Fall plant sale excitement at UC Davis Arboretum

We may not have the best selection of nurseries here in Northern California (the Portland area is hard to beat) but we have great public gardens. And many of them have one or even multiple plant sales in the fall.

I’ve already been to the Ruth Bancroft Garden fall sale, always a personal favorite. Last Saturday I missed the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum sale (I was at the 2016 Pacific Horticulture Summit in Santa Rosa, CA). But this Saturday I will go to the second of three fall plant sales at the UC Davis Arboretum.

2016-10-18_17-43-08_1I’ve been critical of their plant selections in the past (same old plants, nothing new and exciting) but they have dramatically changed the scope of what they offer. Yes, there are still the stalwarts Davis gardeners seem to like, but the number of succulents they offer has tripled or quadrupled in the last couple of years. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

They’re now also selling newly introduced hybrids in a wide variety of genera, from Agastache to Helleborus to Westringia. They even have a bunch of intergeneric hybrids like ×Heucherella (Heuchera × Tiarella), ×Mangave (Manfreda × Agave), ×Echibeckia (Echinacea × Rudbeckia) and a newly released ×Sedoro (Sedum × Orostachys) from Chris Hansen called ‘Blue Elf’.

Lots to be excited about!

The folks running the plant sales at the UC Davis Arboretum are extremely well organized, something I truly appreciate. In the week or two prior to a sale, you can download the complete inventory from the Arboretum web site, both in PDF and Excel format. The files include not just the botanical and common name and a description of the plant, but also the quantities and sizes available, the price, and in which aisle to find it at the teaching nursery where the sales are held—everything you need to prepare yourself ahead of time.


Excel list for the October 22, 2016 sale

The list for the October 22 sale has 449 rows. Or, as the web site says, “we’ve got over 16,500 plants and over 450 varieties…that’s huge!” I usually download the Excel list because it’s easier to handle and sort. Then I go through it and highlight the plants I want to take a look at. I usually go through the list a few times, but here’s what I highlighted this time on my first pass:


What caught my eye the first time I went through the list

Typically, I don’t buy all the plants I highlight. Often it’s a few of those and some others that catch my eye. Sometimes I don’t buy anything. But there’s a palpable excitement as the doors open at 9 a.m. and everybody rushes for “their” plants. The UC Davis plant sales attract a lot of people from all over Northern California and the checkout lines are usually long. But as you’re waiting for your turn to check out, it’s good opportunity to talk to the people in front and behind you about the plants they’re getting. Plant sales are definitely a social event.


I was struck by the many different hellebore hybrids. I’m always looking for plants that grow in dry shade. Maybe I should give hellebores a second look?


This hybrid, in particular, caught my eyes: Helleborus ‘Rio Carnival’

The sale on Saturday, October 22, runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contrary to other Arboretum plant sales where members get in early, this particular sale is open to the public the entire time. For more info, go to http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/plant-sales.

If you live in Northern California and are looking for plant inspiration, come on by! I’d love to run into you to see what you’re getting.



  1. Fun times ahead! I am looking forward to hearing all about the Pacific Horticulture Summit...

  2. That is a well-organized sale! My own local botanic garden falls at the far opposite of that extreme - I don't think the volunteers who run it even now what they're going to offer until they carry the pots out. I've had mixed results with hellebores. 'Anna's Red' did surprisingly well for me for a few years but it seems to have disappeared.

  3. Thank you for this review and for noticing that we've really been trying to expand our offerings! Our Nursery Manager Taylor Lewis has been doing a great job!!

  4. Hellebores are wonderful--they grow well where Agaves don't. Looks like a fabulous sale.

    Another commenter looking forward to PacHort Summit blog posts.


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