Getting my Annie's Annuals fix

Usually I don't wait until late April to get my springtime fix at Annie's Annuals, located in Richmond just about an hour from my house. But 2017 has been an unusual gardening year. Because of the impressive amount of rainfall following a historic drought, and a relatively cool spring with no unseasonable hot spells, it feels like late March or early April to me.

With the planting window still wide open, I decided to stop at Annie's last Saturday to see what interesting plants I could find to fill various holes in the garden. But before I starting shopping, I spent quite a while admiring the demonstration beds. They are simply bursting with color right now. There was so much to see and photograph! And while most of the plants aren't labeled, the wonderful employees are always there to help. (People working at nurseries are almost always nice, but the folks at Annie's are in a different league altogether.)

Looking at my photos below you might be under the impression that there weren't very many people at the nursery. Actually, just the opposite is true. The parking lot was almost full, and there were lines at the checkout. It was great to see people spending money on plants.

Let's start just inside the nursery entrance.

Lewisia flowers

Lupinus regalis 'Thomas Church', one of the most striking lupines I've ever seen. Discovered by Annie's in Santa Cruz a few years ago. This is one of the biggest attractions at the nursery right now.

This California poppy cultivar ('Apricot Chiffon') was bit past its prime, but still striking

Dudleya brittonii surrounded by a ring of flowers

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' contrasting beautifully with Dudleya hassei

Few cactus can compete with Echinopsis for flower power

Echium pininana

Agave chrysantha and Salvia appiana 

Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' nestling up against a puya (Puya alpestris?)

More 'Fred Ives' goodness

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' providing the perfect backdrop for Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'

Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and white California poppy (Eschscholzia californica 'Alba')

Keeping an eye on the action

Flower pots outside the gift shop where you pay for your purchases

Love the contrast between the Verbascum and the Delphinium

Giant geranium (Geranium maderense), a  showstopper plant in bloom everywhere in the Bay Area now

One of my favorite plants at Annie's: Mimetes cucullatus, a rare South Africa member of the protea family. It used to be outside the gift shop but has been moved to the succulent section of the nursery.

Passiflora manicata ‘Red’ growing on the front fence of the nursery. Hardy to 25°F!

Puyas in the succulent section

This is the only photo I took of the "sales floor"

Another stunning lupine I can't grow, yellow coastal bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus). No fair!
After I paid for my purchases and loaded them into the car, I took a few photos of the plantings on the outside of the nursery:

Euphorbia characias 'Dwarf' getting cozy with a renga lily (Arthropodium cirratum). Coincidentally, two renga lilies made it home with me, based on the recommendation of Kris Peterson of Late to the Garden Party. Kris has had great success with renga lilies in dry shade.

Another impressive Geranium maderense

Mala mujer (Wigandia urens var. caracasana) at the entrance to the parking lot. I bet it's caused more than a few customers to step on their brakes! Annie's doesn't sell this shrub/small tree any longer because the leaves cause skin irritation, much like stinging nettles. (Thank you to David Feix for the ID.)

Alstroemeria hybrid 'Tricolor' underplanted with Senecio mandraliscae
And here are my purchases:

  1. Agastache aurantiaca 'Coronado'
  2. Arthropodium cirratum (2x)
  3. Begonia boliviensis 'Santa Cruz Sunset'
  4. Begonia 'Escargot'
  5. Bukiniczia cabulica
  6. Felicia aethiopica ‘Tight and Tidy’ (2x)
  7. Gomphrena decumbens (2x)
  8. Leucophyta brownii (2x)
  9. Lobelia aguana
  10. Mandevilla laxa 
  11. Rumohra adiantiformis
  12. Sonchus palmensis

I didn't waste any time and got most of my purchases in the ground on Sunday morning. The two begonias will live in containers in the backyard.

Many of you have probably ordered from Annie's Annuals before--they have a major mail order operation in addition to the retail nursery. But if you're ever in the Bay Area, don't miss the opportunity to visit the nursery in person. A lot of plants that are unavailable for ordering on the website are available at the nursery. 

Plus, there are plants that aren't even listed on the website--like the Bukiniczia cabulica I bought. This is a seriously cool biennial from Pakistan and Afghanistan:

My Bukiniczia cabulica in the ground. It's still small (about 2" across) but it's already showing its signature mottling.



  1. I've seen that B. cabulica on Instagram -- that's worth a drive north right there! Kris' Renga lilies are so impressive. She makes growing them look so easy, but my attempts are either devoured my snails or mysteriously melt away. Thanks for this report. There's nothing like a spring visit to Annie's.

    1. I should have gotten a couple of Bukiniczia cabulica. It looks so cool.

      As for the renga lilies, I planted them on Sunday, and today they have holes in them already. Damn slugs/snails. And I'm out of snail bait!

  2. I've always been curious about those demonstration gardens. Are the plants in the ground or in large pots hidden by the rock borders? Or both ways?

    1. Jane, the plants in the demonstration gardens are in the ground. The plants near the gift shop and along the nursery aisles are in containers.

  3. I'm always tempted by 'Thomas Church', but every time it comes up for sale, I remember that I have bad luck with Lupines and pass on it :-(

    1. I was tempted as well but I've killed every lupine I've ever planted. 'Thomas Church' is of coastal origin so our summer heat would be a death sentence.

    2. I went and picked one up as soon as I heard she had a crop available this year. Still small but looking forward to watching it come on. I'm ecstatic with another lupine I got from her though, Lupinus sericatus, the Cobb Mountain Lupin. Not sure if this link will work but everything I post on Fb is public.

    3. In your climate, both lupines should thrive. I'm jealous :-).

  4. That's a lot of color! Sorry, but your little tray of purchases looks a bit wimpy after all of that. ;)

    1. I know! Virtually all of the plants Annie's sells are in 4-inch pots (fruit trees are larger). Your purchases cannot possibly compete with the extravaganza of color happening in the demonstration beds.

  5. we sure took lots of photos of the same things Gerhard. I could have easily spent another hour there taking pics. Annies is one of those places I never visit without my camera. When I got home I tried to look on the website for your Bukiniczia---I couldn't remember the name (no surprise there) but I remembered that it started with a 'B'. Couldn't find it of course so I'm glad you posted the name ! By the way congratulations on the award ! I found a bunch of blogs I'd never heard of before in that top 30, it was fun to see them.

    1. Bukiniczia is a difficult name to memorize! It took me three days, but I think I have it down now. I sure hope it will reseed gently. Would love to have more them.

  6. Oh man!!! I so want a Bukiniczia cabulica. If you happen to go back and they still have them please sign me up for one!

    Great photos, as always...

  7. Bukiniczia cabulica, if only for the name alone. Bo-kin-ik-zee-ah ka-boo-lee-kah?!? I got my Annies fix from your blog post. Wonderful, thank you!

    1. Dave's Garden says "Buh-kin-NICH-ee-uh ka-BUL-ee-kuh." Cabulica refers to Kabul, Afghanistan.

      I continue to be amazed by the unusual plants Annie Hayes and her team make available to us.

  8. We visited Annie's during the San Francisco Fling and I'd love to go back! Annie is a fun person too. I just ordered some plants from her a few days ago, and I'm (im)patiently waiting for them to arrive. Love your cool mottled plant with the almost unpronounceable name.

    1. Not only does Annie's have great plants, they also have my favorite plant catalog (OK, they tie in first with Plant Delights), and the people working at the nursery seem to be having fun. It's contagious.

  9. I spend a lot annually on Annie's purchases by mail order - I can only imagine what would happen if I paid a visit to the nursery itself. Your haul is fantastic! In addition to the Arthropodium, I have the Felicia, Gomphrena, and Leucophyta. I've also grown the Rumohra but it seems to have melted away, as ferns usually do here. I know that Lobelia as L. laxiflora - it can be weed-like here but limiting its water seems to keep it under control. I hope the Arthropodium works for you - mine are already putting up bloom spikes but I'm having more snail problems with it this year too.

    1. Great to hear you have some of the same plants I just bought. I hesitated about the Lobelia aguana (aka laxiflora) but I don't think I need to worry about it become a weed. All I have to do it shut off its drip emitter and it'll fall in line :-).

      I hope my renga lilies will grow faster than the snails can devour their tiny leaves...

  10. Oh - that's a place I have ordered from, but never visited. Found that a nearby neighborhood nursery here had ordered in plants from Annie's. Made me so happy - I bought three. That said, given a chance to visit, I would totally jump on it - stat. Their display gardens seem out-of-this-world fantastic!

    1. I'm glad that more and more independent nurseries carry Annie's plants.

      Visiting the nursery in person is a giddying experience!

  11. It's hard to resist filling my truck with plants when visiting Annies! That purple flowered tree out front is actually a Wigandia caracascens, or Mala Mujer for the itchy, prickly hairs that act like nettles.

    1. Thank you for the correction!

    2. David, thank for the ID! Apparently the full name is Wigandia urens var. caracasana.


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