Saying goodbye to a special nursery

The Sacramento gardening community was stunned last week when an article appeared in the Sacramento Bee announcing that Flora Tropicana Nursery in nearby Elk Grove was closing. Established in 1997, Flora Tropicana was California’s largest water-garden nursery. With dozens of koi ponds, several hoop houses filled with water plants, a pool and pond supply store, pottery, Japanese granite basins and lanterns, and an extensive selection of bamboo, this 5-acre nursery had been a Sacramento area mainstay for 15 years.

Ironically, it wasn’t the economy that forced the closure, at least not directly. The Sacramento Bee quotes co-owner Wendy Tjaden as saying “People assume that it's the economy, but we survived the economy…We hung on—barely—but we did.” Instead, the 100-acre parcel that includes the grounds the nursery had been leasing went into foreclosure, forcing Flora Tropicana to close operations. The owners had been planning to open a 2nd location in the San Jose area this spring, and now the new Cupertino store will be the only one.

Elk Grove is a 35-minute drive from my house but I decided this morning to visit Flora Tropicana one last time. Water gardening isn’t a primary interest of mine so I had never been a regular customer. Still, I had enjoyed strolling through the nursery occasionally, typically ogling the granite lanterns, basins and fountains that were way beyond my budget. And even now, in spite of their big moving sale with discounts up to 66%, many prices were still on the high side. But that didn’t seem to deter customers because the parking lot was overflowing this morning and I saw people hauling lots of stuff to their cars.

As for me, I left empty-handed, feeling vaguely depressed. Even though Flora Tropicana had not been a regular hangout of mine, any nursery closure is a loss to us gardeners.


Yard art and palm trees in front of the pond and pool supply store
I like this fountain of basalt (?) columns surrounded by horsetail rushes (Equisetum hyemale)
One of several display ponds
Fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) very similar to the one I just planted
(except ours has dark purple leaves)
Another pond with a picnic gazebo
Customers routinely brought food and had picnics on the nursery grounds
What was left of the succulent section—yes, just a dozen plants
I was intrigued by the 3-ft. concrete face on the left. Unfortunately, both it and the metal Eiffel Tower on the right were still $200—after the 50% discount.
I’m a sucker for this kind of fountain. Some day I’ll have one.
This is the one item that tempted me the most. A hollowed-out piece of granite like that would look awesome in our Asian-inspired woodland garden. But $180 still seems like a lot.
LEFT: Only a few Japanese granite items were left.
The pagoda is super cool and super pricey: $1500 – 30% discount = $1050.
RIGHT: All pottery was 66% off, but there wasn’t much left that spoke to me.
The water plant greenhouses were mostly empty. In its heyday, Flora Tropicana had the largest selection of water plants in California.
Even now Flora Tropicana has a large number of potted bamboos ranging from 3 gallon pots to 24” boxes. Most are running bamboos, which I don’t quite understand. I would imagine that most customers would prefer clumping bamboos unless they have acreage and/or are willing to do the requisite maintenance to prevent the uncontrolled spread of rhizomes.
Phyllostachys aurea ‘Holochrysa’. The culms were a stunning yellow color.
Unlabeled running bamboo. I have no idea what this is, but the coloration of the culms was breathtaking.
Could this be Phyllostachys makinoi? If anybody knows, please leave a comment below.


  1. Sad news, especially it looked like a really nice nursery with lots of established features. They seem to have lots of nice accessories too, only on the pricy side though. Still it's sad when you hear nurseries closing down.

    1. Nice accessories for sure. I keep wondering if my sense of what is overpriced is out of whack. A lot of people seem to be buying things that I think are way overpriced :-).

  2. Sad, but at least it wasn't your favorite or most-visited nursery.

    I was going to guess Ph. makinoi too, as the new culms are very blue -- but that's the only blue-culmed bamboo I've personally seen. You've got me excited to see what mine does in a couple months now.

    1. I was a bit annoyed by the lack of ID on this and so many other bamboos. Mind you, these are 24" boxes and no doubt priced in the hundreds (no price tags either). If I spent that much, I'd at least want to know what it is. But my feeling is that typical buyers are well-heeled homeowners who pick out bamboos by looks and then have their landscapers install and care for them.


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