This weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., one of only a few 3-day weekends we have. Badly in need of a nursery fix, I decided to head to Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, CA on Saturday. My mother-in-law was my shopping companion. Davis was bright and sunny when we left, but Richmond (some 50 miles away) was gray and overcast when we arrived. I was thrilled since overcast skies make for better photography.
I was surprised by the number of cars in Annie’s lot—we had to park quite a ways away. It turned out a huge crowd had shown up for a talk on gardening during the drought at 11 a.m. Normally I would have loved to hear what the speaker, garden designer Kate Frey, had to say but my mother-in-law and I decided to get our shopping done while the nursery was virtually empty. A 15% off sale on all plants was an extra incentive to load up the cart.
I brought my wife’s compact point-and-shoot camera and took a lot of snaps as I wandered through the nursery. I’ve been to Annie’s quite a few times but every time I go I see new plants. Everything Annie’s sells seems to be interesting in its own right; I can’t think of a better antidote to the run-of-the-mill nurseries and garden centers that seem to dominate the retail landscape.
With very few exceptions, all plants are in 4-inch containers and propagated right at the nursery. And as you can see from the sign below, no neonictonoids are used.
Come along as I wander through the nursery in a fairly haphazard fashion. Annie’s occupies 2½ acres, so there’s a lot to see.
This shrub near the cashier’s trailer stopped me dead in my tracks. It reminded me of a leucadendron, but it didn’t look like any leucadendron I’d ever seen.
I was looking for a sign but couldn’t find one (classic “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome, as it turned out). All I could think of was, “I have to have this.” And why had I never seen it before?
Wherever I looked, there was a riot of color. While I’d never choose many of these plants for my own garden, seeing them in all their floriferous glory opened the endorphin floodgates in my brain.
Catalina island live-forever (Dudleya hassei)
Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt’. I can’t wait for my three plants to turn into this.
Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
In case you were wondering what the purple-leaved succulent is in the photos above, it’s Echeveria diffractens. I bought one in hopes it will multiply quickly and copiously.
Yucca desmettiana ‘Blue Boy’
Aeonium nobile and Agave pachycentra
I was hoping to see Annie’s Puya alpestris in bloom, and I was lucky. The flowers are so unique, you’ll never forget them.
Time to go shopping!
Passiflora parritae x tarminiana ‘Oaklandia’
There’s that mystery shrub again. Still no ID…
Aloe fosteri, looking a tad unhappy in their 4-inch pots. I bet they’ll take off after transplanting in the ground!
Puya boliviensis, a new-to-me puya
In hindsight I wish I’d bought one
‘Cream Spike’ (left) is a great agave for containers. For years it was sold as Agave parryi, but it’s actually Agave applanata. One of the Aeonium glandulosum (right) came home with me.
Geranium maderense, a giant geranium from the island of Madeira. Annie’s has both the regular pink/purple form (right) and the rarer white form (left). I bought a purple one.
Asphodeline lutea, a yellow-flowering lily relative from the Mediterranean
Another plant I kept seeing in various places…
…was this beauty
It looked like a coreopsis to me, and it was right: Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Tiger Stripes’
Now we’re in the vegetable section, which I normally bypass. This time I spent some time there and I realized that even here Annie’s offerings tend towards the unusual.
Geranium maderense in two different display containers
Annie’s had some intriguing begonias. Maybe some day!
I already have a Cussonia spicata (left), which has grown to 6 ft. in a little over a year. I was going to get a Cussonia transvaalensis (right), but the plants in this crop were very small so I decided to wait until next time.
More treasures in the “Rarities” section. A Euphorbia bravoana (right) jumped into my cart.
I was happy to see a bunch of rare leucadendrons. If only I had unlimited room in my garden. Still, I couldn’t resist Leucadendron sessile (right), said to be one of the easiest leucadendrons to grow and less frost-sensitive than the others.
Another sow thistle from the Canary Islands. I bought a Sonchus congestus last year and while I thought I’d lost it to the cold, it came back strong. I’ll see how it grows through the summer but deciding whether to add another sonchus.
And then I saw this sign. This is my mystery shrub: Mimetes cucullatus, a rare member of the Proteaceae. There was one left, a very small seedling. I debated whether I should get it and finally did. Keeping my fingers crossed it will thrive. It was expensive!
‘Rose Chiffon’ California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
A cute low-growing California poppy relative (Eschscholzia lobbii), native to the Central Valley where I live
Clarkia amoena ‘Aurora’, another California native
Two envy-inducing lupines. I wish I could grow them. They thrive by the roadside but I can’t get them to be happy in my garden.
Hollyhock ‘Halo Cream’ (Alcea rosea ‘Halo Cream’). Hollyhocks are another group of plants I can’t seem to grow.
Nicotiana langsdorfii from Brazil
Athanasia pinnata, showing what mine will hopefully become
And here is my current plant crush again, Mimetes cucullatus. As you can see, there’s a tag right in the middle of the pot. How could I have missed it when I took that photo at the top of this post?
This is my Mimetes cucculatus. So tiny! Hard to imagine now that it will ever look like the stunner at Annie’s!
And here’s my haul, described below. My mother-in-law had flat full of goodies as well.
- Geranium maderense (“unbelievably focal-pointy”)
- Mimetes cucullatus (“lust-worthy plant [with] the sort of animal magnetism usually reserved exclusively for babies, puppies & fluffy baby chickens”)
- Glaucium grandiflorum (“dazzling must for the dry garden”)
- Penstemon palmeri (“deliciously grape scented, flaring, pink blooms with yellow throats and dark veining, all to lure bumblebees and hummers to their nectar”)
- Aeonium glandulosum (“so wondrously bizarre I had to possess one and now you can too”)
- Leucodendron sessile (“easiest of the Leucs to grow, this S. African makes a fascinating, showy & unusual shrub for Mediterranean climate gardens”)
- Echeveria diffractens (“lustworthy flat, starry rosettes of rich, chocolatey-plum”)
- Euphorbia bravoana (“so OUTRAGEOUSLY RARE you’re sure to be the ONLY gardener in the neighborhood growing it”)
- Eriogonum grande var. rubescens (“hard-to-find, choice & goof-proof evergreen buckwheat from the Channel Islands thrives on neglect & prefers dry, clay soil”)
- Asphodeline lutea (“said to grow in the Elysian Fields - the final resting place of Greek heroes - this robust, easy and long-lived Mediterranean lily relative is certainly a champion in our dry gardens”)
- Tomato ‘Purple Bumble Bee’ (2x) (“total eye stopper in any salad or appetizer you can think of,” “perfect balance of sweet/acid/smoky flavor”)
- Beet ‘Chioggia’ (4x) (“at 8% sugar level, it is among the sweetest of beets & may win over people that normally don’t like beets”)