these bold lines and shapes that make for the foundation of a landscape.

Notice how the rare winter sunlight illuminates the form, structure, and then you get a bit of texture enhanced as the contorted branches become more evident. Notice the small mounds made up of conifers and, in the previous photo above, ornamental grasses.  With curving paths and simple rocks staggered about, it makes for a pleasant stroll during a cold, but bright winter's day.

Here are some more captivating scenes from their garden:

Look at this remarkable composition: the height achieved in the background with vertical elements set off by the bright winter foliage of a yellow-needled shore pine Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'. And in the foreground, you see their simple rock work with a few mounds of evergreen ornamental grasses and dwarf conifers.  THAT'S ALL YOU NEED and you can have a fabulous garden that looks this great year round!

NWGN Yucca with frosted bananas
Even with the remaining foliage of the hardy banana, this photograph illustrates another simple yet effective composition with the variegated yucca flanked by heaths and heathers. In a way, you almost don't notice how ugly the banana is at this time of year.

One of my favorite features of this garden is their spectacular bamboo screen. Meticulously maintained so it doesn't take over all of Eugene, OR, it is a remarkable sight to see. I love the contrast of the aging, multi-stemmed tree against the fine texture and vertical lines of the back-lit bamboo and having the empty containers there

NWGS Container anchor
Very important to have  a rest in the garden, both physically with the bench in place anchored by a large container as a "companion", but also a visual rest from everything else that's going on. It may be winter, but there are still a lot of things to see so these wide paths play an important role.

Levels are important especially in these large beds so there's a sense of depth, scale and each plant specimen or planting scheme is

NWGN Yuccas and Euphorbias

Hellebores in the garden 2
And naturally, the woodlands are inundated with Hellebores!!
Hellebores in the garden with conifers in back Hellebores in the garden

Friday, March 2, 2012

Garden Shinanigans in Oregon Part 1: HELLEBORE HOOPLA

Discussing LinderaA recent trip to Oregon offered many wonderful moments and much needed down time with close friends and colleagues. My buddy, Matt Berberich, a fellow landscape professional up in Port Townsend, met up with me for a plant guy's weekend joined with one of this friends and former classmate at Longwood Gardens, Erik Petersen. Erik is an avid plant collector, specialty nurseryman and recently has taken a position with Oregon Garden, a botanic garden in Silverton, OR.

I sort of spearheaded the trip down to Oregon with the main objective that we pay Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene a visit to see (and yes, buy) some of their fabulous Winter Jewels® Hellebores!!! I've blogged about their Hellebores each winter and a visit to their gardens about two years ago. I can't say enough about how incredible their plants are: the well designed and maintained their gardens and what wonderful people that they are.

Hellebore Shopping
 Hellebore Plate at Northwest Garden Nursery
Despite the most erratic and sometimes miserable weather we endured during the drive and even upon arriving at the garden, they seemed quite busy with a flurry of Hellebore enthusiast looking over their remarkable nursery stock turning each nodding flower up to observe and admire the exquisite colors, shapes. and forms of what really are the jewels of the winter garden landscape.

Matt checks out black and white hellebores        . 

Helleborus 'Apricot Blush' 1
Apricot Blush strain
Double Painted strain

Helleborus Rose Quartz 5
Rose Quartz strain

Helleborus 'Amethyst Gem' 2
Amethyst Gem
Helleborus 'Harlequinn Gem' 1
Harlequin Gem

Helleborus Jade Star 1
Jade Star strain

Helleborus Cherry Blossom reverse (2)
Cherry Blossom strain reverse
Helleborus Cherry Blossom group
Cherry Blossom strain

Helleborus 'Painted' 1
Painted strain
That was just a handful of the many wonderful selections they have. Marietta kindly let me through their breeding houses to check out the next generation of Winter Jewels® and boy was I in for a treat. TALK ABOUT BEING LIKE A KID IN A CANDY STORE!!

Helleborus 'Peppermint Ice' in stock house close up

Helleborus 'Golden Sunrise' in stock house 2

Helleborus stock house with double purple close up


Helleborus Rose Quartz 2

It was such a treat to be allowed to see these creations. AND EVEN MORE TEMPTING to select a few to take home!! So, Matt and I selected a few: he picked out some for a client, for his own garden and a special selection for his partner, Rebecca. I shopped for myself to have a few of these plants grace Landwave Gardens. This was our opportunity to meet with Ernie and Marietta and just share in the joy and love for plants and gardens. I'm always inspired and end up just feeling good when I visit!

Checking out

Next on this series, a tour through their amazing gardens!!!