Thursday, April 19, 2012

Annie’s Annuals 2012 Spring Party

Last Saturday, after attending the Ruth Bancroft Garden’s spring plant sale, I made the 35-minute drive from Walnut Creek to Richmond to check out the Spring Party at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. I’d been to Annie’s a couple of times since last summer (1 2), but their inventory is both vast and ever-changing so I knew that I would find something new to drool over and/or take home.

Annie’s is located in a light-industrial area and the approach isn’t exactly welcoming (neither are the coils of barbed wire on top of the outside fence). But land is premium-priced in the Bay Area, and a production nursery that wants to remain competitive doesn’t have much choice when it comes to location, especially a multi-acre operation like Annie’s.

Market Street railroad crossing. Annie’s is a few hundred yards down the road on the left.

However, as soon as you step through the gate, you instantly forget that you’re not in the nicest part of town.


As shown in the panorama below, Annie’s is huge. And what you see in the photo is actually only about half of the nursery. There’s a large section with California natives and annuals on the left.


Annie’s has three customer parties each year: one in mid-April, one for Mother’s Day and one in the fall. There are activities ranging from face painting to costume contests, talks about gardening topics, and the ever popular raffle where the grand prize is a 15 minute shopping spree.

Raffle on Saturday shortly before the winner of the 15-minute shopping spree was announced

On Twitter, Annie’s just posted this photo of the loot amassed by one of the winners this past weekend:

Plants picked out by the raffle winner in 15 minutes

Here are some of my snapshots from last Saturday’s goings-on:


I really enjoy the electric energy generated by a crowd of enthusiastic people and I’m happy just wandering around seeing the smile on people’s faces. Gardeners really are the nicest folks, and striking up a conversation is never easier than it is at a nursery.

But ultimately I came for the plants. And this time is a great time of year. So much was in bloom. Of course I first checked out the many succulents Annie’s grows.

Lampranthus ‘Pink Kaboom’

Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Pinky’

Dyckia platyphylla
Aeonium and Delosperma nubigenum
120414_AnniesAnnuals_17 120414_AnniesAnnuals_21

LEFT: Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echinopsis species

Crassula alba var. parvisepala, a curious spotted succulent I’d never seen before
Yucca baccata, one of the hardiest of all succulents (down to -20°F). Perfect for people in areas with cold winters who want to grow a great-looking yucca.
LEFT: Aeonium escobarii, one of 21 (!) species of aeoniums in Annie’s catalog.
RIGHT: Aeonium hierrense, one of the tallest aeoniums. I bought a small plant last year and it’s doubled in size although it still has a way to go before it’s as big as the specimen in this 15-gallon pot.
Aeonium nobile, one of the most sought-after and elegant of all aeoniums

Three succulents native to California jumped out at me:

Coreopsis gigantea.
I’d bought a much larger specimen at the Ruth Bancroft Garden sale just that morning.
Dudleya caespitosa
Dudleya pulverulenta
This species develops a stunning powdery coating that makes it appear almost white. Unfortunately, I killed two dudleyas last summer (as coastal dwellers, they don’t like
our valley heat).

But there was so much more to see than just succulents. Annie’s is known for its over-the-top inventory of unusual annuals and perennials. I don’t know how many different species they have, but it's got to be thousands.

One of many display beds
I was very surprised to see a protea (Protea susannae) and couldn’t resist although it might be a touch too frost-sensitive for Davis. We shall see.
Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Geum quellyon ‘Blazing Sunset’
I bought two geums to plant outside our front yard fence (this red cultivar and an orange one). I’ve never grown geums before, but I was attracted to their color and the fact that they are supposed to bloom from late spring through fall.
So many 4” containers with small seedlings, so much promise of garden bliss!
California natives section
What would a hip nursery be without pink flamingos? These are not your granny’s pink flamingos either, they’re much hotter!
Parrot’s bill (Clianthus puniceus), looking fantastic in a large tub. I really wanted a specimen of this New Zealand stunner but they were out. The foliage is very attractive, too.
And it’s hardy to 13”F!

This is my loot. I would have shopped more but I was getting hungry and tired and decided to call it a day after a couple of hours.

Loot from Annie’s. I’ll post an update in a few months when my plants have put on some growth and are in flower (knock on wood).

I’m proud of myself because on Sunday morning I planted everything except for the Protea susannae.


  1. I'm feeling like I need to pay Annie's another visit sometime soon. I can't believe they were out of Clianthus. They had about a zillion when I was there a few months ago. It must be very popular.

    I'm in love with Geums right now. I have G. magellanicum from Annie's and 'Mango Lasi' (which is adorable) and totally Tangerine which is just starting to bud up now. Your photo has me really excited to see it in bloom.

    I wish I could attend one of Annie's garden parties. It is such a drag living 4 and a half hours away.

    1. I'm so glad I picked up two geums. If they do well in our garden, I'll get some more.

      Will check back soon for a new crop of clianthus. I have to have one!

  2. The party look fun Gerhard, you can almost feel the vibe just looking at your photos. And isn't it nice when you can go back to a nursery and feel that there's always something new gem to see? :) Lovely haul and selection of succulents, and thanks for reminding me how great Aeonium nobile could look like, must get a replacement this year!

    1. I was tempted to buy an Aenonium nobile but decided to wait until early fall because in our summer heat they go dormant from May through September anyway. Better let Annie's pamper it until then.

  3. Yay for Annie's! It is wonderful to see your pictures after having been there, instead of dreaming of someday visiting. I guess I count myself amongst the lucky having grabbed a Clianthus puniceus during my visit!

    1. I had to laugh when I wrote this post because I seem to retracing your route from your recent trip, LOL.

  4. So glad you bought some geum - one of my favorite perennials! I have a geum triflorum which blooms in spring - completely different flowers - these have tufts that make me think of Dr. Seuss. Check out a photo when you get a chance. I also have another spring bloomer in a deep coral/pink and last year I bought a geum that blooms all summer called Mai Tai, a beautiful apricot, soft yellow, pink combo.

    1. I've been keeping a wish list on Annie's web site since last summer, and these geums have been on there list since day 1. I'm glad they're in my front yard now. Will definitely look for more cultivars.