Memorial Day visit to Annie’s Annuals

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


Aeonium nobile


Dyckia platyphylla


Puya alpestris

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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’

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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


Next time!

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‘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.

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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

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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.

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Geranium maderense in two different display containers


Annie’s had some intriguing begonias. Maybe some day!

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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.

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More treasures in the “Rarities” section. A Euphorbia bravoana (right) jumped into my cart.

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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!


Sunflower power


‘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.

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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?


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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”)


  1. Annie's Annuals has so many unusual plants we probably would have palpitations given the chance to visit it! And yes that Mimetes is gorgeous!

    1. To my own surprise, I was particularly taken by the unusual vegetables. When we take out our front lawn in the fall and add raised vegetable beds, among other things, I'll go veggie shopping at Annie's!

  2. Ahhhhhh...!!! Nursery lust is killing me. Great photos, and you brought home some awesome plants. The Mimetes cucullatus is gorgeous, and I love that Annie's says it's thriving in a pot. And that Channel Islands buckwheat...! "Goof-proof" -- my kind of plant :~)

    1. That red buckwheat looks perfect for the spot I have in mind. A low water user, too. I need to take a closer look at California natives. Yes, many aren't necessarily gardenworthy, but I bet there are quite a few gems I haven't discovered yet.

  3. Excellent haul, and of course you had to get the Mimetes cucullatus! Will it go right in the ground or will you let it grow on in a container for awhile?

    1. I'm happy to have snapped up the last Mimetes cucullatus. Whew. It's so small, the roots haven't even filled the 4-inch nursery pot yet. I have a feeling it'll be years before it's ready to go in the ground. And maybe it never will. It might just live in a large pot on the back patio where we can enjoy it up close.

  4. Thanks for the tour! Despite the time spent chasing the Mimetes (which I'm going on-line now to put on my Annie's wish list) and taking lots of photographs, you scored with your haul. I hope to get to Annie's in person one day but, for now, must make do with mail-order and the small displays the nursery supplies to one of my local garden centers where, coincidentally, I spent my Saturday morning, returning with a haul of my own, including 3 Annie's plants.

    1. I do keep a wish list on Annie's web site as well. A very handy feature. The nursery has quite a few plants that are unavailable for mail order (probably because they only have limited quantities), in case you need yet another another reason to visit in person, LOL.

  5. Very nice selection Gerhard ! I'm about due for another Annie's run myself. Kate Freys home garden is on GC open days in June, I'm really excited about seeing it.

    1. Would love to visit Kate Frey's garden in Hopland but it's 2 1/2 hours from Davis. That would make it a long day just to visit one garden. But I've done crazier things so I'm not ruling it out...

  6. I've wanted to visit Annie's since I saw a segment on it it years ago on Gardening By the Yard. So many interesting plants, some that I can even grow I think. :) I remember the Puya alpestris from a post of yours a few years ago -- so distinctive!

    (Does it bother anybody else that they don't sell just annuals?)

    1. Technically, Annie's is now called Annies Annuals & Perennials so they cover all their bases :-).

  7. I get to visit Annie's a week from tomorrow & I'm very excited as I've never been there. Thanks for the pretour! I've a good friend who lives nearby who has ordered from them for years but has never been himself. Should be fun.
    Better have my charge card!

    1. That's awesome! Do you have your wish list ready?

      And if you have some extra time, don't miss the Wave Garden. It's only about 15 minutes away. I'll have a post about it tomorrow.

  8. You got some gooooood stuff! Major envy on the Mimetes.

  9. I'm thinking of attending the open days tour of Frey's garden tour (hey, Kathy!). So glad you grabbed that last mimetes -- who knows when there'll be another? Apparently very slow to propagate. You did good, Gerhard! Bless Annie for doing such great work for us.

    1. If you end up doing the Open Days tour of Kate Frey's garden, let me know. Would love to meet up with you there. That may just be the incentive I need :-).

      And yes, Annie's is fantastic. Each time I go I discover new treasures.


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