Retail therapy at Annie’s Annuals

Yesterday was a perfect late-winter day—blue sky and warm enough to work outside in a T-shirt. But instead of puttering around in the garden, I decided to give in to the plant-shopping itching that had been plaguing me all week.

It’s no secret that I love Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond, CA. I’ve certainly written about them plenty of times before (1 2 3 4 5 6). While they’re not exactly around the corner, their selection is so huge that I don’t mind the 60-minute drive (yesterday it was even less because traffic was as perfect as the weather).


I’m always fascinated by the cabbage trees (Cussonia sp.) outside the nursery. I have three different species in pots and bought a fourth yesterday.


Look at the crazy way this cussonia is growing!


The demonstration beds just inside the entrance are undergoing a major overhaul. To my surprise I noticed netting on the sides and on top. I wonder which birds they’re trying to keep out?


The cow looked happy as always.


I wish I could grow dudleyas but our climate is too hot in the summer.


Dudley brittonnii


Dudley brittonniii and Echeveria ‘Imbricata’


Echeveria diffractens

The area in the back is the “stage” where they hold talks and workshops:


Now let’s walk through the nursery, starting in the succulent section. With few exceptions (fruit trees and roses), Annie’s plants are in 4-inch pots; the label color denotes the price. Seeing a sea of labels in a variety of colors is a cheery sight.



Sempervivum ‘Silver King’


Xanthorrhoea preissii


Xanthorrhoea preissii seedling, the tiniest plant I’ve ever seen at Annie’s. Like all Xanthorrhoeas, it’s very slow-growing—so slow that it can probably live in this 4-inch pot for a number of years.


Dasylirion serratifolium, a close relative of the common desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri). One came home with me.


Sedum hispanicum with impossibly small leaves


Echeveria peacockii


Echeveria peacockii



Cotyledon orbiculata


Cotyledon orbiculata

The selection of agaves was larger this time than before. Here are just some of the species available.


Agave vilmoriniana


Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’


Agave ovatifolia


Agave gypsophila


Agave valenciana, a relatively recently described species from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. Related to Agave marmorata, it’s a true giant—5-7 feet tall and 10-12 feet across—and quite frost-sensitive. On young plants, the underside of the leaves is purple. I don’t think any other agave has that.


Puya chilensis


Puya boliviensis


Puya boliviensis. I love how well-armed the leaves are. This plant knows how to defend itself.


Cephalophyllum pillansii, one of an ever growing selection of ice plants that Annie’s carries


Morina longifolia looked interesting


The proteas and leucadendrons tempt me every time but I’ve lost too many of these small starts to bother again


Begonia ‘Litte Brother Montgomery’. While the foliage looked a bit ratty, I couldn’t resist. As we head into spring, there’ll be plenty of new leaves.


Melianthus pectinatus, relative of the common honey bush. I wish I had a spot that’s consistently moist…


Crotalaria agatiflora. I’ve said it before, but I think the plant labels at Annie’s are absolutely fantastic. They sure know how to get your attention. “FOUR FOOT LONG chartreuse flower spikes!” Who wouldn’t want one of these!

160206_Annies_046 160206_Annies_048

Asclepias physocarpa, a milkweed on steroids, with very interesting seed pods

160206_Annies_047 160206_Annies_055

After having resisted the urge to buy one for years…


…and in spite of the fact that the seedlings were very small, I brought one home


I also bought one of these (Papaver atlanticum)…


… and one of these (Kniphofia northiae), next to the Xanthorrhoea preissii above the smallest plants I saw in the entire nursery. I’m hoping it will grow reasonably fast.

Gardeners who are into California (and West Coast) natives would be in paradise at Annie’s. The Natives section is huge. Here are just a few plants that caught my eye.



Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’, a groundcover California lilac


Arctostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’, a groundcover manzanita


Dudleya farinosa, one several dudleya species native to California


Verbascum macrurum, one of ten or so verbascums Annie’s carries. I was tempted, but I’ve never been able to get verbascums to flower in my garden.

As I was walking into the office trailer to pay, I couldn’t help notice the Mimetes cucullatus outside. Even though it wasn’t in bloom like last May, it’s still a stunner. Too bad the small start I bought last year (and paid $$ for) didn’t make it. I think the summers in Davis are just too hot.


Mimetes cucullatus

And here’s what I brought home with me:


My haul

Some of these will go in the new succulent mound that will replace the front lawn, others in the desert bed, and the rest in pots or in the backyard.


  1. Makes me yearn for a road trip--so much to look at, and buy.

    Sorry to hear your Mimetes didn't make it. Got a spot for that monster Agave? Would be fun to have a giant, though.

    1. Hey, let me know if you make it up our way. Would love to get together.

      Agave valenciana would thrive in your garden. Here it's too cold to put it in the ground (ditto for A. marmorata)

  2. I am SO envious. If Annie's was within an hour away, I expect I'd be there twice a month. There are a couple of garden centers "nearby" (i.e. within 40-60 minutes away) that carry a couple of tables of Annie's plants so I get periodic fixes that way and I order plants by mail a few times each year. In fact, I have an order due to delivery next week! But, after looking at your photos, it seems that even the on-line selection is more limited than the nursery's direct sale offers. Maybe I should talk my husband into renting a RV to travel up the coast...

    1. The image of you (or anybody else) loading an RV with plants in the Annie's parking lot is too funny.

  3. Your timing is interesting! Annie's was running a free shipping on the west coast ofer that expired today. Try as I might I couldn't come up with the 8 plant minimum, it seemed a lot of things I usually covet were out of stock, online at least. Glad you found some must-haves.

    1. I keep a wish list on their website and have noticed over the years that plants marked unavailable online are almost always in stock at the nursery.

      Maybe plants have to be a certain size (or stock has to be at a certain level) before they list them as available on the website?

      I'll probably go back to Annie's before too long; if you want, email me the plants you're interested in and I can pick them up for you.

  4. Rats! I wish I'd checked my email earlier on Saturday to take advantage of your offer to pick something up for me, I have been thinking about running down to get a few more species of annual California wildflowers for my school's native garden. Thanks for the offer though. I'll probably go at the end of the month when the night time temperatures are a little warmer. Sue

  5. I grew Crotolaria agatiflora quite a while ago. It was a big and leggy shrub here, fast growing, sparse leaves, vase-shaped, really cool flowers. I did grab a couple of those verbascum which are growing well, so I'm optimistic to see flowers but maybe not this year. That morina needs fairly moist soil, which must be why I keep killing it, and I doubt it would like your heat much. So sorry about your mimetes!

    1. Richmond is definitely a Goldilocks zone for plants. There's very little they can't grow. Kinda like Long Beach :-). I bet that mimetes would thrive in your garden.

      I still haven't figured out my bad luck with verbascums...

  6. You beat me Gerhard ! I usually do my 1st Annies visit of the season in March. I can't really plant anything right now anyway until I get rid of the damn weeds-the downside to rain. My upcoming 4 day weekend is going to be a weed-a-thon.You brought home a nice assortment.

    1. The weeds are something else this year, aren't they? They're growing almost as fast as the California poppies. At leasts the poppies are desirable.

  7. I was just looking at Annie's website - they have an agave stricta rubra that i want, if its actually as red as it looks in the picture. I've never been to the nursery, but your pictures make me want to go. I'm sure i could smuggle some plants back in my suitcase, right? Good luck with your haul! i can't wait to see your new desert mound once you plant it.

    1. I checked out the Agave stricta 'Rubra' seedlings when I was there. They're all green right now. They need to be stressed to become red (heat, lack of water, possibly even cold). But when do turn red, they are a showstopper.

      The front lawn was removed this morning. I'm hoping the mounds will be built in the next few days so I can start planting on the weekend.

  8. Wish I could grow Dudleya in the desert. I have had a Dudleya brittonii for a year and a half and the poor thing is getting smaller and smaller. I'm surprised it's still alive. It's 88 degrees here and my garden and I are not ready for the heat.


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