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!
Just magic! I definitely need to pick up some of these at some time.ReplyDelete
If you're not growing Little Bluestem, you are missing out on an amazing little grass. The Fall color is fantastic! (I grow 'Blaze' and seedlings from it -- not sure if they come true or not, but seems like it).
Totally, Alan...I have a few Little Bluestem, including those newly-purchased 'Blue Heaven'. I have 'The Blues', which, sadly, I may have to get rid of next year, as they flop horribly for me, just as they start to bloom :-( I just bought 'Blaze', mostly to see if it stays more upright. I agree about their fall color...it's pretty unbelievably amazing!!!Delete
I kind of want to take you to Disneyland now. I PROMISE THERE WILL BE SNACKS THIS TIME.ReplyDelete
Hahahahaha...I just have to be smart enough to actually eat them! I guess you can lead a horse to the water... ;-)Delete
Oh, I just loved this love letter to ornamental grasses! So many to choose from, and all so fabulous! You've captured the colors and ornamental qualities of OGs so well in your wonderful pictures. What a great nursery. I think I would go mad there trying to choose.ReplyDelete
It's fabulous, Alison...and yes, I spent quite a while wandering around...trying to narrow down my choices!Delete
Wow I'm not even a huge "grass gardener" and you've got me wanting to grab my keys and hit the road. The two different pictures of Pennisetum 'Red Head'...lovely!ReplyDelete
Now, when are you going to visit Disneyland?
Hahahahahahaha...I think I may be slightly too old for Disneyland ;-)Delete
Drool. Absolutely beautiful. I've never seen the Bouteloua before, love those sideways flowers. I have the first couple of flowers on some Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah' that I sowed in the spring - by next year they will hopefully have some serious impact. Some small Andropogon scoparious 'Prairie Blues' also sown in the spring are starting to think about changing colour too - again I have high hopes for them next year (already I love their blue grey summer foliage).ReplyDelete
I think your garden is going to look amazing as those grasses mature...they have AMAZING fall color...and just add so much texture & movement to the garden...not to mention great winter interest :-)Delete
WOW! Grasserific! That was like the best sales pitch for grasses I've ever seen--your photos are oozing with beauty. I can't wait to see more pics of your Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven'.ReplyDelete
OMG...I literally take dozens of pics of 'Blue Heaven' every day...trying to capture it's beauty...especially since now that fall is upon us, it seems to be changing color every day!Delete
That first picture just blew me away.ReplyDelete
It's like Disneyland? Where are the people dressed up as cartoon characters?ReplyDelete
Seriously, those pictures are just beautiful. Growing more and different grasses is definitely on my to-do list. I have a few species, all but one native, but there are so many beautiful grasses in those pictures it's hard to know where to start. There is only one genus I know that I don't want, though - Miscanthus.
Well...not quite...but the roller coaster was pretty good ;-)Delete
I have a few Miscanthus...but they are definitely not my faves...one really is enough. There are just so many other amazing grasses out there, why settle for something that everyone else already grows, right!
BIG WOW ! I`m a grass freak , too, and that place and those picsa are just wonderful ! Thanks !ReplyDelete
Randy...you'd lose your mind here...so many grasses you just cannot find anywhere else!Delete
Beautiful photos. Even I'm tempted by those grasses!ReplyDelete
Hahaha...then my mission is complete ;-)Delete
OMG!! That was fantastic! Everyone needs to read this blog and see these gorgeous photos to really understand and appreciate ornamental grasses! What a treat!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Riz...it's a fabulous nursery & garden...and I really think anyone who is even remotely interested in grasses needs to go. We are so amazingly lucky here in the PNW, not only with the amazing range of plants we can grow, but the astounding variety of nurseries that feed our obsession ;-)Delete
Holy freaking crap, Scott. My blood pressure is way up, thanks to your plant-lust-inducing photos! Stunning! A friend of mine was just showing me her 'Burgundy Bunny' Pennisetum that she got a Wind Dancer a few months ago. It's on my to-die-for list. I must have it. The plant you bought, Little Blue Stem, is a favorite of mine too.ReplyDelete
What a fun trip you must have had. And this time of year is perfect with grasses at their best. What do you make of all this sunshine? Wonderful isn't it?
OMG Grace...you really MUST go!!! I know, I'm totally kicking myself for not getting at least one 'Burgundy Bunny'...but now I have another reason to visit next year, right ;-) Maybe we can get a group together and go all together :-)Delete
The quality of your photography leaves me speechless; it is that superb.ReplyDelete
Awww, thanks so much, Allan...glad they were up to snuff :-)Delete
I'm a grass person too. Wish I had your photo skills to go with! My most recent purchase was in fact Panicum 'Cheyenne Sky'.ReplyDelete
OMG...I'm so jealous!!! I seriously think next year I'm going to get some 'Cheyenne Sky', they are sto utterly stunning.Delete
This is just unadulterated plant porn. I'm practically foaming at the mouth over your photographs and descriptions, Scott! There is no alternative but that you WILL write and illustrate an article on your favorite grasses for Pacific Horticulture. You make every one of these grasses so compelling!ReplyDelete
Hahahaha...from your lips to the Editor's ears, Jane!Delete
My, you were waxing poa-etic today! And what a great name for a nursery heavy on ornamental grasses..."Wind Dancer". Says it all. And you're right up my alley with how well the meandering paths weave between displays and prominent uplifting of certain species.ReplyDelete
Just no Karl Foerster for me - they are everywhere that all our native grasses should be...blue grama, sideoats grama, cottontop, etc. Can't wait to see the Little Bluestem I used at my old office space...incredible in winter!
Ba-dum-bum! You are actually so right, David...as useful as 'Karl Foerster' is (and I have my fair share of it, believe me) I sometimes wish I could wave a magic wand and replace all of them around town with different grasses, Panicum, Little Bluestem...you name it! I think a lot of people aren't interested in grasses in their own gardens because they don't know that there are more than the 2 or 3 options you see in every commercial landscape these days.Delete
Grasserific is a great way to put it! No one photographs grasses as well as you do, Scott! Anyone not convinced of their merits before visiting your posts is sure to be won over! Incredible!ReplyDelete
Thanks...so glad you like the post...and I can only hope to convince everyone out there of the merits of grasses :-)Delete
Great post and photos. How fortunate you are to have such nurseries near you. You're right about Calamagrostis brachytricha being shade tolerant. I took a few up two years ago and dumped them under a shady tree--never even planted them, just left them on top of the ground, and I noticed a few days ago they are blooming. So they're abuse tolerant too.ReplyDelete
Haha...I love that! It's good too, because mine are going into a particularly awful spot where nothing else seem to really want to grow.Delete
It looks like an incredible garden, and I'm sure she is delighted at the incredible photos you got of the various grasses. It's clear she's pretty great at gardening and planning, and that you're a master with the camera! Now I need to go out and buy myself some grasses, I guess!ReplyDelete
It's a really fabulous garden & nursery...and I totally look forward to visiting each fall...it's such a treat :-)Delete
Wow! Gorgeous garden and your photographs are always amazing! Having been to Disneyland, I think this place looks much more interesting!ReplyDelete
Hahahaha...I agree, long lines and kiddie rides don't hold much appeal for me these days ;-)Delete
Oh Scott, what gorgeous photos. You could put this posting into a book, singing the praises of ornamental grasses. The lighting on these photos is outstanding. Love the Cheyenne Skies photos, both of them. I have Shenandoah ....might have to find a place for Cheyenne Skies...wow!!ReplyDelete
Since we had rain yesterday, I am moving a couple of my grasses. Panicum Dallas Blues isn't good where it is and the Schizachyrium has reseeded, so the babies need to be moved to new locations.
Oh Janet, you'd love 'Cheyenne Sky'...it's beautiful! We are supposed to get rain today or tomorrow...and I'm chomping at the bit to move some plants around too.Delete
Wonderful creative shots. Lovely post too and yes would not mind to add a few in my garden.ReplyDelete
You should definitely go for it...and this is the perfect time for planting!Delete
Scott, I so appreciate the posts you've done on grasses. I've gotten such a good education! And, to top it off, I've been inspired by you to add more grasses into my garden designs. Wind Dancer is a definite must visit for me soon! Cheers, JenniReplyDelete
You really MUST go, Jenni...it's the best source around for unusual grasses...and Carolyn is super-sweet and a great resource if you have questions on which grass is best for your needs :-)Delete
So much beauty, so little space...ReplyDelete
It's so true...so VERY true!Delete
IF I had been saving for a trip to Disneyland, I would be immediately be diverting those funds to a trip to this nursery...now where is that pennies jar?ReplyDelete
hahahahahaha...you're a woman after my own heart, Ricki ;-)Delete
I love your photos of the grasses. This looks like a beautiful place to visit too.ReplyDelete
I definitely felt like a kid in a candy store :-)Delete
Wow, it's like I drove south four hours but never had to leave my kitchen table and coffee cup. Stunning photos as usual Scott.ReplyDelete
Hahaha...glad I could be your e-travel agent for a while, Tom ;-)Delete
Wowzers...every picture...so captivating. Love it all....all....everything!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Heather...glad you liked it!Delete
I love this blog, I love grasses and the photo's are magnifique!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Zem...there's nothing quite like grasses, especially at this time of year :-)Delete
Thanks for sharing these shots, they are amazing. The blend of various colours is truly something and gives the garden a summery look.ReplyDelete
It really does have the look of a lush meadow, doesn't it...I kind of just wanted to set up a picnic :-)Delete
Wow! Soo Enjoyed your photos, Scott! Wish we had a nursery like that up here! Thanks for Sharing!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Paulette...yes, we're quite fortunate to have such a nursery nearby!Delete
That nursery is like grass heaven and you brought home a little bit of 'Blue Heaven'. Very nice.ReplyDelete
Ha...very true! You'd love it there...so many amazing grasses to choose from :-)Delete
Wonderful picturesque photographs. I am greetingReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Zielona...and thanks for visiting!Delete
Nice post for sure. I looking for some ID on Panicum. I planted Panicum Dewey Blue two years ago and the seed heads have a rusty colored seedhead. Last fall I planted two plants of the same variety (according to the label), these plants have identical foliage color however the newly planted plants have a more blonde to gray seedhead. I'm wondering if they might be Dallas Blues? Any clue?ReplyDelete
Hmmmm...could be...but I think (and I could be wrong) that 'Dewey Blue' is more arching...while 'Dallas Blues' is more upright to vase-shaped...and quite a bit taller. Also, I think the blooms of 'Dallas Blues' are a pinky-purple when they open...do you have a photo?Delete
That place is full of captured light, isn't it? Or maybe it's really all about the skill of the photographer? Either way, I love your posts about this nursery. BTW, I've got a few Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' in my garden this year, and they are pretty cool. You definitely need to try it.ReplyDelete
It really is...it's a photographers paradise, Pam! Glad to hear 'Blonde Ambition' is living up to it's reputation...I'm already plotting on a way to find space for one here :-)Delete
There are so many ornamental grasses available, I don't think a lot of people realize that. I love the fluffy seed heads on the pennisetumsReplyDelete
It's so very true...you really only see a handful of varieties in gardens (and in nurseries, for that matter), but there is a HUGE amount out there...you just have to look :-)Delete
Gorgeous grasses and even more gorgeous photography!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Deanne...glad you liked it :-)Delete
what an amazing nursery. look at all those grasses, just inspirational and the photography is amazing, it really makes the plant "pop" :)ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Michael...grasses always inspire me!Delete