Sunday, May 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Dancing Oaks Nursery owners Fred Weisensee, left, and Leonard Foltz sample a few petals of the edible flowers available at the nursery southwest of Monmouth. The pair pride themselves on having exotic and unusual plant species available, many of which come from all over the world.
August 09, 2011
PEDEE -- At the end of a 2-mile stretch of gravel road, surrounded by wheat fields and forest, sits a plant lover's paradise.
Dancing Oaks Nursery, located southwest of Monmouth, is the product of a 16-year experiment to bring the exotic and unusual to the Pacific Northwest.
The nursery was started in 1995 by owners Fred Weisensee and Leonard Foltz. They built Dancing Oaks on part of a forest plantation Weisensee's family owned.
"Leonard had been working at a nursery," Weisensee said, explaining Dancing Oaks' origins. "We knew we liked to have a garden and collect plants. ... It was an opportunity to bring plants from all over the world to this part of the valley."
Weisensee and Foltz say their love of plants stems from childhood, when each developed a fondness for tending to plants.
"Some people just have more of a natural inclination," Weisensee said of gardening.
Years after beginning the venture, Dancing Oaks stands as a gorgeous testament to the pair's passion for and knowledge of anything horticultural.
Origins of the plants in their gardens span continents, from South America, Africa and Australia to right here in the Pacific Northwest.
Weisensee said Oregon has a suitable climate for a surprising number of plants. If a plant can thrive in a Mediterranean climate -- dry summers and wet winters -- it will likely grow well in Oregon.
Weisensee said most plants in their extensive gardens were survivors of a relatively recent ice age, so, he said, weathering cooler temperatures is written into their DNA.
In Oregon, however, some of the southern hemisphere plants behave a little differently. In the summer, they are in full foliage and during the winter -- unlike in their native regions -- they may die down to the ground only to spring to life again when the temperatures rise.
The result of having such unusual combinations is striking.
In this garden, banana trees and bamboo share space with native evergreens. Flowers common in Oregon emerge next to flowers native to Afghanistan.
Gathering the incredible varieties from continents across the globe was an adventure in itself. The pair's vacations don't seem to be breaks from their normal life as much as plant gathering expeditions. They have traveled to places as far afield as Chile, South Africa and New Zealand to find and bring home what is now featured in their gardens.
Foltz will head to New Zealand later this year on another scouting trip. He said he prefers to go hiking in wilderness areas to see what the plants look like in their natural environment before taking specimens home.
Foltz said Dancing Oaks provides the same experience for plant shoppers. They have full-grown specimens on display in the gardens. Dancing Oaks employees are also able to tell customers how to care for the plants they purchase.
The chance to stroll through a jungle of plants makes the browsing experience at Dancing Oaks unique.
While meticulously planned to accentuate contrast in flower colors and plant textures, Dancing Oaks doesn't appear "landscaped." The plants and trees are allowed to grow naturally and in groupings to demonstrate the conditions in which they thrive.
This isn't a place to grab a box and quickly pick flowers and potted plants. Dancing Oaks is a place to gather inspiration, and more likely than not, see something you haven't before.
While it's all too easy, don't be distracted by just what you see on the ground. Look up at the canopy of the garden and you'll see the tops of fast growing bamboo trees and weeping giant sequoia, which seem to take the shape of anything but a tree. The nursery's namesake oaks border the gardens, with a few rising majestically out of the jungle of plants and flowers.
Animals, not surprisingly, find the gardens a lovely place to call home. Bees, butterflies and birds of all sorts can be spotted in just about any location in the gardens.
Dotted throughout the foliage is the work of local artists, whose sculptures and glass work sparkle with colors, complementing the sea of green leaves and a rainbow of brightly colored flowers.
Paths weave their way through areas of the garden, all eventually leading to the water features near the elegant Garden Pavilion, added in 2004 to host events throughout the year, including the upcoming Moonlight Garden Walk in September.
"You can sit here and enjoy the view and the sounds," Weisensee said. "People are drawn to a place with a lot of plants and water. I think there is something very calming about it."
Where the Wild Things Are
What: Dancing Oaks Nursery.
Where: 17900 Priem Road, Monmouth.
Hours: The nursery is open March 1 to Oct. 31, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visits by appointment only after hours and from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28. Dancing Oaks now offering shipping to anywhere in the U.S.
For more information: 503-838-6058; www.dancingoaks.com.