A few weekends ago, my friend Heather (Just a Girl With A Hammer) and I visited Wind Dancer Garden outside Salem. It's no big secret that I'm obsessed with grasses, and that I LOVE Wind Dancer. For me, a trip there is like a trip to Disneyland. *Disclaimer...I've never actually been to Disneyland.
Right as you pull into the driveway of owner Carolyn Kolb's home & nursery, you can tell this is someone SERIOUSLY in love with grasses...the display gardens are an inspiration, to be sure.
Around every corner, you'll find inspired vignettes like the above...made even more glamorous by the rich, warm light of this particular September afternoon.
Carolyn has a deft hand at garden design...her gardens just seem so "right", they feel utterly at home in their setting, so in tune with their surroundings. At every turn, different grasses and companion plants...there is such a feeling of verdant contentment here.
Even the retail area is full of beauty, as here with layer upon layer of grass blooms.
Now, while most nurseries these days will carry at least a few grasses, Wind Dancer carries a MUCH greater variety. You'll be hard-pressed to find ANY sort of Molinia at a general-purpose nurseries...here, there are at least half a dozen!
From a distance, the reddish panicles of Panicum 'Cheyenne Sky' are a rosy haze, up close, they are like tiny metallic beads. There has been so much effort in breeding red-tinted Panicums in the past few years...and this is one of the most striking new varieties I've seen.
The seed heads of Panicum 'North Wind', however, are fuller and more golden. 'Northwind's claim to fame is its rigidly upright habit...it grows in an amazingly tight, vertical clump...so great for narrow spaces.
I just love how they almost-black seed heads of Pennisetum 'Red Head' stand out against a wash of the finer-textured Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'
The same plants, but from the other side of the bed. Carolyn says that this Bouteloua is one of he best-selling plants this year, and it's easy to see why! I'm totally trying to figure out where I can squeeze one in next year.
Here is one of my favorite new grasses. You may remember my gushing post on this grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis earlier in the year. Of course, I got it here last spring :-)
For some reason, Clamagrostis brachytricha has been one of those plants that I've wanted for years, but just never seemed to actually GET. This time, one of them came home with me. One of their biggest selling points, aside from those stunning blooms, is that it is one of the few true grasses that can cope with shade.
Of course, you have to have a few Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'!
Believe it or not, this photo doesn't even come close to showing the luminous beauty of this Schizachryium (Little Bluestem). I believe this variety is 'Blaze', which is so amazing in fall for it's rich, brick-red coloring.
I'm always amazed at how much variation there is between varieties of plants, even those in the same family. These Miscanthus blooms, for instance, are much finer and more delicate than those I usually see around town.
For a more sheer effect, you can't go wrong with Molinia.
Aside from their airy seed heads, one of my favorite aspects of the various Molinias is the coloring of their stems. Here, you can see warm gold...
...here, a bit of coral and plum are mixed in...
...and here are others, flushed beguilingly with burgundy.
Futher along, various Panicums (Switch Grass) set the area ablaze with Autumn color.
The warm red tones of Panicum 'Shenandoah', still, after all these years, one of my favorite red-tinted Panicums.
Of course, the newer red Panicums are stunning as well, such as this 'Cheyenne Sky', with its amazing mix of reds, oranges and purples...all the colors of autumn embodied in a single blade of grass.
Seeing all these grasses used in different situations and varied lighting gives a great idea of how they will work in your own garden. Take Pennisetum 'Red Head', above. When backlit, the blooms glow with a rosy-red light...
...but when seen front-lit, they are nearly black!
There is so much amazing variety in these grasses...how can you not love the delicate wands of Pennisetum spatheolatum...
...or the jewel-like blooms of the various Panicums?
Can you resist the soft bottle-brush texture of Pennisetum 'Red Head'?
Even the retail section of the nursery seems like a prairie in miniature!
Nothing captures light and motion in a garden like grasses!
And the color...rich, warm, earthy color!
So, if you live around Portland and you like grasses, you own it to yourself to take a trip out to Wind Dancer...and now is the best time to see both the grasses themselves and the marvelous display gardens!
Oh, and the last grass I purchased is my favorite of all...but nearly impossible to capture well in photos. Its Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven'...and the picture above doesn't even come close to capturing its beauty. It's the most delectable mix of purple/pink/orange/red/blue/yellow at the moment...like the colors of every sunset in your memory distilled into one plant. How's that for descriptive hyperbole!