Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nursery Visit - Wind Dancer Garden

Wind Dancer Header
Fall is here at last in the PNW...and that means one of my favorite plant groups, the grasses, are really shining! This spring, at one of the zillions of plant sales I attended, I met Carolyn Kolb, owner of Wind Dancer Garden, located just outside of Salem, OR. She mentioned that I should visit the nursery in September, when it's really looking it's best. I kept that little invite in the back of my head all summer, and after the Fall HPSO plant sale, decided to make the trek down to Salem for a visit.

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As we pulled into the almost-hidden driveway, I knew this was a garden I could spend hours in. Full of grasses and complimentary perennials, it was amazing! There were lots of winding gravel paths throughout the garden, which made for great vignettes. The curved paths are great at creating a sense of "discovery", you are always wondering what is around the next corner.

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This large patch of Sedum 'Angelina' makes me realize how effective they are in a larger mass...especially growing around objects. I resolved to be patient while mine fill in over the next year or two...I WILL resist the urge to plant more...they WILL spread and fill in!

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While, in general, I'm no fan of tropicals, I found their inclusion here to be very tasteful and fitting. These dark-leaved Colocasia were particularly fetching...and given my love of dark-leaved plants, may be something I "mimic" in my own garden someday ;-)

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This photo illustrated one of the things I love about grasses, their scale! There is something magical about feeling dwarfed by plants...especially when you consider this growth all occurs during a single year!

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Carolyn offers a design service, focusing, of course, mainly on grasses, and judging by the design of the gardens at the nursery, I'd say she has a good eye and a deft hand!

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I can't quite figure out if this is a variety of Deschampsia or Molinia...either way, love that gauzy veil of flowers in gold.

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I adore this pairing of two of my favorite Pennisetum, 'Red Head' and Pennisetum spatheolatum. The contrast in shape and size are just amazing, subtle and dramatic at the same time.

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I noticed that the Miscanthus purpurescens at the nursery were coloring up far sooner than mine at home are...can't wait for them to start their fall transformation...there's a reason it's also called 'Flame Grass'!

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Another photo showing that Grasses and Sedums were made for each other!

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I love how well the warm color of this Crocosmia works with the grasses, and offers a contrasting form to the more ubiquitous, flat-topped sedums.The amazingly textural bloom stems of Pennisetum spatheolatum never fail to delight.

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Another vignette showcasing the wonderfully varied forms and textures of the grasses on display.

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Of course, there are plenty of non-grass plants in Carolyn's gardens as well, like this charming and vibrant little Clematis.

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Past the main display gardens are some of the more "private" gardens, including this arbor which leads into a veggie garden.

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Gotta love the pumpkins!

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I always forget just how beautiful some veggies can be, like these cabbage.This path leads around the back of the house to even more gardens!

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I loved this little vignette with the birdhouse surround with a patch of very charming...and love the sympathetic tones of the colors.

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I'm always jealous of gardeners who have ponds...especially one as nice as this!

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The gravel path around the house, hugs the side of the house. Love the mix of perennials and shrubs through this area. The Rudbeckia and Verbena bonariensis were putting on quite a show the weekend we visited...such a great, classic fall combination.

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More Rudbeckia...I was also impressed by the tasteful placement of various pieces of art and sculpture in Carolyn's garden...very nice.

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A parting shot of the garden, showcasing one of my faves again, Pennisetum 'Red Head'.

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Now for the good stuff...the shopping!!!!! I could barely contain myself once I entered the retail space of the nursery. It's espcially difficult as I'm running so short of space on my tiny plot...and I was keeping in mind that for every plant I was going to buy, that meant more of the hell-strip I would have to tear up this fall...which is not the easiest of many of you know.

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I'm a firm believer that fall is the BEST time for planting grasses, for many reasons. Of course, they are easier to establish, not being stressed with heat and drought...and the cool weather promotes root growth, rather than top growth. For me, it's also a bonus that many of them are at their full (for the moment) I have a much better idea of their scale in the garden. It's far too easy (at least for me) to cram things too closely together when they are little more than a sprig in a pot in the spring. When they are 6 feet tall, however, it gives me greater appreciation about how they will eventually settle into the space.

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Bouteloua, Calamagrostis, Pennisetum, Panicum, Schizachyrium...I want them all!Although I'd ignored them in the past, the fall color of the Molinias brought me back again and again.

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I finally got a good look at one of the newer grasses that were introduced this season, Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'. I have been curious about seeing these all season, so was really excited to see a bunch of them together, to get a better idea of the effect they would have in a garden setting. All I know is that I'm definitely including them in my plans for next year's garden additions.

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Can you believe THIS is the retail part of the's practically a mini-meadow!

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Again, this grass, Molinia 'Moorhexe', kept drawing me back...I was positively smitten by those pumpkin-edging-on-scarlet stems.

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Molinia 'Moorhexe'Pennisetum macrourum 'White Lance'
So, did I actually buy betcha! Of course, I got a few of those Molinia I was eyeing...their striking form and color really struck me. I love their extremely rigid, upright form...such a contrast to my many mounding perennials. One of the big reasons I went to begin with was to get a few more Pennisetum macrourum. I had purchased one at the Fall HPSO sale a week or so earlier, but really wanted 2 more to make a decent-sized grouping. I've been in love with this grass since seeing it used en masse at the Montreal Botanical Garden last fall...can't wait to see them fill in next year...with those elegant waving wands of blooms.

Pennisetum Redhead
Pennisetum 'Red Head'
The last grass I got was this Pennisetum. It's very similar to a grass I already have in the garden, Pennisetum 'Moudry', the bonus of 'Red Head' is that it blooms MUCH earlier. In my garden, 'Moudry' just started blooming a few weeks ago, 'Red Head' is supposed to come into bloom months can you not love that!

Of course, the sad part of this post is the poor grasses I had to leave behind. I've been working on garden plans for the rest of the hell-strips around the house for a while, and now have a very clear idea of which grasses I'm going to I know that a future trip to Wind Dancer Garden is on the docket for next year :-)


  1. What a fun day you must have had. I love the name of the garden too, use to have a dog by that name. :) It is sure lovely.

    Look forward to your posts with your new designs and gardens.
    Cher Sunray Gardens
    Goldenray Yorkies

  2. What wonderful grasses Scott. I wish I had room for some of those beauties. The planting of Echinops is just beautiful and so are the Rudbeckia's. Thanks for the tour.

  3. What a great tour! I can only say I wish I was there. I bought two Molinas at Northwind Farm and only realized when I got home the tags were gone. They are a shorter variety and I only hope I can identify them at some point.


  4. The best kind of nurseries are those with a garden attached. And that one has some inspiring planting as well as an appropriate name. I see several grasses to go on my ever increasing wish list. My favourite is the same as you,Scott,the pennisetum
    "Red Head". I've never managed to keep them over the winter so it would have to be put in a pot. Lovely post full of exciting ideas!

  5. Hi,

    Omg, I want all of those grass... I so wish there was something similar here!

    So many beautiful grasses, I too am smitten... I've been looking for some that are fully hardy for the UK but most grasses on sale around here are half hardy or frost hardy and with the past two winters having very deep snow (deep for the UK that is) they just won't survive.

  6. Does Crocosmia normally bloom this late out where you are?

  7. Thanks for the great tour. Really enjoyed seeing all those lovely grasses.

  8. Great really must have been in heaven! Glad to read you might be trying a colocasia next year, the really are fabulous.

  9. Lucky you to have such great nurseries. Beautiful garden, beautiful photographs.

  10. Wonderful tour! I really enjoyed it.

    As for the strip, I say tear it the **** out! :) So much more fun to plant more interesting things. Mine has a mass planting of sedum 'acre' that I love... Loved the rock photo btw!

  11. Cool post - a mega-post! Don't know why it took me so long to visit, but now you are on my blog roll and I won't miss a thing.

    Grasses - what a selection, not to mention how they are used so effectively. I get a laugh out of seeing Blue Grama - it is everywhere once I climb up in elevation some or find a more level place!

  12. What a fun trip, Scott and your selections look wonderful. I hope they give you years of delight.

  13. Fantastic cover of the nursery! What joy in the full cycle of gardening! Planning, Preparing, Purchasing and Planting.

  14. Man, you need a MUCH bigger garden in order to really go wild with a grass garden. And so do I! Wouldn't that be the coolest thing? Loved your post -- so many beautiful vignettes.

  15. Pant... pant...! I think I need some fresh air! How beautiful, stunning, marvelous... I enjoyed the colors and lights in the pics you took, the meadow in the nursery has some colors you can print it and nail in some wall. But what about Pennisetum spatheolatum? I'm speechless. And Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'? And the molinia you bought?
    The grass you're not sure about is deschampsia caespitosa and probably the green one on the right is a molinia.
    Ok, I'm going out now. For a cigarette. Or maybe for a yoga class...


    PS: that red head is very close to my magic, why bother? and don't you think that p. macrourum is pretty weedy indeed?!

  16. I'm seeing grasses in a new light - really effectively planted. Gorgeous photos. The cabbages look really impressive too. Thanks for sharing, Kelli

  17. I've been catching up on your last few posts. I ran out of energy for the garden world during the last half of summer. I didn't do anything, except water. Did you have an exceptionally dry August like we had in Seattle? It has rained twice in September & the ground is still very dry. I don't think I'll be able to do any planting for another few weeks. I love those Platycladus orientalis. But yours was definitely in the wrong spot. They get fat with age, like us all. Did you inherit that? Your photos are stunning always.

  18. Nothing, NOTHING beats grasses in the fall. Not even sugar maples, and I say that having grown up in MN. Lovely photos--I can imagine a prairie, or ripping up all the lawn within 10 miles.

  19. You certainly captured the grasses (and all the other plants) in all their glory! I could seriously spend hours looking at your blog. Your photos and the presentation are wonderful!

  20. I am very impressed with the use of grasses in that garden, and the variety. It looks like a very special place. Your photos are wonderful.

  21. Scott, what a lovely series of photos. What a great time of year it is in this beautiful garden. All those textures and fall colours!

    Thanks for sharing them.


  22. Wow, what a great nursery ! I look forward to visiting there on my next trip up to Oregon.The photos are beautiful--grasses are so photogenic !

  23. Sooooo Jealous. (Just kidding, great post!)

  24. What a heavenly scene! I love grasses too and used to collect bouquets of grass with my 80-year-old mentor Mr Palm when I was a kid. He used to go on and on about how no one understood how ornamental they were except for Frank Lloyd Wright. How I wish Mr Palm could see us now! I dream of owning a large garden someday just so I can have a meadow. I don't say that often though because it sounds SO funny.

  25. Your amazing photos made the individual plants more wonderful, particularly those weeds, oh how heavenly. They garden really look great but maybe they would only be practical in climes with four seasons. Here, they will make future chaos, as the seeds will disperse wide and managing them later will be a big problem. You are privileged in those areas.

  26. I may have to find room for M. 'Moorehexe' at some point. I have M. cearulea 'Variegata' and M. 'Skyracer' already and love both of them. Great to see a pic of Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' as well, I'm hoping to get a hold of it next season.

    As far as Colocasia, I love the look of the new variety 'Black Coral' - look it up it's amazing!

  27. Stunning pictures. The Blonde Ambition is definately on my wish list for next year.
    I would have gone CRAZY in that place. You're so fortunate to live out that way-the garden centers and gardens seem to really be something special. All we have here is the "same old same old"!

  28. Hi, This is a wonderful tour around a lovely garden, thank you for sharing it. And with a nursery, eek! :)
    I'm really struck by the pennisetum spatheolatum - already have p. macrourum on my seedlist for next year, fingers crossed. Some wonderful plants and plantings there, stunning.

  29. Sunray: It's a great nursery with a BEAUTIFUL garden!

    Lona: I know...isn't that patch of Echinops just great!

    Gatsby Gardens: Eek...sometimes they are just tagged "Purple Moor Grass", only time will tell :-)

    Janet: Absolutely, there's nothing like seeing the plants growing in a real you a much better idea what to expect from them. 'Redhead' is just gorgeous...totally getting more someday!

    gwirrel: I want them all too!!! Oh, and room to put them ;-) I grew up in Zone I know well your hardiness woes :-(

    Tom: You know, there are so many varieties, the bloom season is pretty long. In my garden, they were just finishing up at the time I did this tour...not sure what variety these were.

    Greggo: :-)

    Sheri: You're welcome...glad you enjoyed it!

    Danger Garden: It was amazing...Norm and his mom were totally baffled about why I was so excited...hahahahaha!

    James Golden: We really are lucky here in the PNW...spoiled, actually!

    Wife, Mother, Gardener: Glad you enjoyed it! I agree about the parking strips...I can't wait to get rid of them completely!

    Desert Dweller: Thanks for visiting...gotta love those grasses, just took a trip back home to was amazing to see some of my faves (Panicum, Schizachyrium, Sorghastrum) growing along roadsides!

    Grace: Totally...let's just hope I can find spots with enough sun to make them happy ;-)

    Jenni: Totally...a gardener's delight!

    Pam/Digging: OMG...from your lips to God's ears ;-) I would LOVE a bigger plot...maybe someday!

  30. Altroverde: hahahahaha...indeed! Thanks for the ID...I couldn't quite decide once I was looking at the seemed so obvious in person...but when I can't quite see the whole plant, I tend to question things :-)

    Why I Garden: Grasses definitely benefit from a good design...when used well, they are hard to beat!

    Jordan Jackson: Oh yes...all I did for a few weeks there was run around with a hose, watering things I'd foolishly planted in the middle of summer! Luckily, the rains are here now and the pressure is off!

    Benjamin Vogt: Hahahaha..well said! I really can't get enough of grasses, every time I look at a section of the garden that seems lacking, I realize that grasses would make all the difference in the world...then I just have to find the right one :-)

    Plant Postings: Thanks so much...glad you enjoyed them!

    Sweetbay: Totally...seeing the garden really gave me some ideas about how to use different grasses together.

    Diane:'s so glorious to see gardens in that great Autumn crescendo, isn't it!

    ks: I hope you make it out's a jewel of a nursery!

    Liza: Hahahaha...understood ;-)

    Ann, aka Amateur Bot-ann-ist:'s great to see grasses finally getting the attention they deserve (although I sometimes feel they are under-used in PDX). I couldn't agree more...a meadow sounds ideal!!!

    Andrea: I think they definitely lend themselves to a four-season garden, as you said...the cycle of growth/decay is their greatest strength!

    The Plant Geek: I'm totally going to find a space for 'Blonde Ambition'...seeing it at the nursery made me a believer :-) I've just now discovered the Molinias (beyond 'Skyracer', which has always been a fave of mine) and can scarcely believe the wealth of possibilities there :-) Good to know about the Colocasia...I'm going to be looking into them next spring :-)

    Sue: I hope you find some 'Blonde Ambition"...if you can't find it locally, I believe you can order it from the High Country Gardens website. We definitely are lucky many amazing nurseries!

    hillwards: Pennisetum spateolatum is a great plant...can't say enough good things about it...I have one that I bought last year that just did great this year...and I want more!!! The owner of Wind Dancer said the Pennisetum macrourum I bought were only 2 years old, started from I think you'll have good luck...and not have to wait too long for amazing plants!

  31. As I am skipping back through posts I missed I am glad I didn't miss this one! What a great place. The curved pathways and the lovely contrast of color and texture in the! I love having grasses in the landscape. My fav right now, well ONE of my favs, is the Schizachyrium scoparium, great colors of blue and reds right now. Think I will get some more of it to create a full river of grasses along the driveway.
    Watch out for the Moudry, mine reseeded quite a bit in Virginia...finally dug it all out.
    I haven't seen the Pennisetum macrourum 'White Lance' before...I like it. Looking forward to some reports of your purchases in their new environs!

    1. Hi Janet...yes, these comments are late! I realized, suddenly, that I've neglected to go back on some of these posts! I'm with you on the Schizachyrium...they are one of my faves! I'm actually going back to Wind Dancer in a month or two because they're getting in a shipment of a new Schizchyrium called 'Blue Heaven', it's supposed to be STUNNING! Good to know about Moudry...which I've been considering replacing with the earlier-blooming 'Red Head' anyway :-)

  32. Wow. You are a born writer - and photographer. And as a former Gannett garden writer, I've seen a lot of both. And the plants! Yellow clematis and dicentra - Oh my! Little bluestem and knautia - that little red jewel I've mean meaning to buy for the longest time - Woo-hoo! And chocolate eupatorium - one of the plants I was saddest to leave when I had to move from my old house two years ago. Great post! I'll definitely be back for more! - Lisa from Your Easy Garden.

    1. Wow...thanks, Lisa...that's a huge compliment! I'm with you on Little Bluestem and Knautia together...they are a match made in heaven! If I had to leave behind my Chocolate Eupatorium (actually, I guess I have in past moves), I'd replace it with a new one :-)

  33. You're right, the grass is shinning and it's wonderful. It looks so relaxing. Thanks for this wonderful photos.

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