Shopping for native plants.

This week I’ve had two very different native plant shopping experiences.  One was very unpleasant.  I won’t mention the name of the place other than to say it is closing down (and I’m not surprised) and the prices were really, really good, even if we did have to wait for an hour and a half in the blistering heat, and then be treated to a whole dose of arrogance from He-who-shall-not-be-named.  Eventually, I managed to get 14 of the 31 plants on my list for $134.

Here’s what I got:

Latin name common name
Aesculus californica California Buckeye
Aquilegia formosa Western columbine
Artemisia californica California Sagebrush
Artemisia douglasii Mugwort
Cercis occidentalis Redbud
Clematis lasiantha Chapparal Clematis
Dudlea – any Dudlea
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ James Roof Silktassle
Malacothamnus fasciculatus Bush Mallow
Mimulus aurantiacus Bush Monkeyflower
Muhlenbergia rigens Deergrass
Polystichum munitum California Sword Fern
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-eyed grass
Vitis californica California wild grape

And this was what it looked like, waiting in my yard for the rains to come.

The buckeye is a dwarf.  I’m quite excited about that.

The Nursery-that-shall-not-be-mentioned is about an hours drive from us, as is Yerba Beuna, and Native Revival.  So, it wasn’t such a stretch for us to think about traveling an extra fifteen minutes to Elkhorn Native Plant Nurseries, near Moss Landing

This morning – actually yesterday morning, Karla, Al and I decided to head down there – the prices looked amazing online.  We were all loaded up in the car, ready to go, and Al said, “Do you have the directions?”

“Doh!” I said, smacked my forehead and ran in to the house to get the address from the website.  Fortunately, I actually read the website this time – it’s only open to the public on Fridays (except by prior arrangement).  Hugely disappointed, I went outside and dragged Karla and Al kicking and screaming out of the car. Road trip postponed until tomorrow…

This morning Karla, Al and I headed down there.  It was a beautiful drive through rural California, passing farms and orchards still laden with produce, the workers in the fields doing their back breaking work to gather in the crops.

Elkhorn Native Plant Nurseries overlook the Elkhorn slough.  I was raging that I never thought to bring my camera.  I’ve posted a picture from the Official Elkhorn Slough website so you can see how gorgeous it is.

Upon arriving we went to the nursery office to sign in as the sign politely asked us to.  The nursery manager, Rob de Bree, welcomed us and I told him I had a list.  He explained that he was the only one in the office and couldn’t walk around the nursery with us.  My identification (especially when the plants are not blossoming) is really poor, and when I asked if the plants were labeled, (having been burned with this problem at the Nursery-that-shall-not-be-mentioned, last weekend) Rob apologized and said that they weren’t, but if I didn’t mind him photocopying my list, he’d get one of the warehouse guys to gather what I wanted.  He invited us to walk around the demonstration garden while we waited.  It was a great deal for both of us as Al spotted some ground cover manzanita that he liked and bought three 1 gallon pots of it.

It is a really pleasant property.  The views are gorgeous – even on an overcast day like today.  Why hadn’t I brought the camera?  I could see me visiting the place again.

After about 20 mins all the plants were gathered, and we were able to chat with Rob a little.  I asked him if he minded that I would blog about him, and he said go ahead.  In fact, he gave me some tips for potential customers.

  1. 1 – Read the website for opening times.
  2. 2 – It is ok to email him and ask about availability before coming down.  In fact, if I had emailed him my wish list during the week, he’d have been able to tell me what he had available and would have assembled it for me, leaving his customers time to enjoy the beautiful locale.
  3. 3 – They do deliver for a min of $55 or %7 of the order, so long as the order is reasonable.  He won’t drive to San Jose with one Sticky Monkey flower!
  4. 4 – If you absolutely cannot make it on a Friday, please phone to make alternate arrangements and they’ll see what they can do.
  5. 5 – Don’t forget your camera!

OK, so number 5 was my tip – but you get the point.  It’s not a browsing nursery as such, but there is the demonstration garden which is a bit overgrown at the moment.  And Rob is very entertaining too.

All 1 gallon pots are $6.  I got 8 plants and a 1/4 lb bag of Chinese houses seeds – enough to have me seeding this gorgeous annual for the next 5 years I reckon – all for $55.50.

Here are the new additions to my native plant family… and they’d even put little labels on them so I wouldn’t get confused…sweet!

Salvia spathaceae Hummingbird sage

Carpinteria californica California Bush Anemone
Woodwardia fimbriata Giant Chainfern

Chilopisis linearis Desert willow
Monardela villosa Coyote Mint
Romneya coulteri Matillija poppy
Penstemon centranthifolia Scarlet Penstemon
Oenothera Hookeri Californica California evening primrose

Now where’s that rain?….It is October….And I did feel ten drops this morning…

On our way home we stopped at Gizditch Ranch – it grows apples and makes great pies!  They serve them up in one of their barns – the one labeled “Pie Shop”.   I wished I’d brought my camera again and instead borrowed pictures from their website:

It was a lovely way to end an very pleasant, productive road trip/plant shopping expedition.

Byddi Lee

13 replies to Shopping for native plants.

  1. Looks like you had quite the adventure. Nice plants and awesome prices. How exciting!

  2. Thank you for not posting a picture of those fabulous Gizditch Ranch pies…they always make me hungry!

    Looks like you got a fabulous assortment of plants. Just watch out for that Romneya, they can get gargantuanly large, and run amok in the garden, although if you have a big space to fill, they can do the job. I purchased two Monardella villosa last weekend during Native Revival's plant sale, and they were actually still blooming. It's been standing room only the flowers, as the bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds have been glued to it all week. By the way, there is a CNPS plant sale on October 9th, adjacent to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Members get first choice, but if you're not a member you can still go a little later in the morning. Now, I'm with you…where's our darned rain? We both seem to have a lot of planting to do. It will be fun to compare notes in the spring!

  3. Karla loves the Romneya so I'll park it hear their property.

    I'm a member of CNPS and I've got their Hidden Villa gig in my diary for 16th October. I'm looking forward to taking lots of photos of my native plants blossoming – I'm afraid it might make me lazy – getting to the blooms without needing to hike! I'll have my very own park!

  4. Wow! I'll have to check them out sometime. Their prices are about 2x what I can get plants for at my normal nursery (I go to a wholesale nursery since I'm in the industry), but they look like they have a lot more selection in regards to native plants.

  5. Byddi there have been so many occasions when I regret not taking my camera with me aswell. I hope you get some rain soon so those plants can settle into their new home. Interesting that there's such a thing as a dwarf buckeye – kinda like a dwarf conker tree that we have in the UK?????

  6. @ leavesnbloom – yes the buckeyes remind me of conker trees from the blossom to the fruit! Are they relatives? Buckeye, the Californian cousin?

  7. You will have lots to post about next year. Hope the plants all grow well for you.

  8. Or even a Sticky Monkeyflower – to give it it's full name!

  9. Hooray for getting a deal!!!

  10. Wow, your garden will be amazing! I sure hope you'll sign it up for the Going Native Garden tour ( If not for next year, then for the year after. A dwarf buckeye? Wow!

  11. I think I'll wait and see how it all turns out before I commit to that!

  12. That's quite a haul! It's nice to see I'm not the only one spending a small fortune at multiple native plant sales this fall.

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