Friday, March 30, 2018

My first drive-through nursery experience: Evergreen Nursery in El Cajon, CA

Last weekend I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in San Diego. My first stop on Friday morning was Evergreen Nursery, a wholesale grower open to the public. The company has three locations: San Diego proper, Oceanside, and El Cajon. The El Cajon location was holding an Aloe ortholopha for me, so that's where I was headed.

Evergreen Nursery is right off Interstate 8 northeast of town. Surrounded by hillsides, green at this time of year, the rural location is beautiful.


What makes Evergreen Nursery so special is that it's a drive-through nursery. That was definitely a first for me. This is how the company explains the "Evergreen System:"
Just follow the Evergreen 3 step system: 
1. Drive through or park and shop (you may load directly into your car)
2. Ask Questions
3. Pay at the Checkout Booth
Evergreen's pricing system is designed for your ease and convenience. Plants are priced by the container size. The plants are color coded (the color code is on the map). While driving, the customer can look at a field of one gallon shrubs and easily see the least expensive (yellow card) varieties and read the plant's description. 


In total, Evergreen has 400 acres (160 hectares) of growing grounds and wholesale/retail space. The El Cajon location has 50 acres (20 hectares). Letting customers drive through definitely makes sense, considering how large the lot is. Although you'd have to have a pretty large truck to take home something like this: 


Here is a map of the El Cajon location. I started out driving along the southern perimeter to take a look at the large succulents in 24" boxes. The next 15 photos were literally taken from the car: All I did was stop and roll down the window. I didn't even have to pull over since there were only a couple of other customers around.

$190 each


The largest dyckia specimen I've ever seen in a nursery. I don't envy the person who gets to plant this tangle of barbs!

Tall ocotillos for instant impact


Euphorbia evansii


LEFT: Euphorbia evansii   RIGHT: Consolea falcata. $160 each.

I couldn't believe how many boxed specimens there were




Aloe thraskii

Aloe thraskii

Aloe thraskii, $250

Aloe rupestris with its bottlebrush flowers

Aloe rupestris

Agave americana and ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

I'm not a big fan of Agave americana, but all lined up like this, they looked pretty nice!




Look at the wooden box in the upper right. The lane just behind is where you drive.

The green arrow points at where you drive

I guess it doesn't hurt to remind customers!

Agave ovatifolia



Agave filifera

Agave 'Felipe Otero' aka 'FO-76' aka 'Sierra Mixteca' aka Agave titanota

Aloe vaombe, one of my perennial faves

Aloe vaombe

Look at the caudex of this Beaucarnea recurvata! I don't think the box can contain it much longer.

Aloe africana in flower


Aloe africana

Bargain corner. $55 for a 15-gallon aloe, now that's what I call a good deal!



After a while I thought, is this ever going to end?




Aloe lineata var. muirii, another must-have aloe

Aloe lineata var. muirii

But not all is well in aloe land. While most aloes looked clean, there was a cluster that was clearly infected by aloe mites

Aloe cancer has got to be one of the ugliest things to affect plants

In some species, the flowers are particularly susceptible to the out-of-control cell growth caused by aloe mites

As you look at the photos in this post, bear in mind that I had flown to San Diego. A friend from San Jose, who had driven down, had already offered to take my plant purchases home, but I didn't want to abuse her generosity. And I definitely couldn't inflict something like this on her:


$18 for 5-gallon dyckias and hechtias is very cheap. I was soooooo tempted.



In fact, my biggest regret of the entire trip was not being able to buy the two hechtias in the photos below:



But there was no way my friend Laura could have hauled these fiercely armed terrestrial bromeliads home. I'm hoping they'll still be there when I go back in the winter—by myself and in my own car.

In case you were wondering, my Aloe ortholopha was waiting in the hold area, and I grabbed in on my way out. I forgot to take a photo. But a friend of my friend will deliver it to me next week, together with my purchases from the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals (see post here).


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15 comments:

  1. I see a visit to Evergreen in my future!

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  2. Oh boy , I missed the boat on cutting this out of my schedule ! I'm sure I could have fit a few more plants in my car. I have to say the prices you showed us seemed really reasonable to me.

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    1. I particularly liked the fact that it's open to the public AND that their prices are more than reasonable.

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  3. Even in photos the place feels more than a little overwhelming!

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  4. “$18 for 5-gallon dyckias and hechtia”... good lord! My heart is breaking for you.

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    1. Now I have this completely crazy delusion that they'll still be there the next time I visit because who in their right mind would buy something so wickedly armed?!

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  5. Anything exotic or mostly the standard stuff? Oh how jaded I've become. Must have been fun to visit, though.

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    1. Hoov, your comment made me laugh. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. A lot of what I saw was exotic to me. But you Southern California folks have a different baseline :-)

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  6. Only in Calif, a drive-through nursery! Did you order fries with your aloe? ;)
    Those hechtias are an amazing deal!

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    1. I'm glad I had to go there anyway to pick up my Aloe ortholopha. If not, I would gladly have gone out of my way just to be able to say that I've been to a drive-through nursery!

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  7. Thank you so much for your detailed post. You put your readers right there with great descriptions, pictures and other info, like the map. Very nice!

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    1. Thank you! I always try to write the kind of post I'd want to read myself.

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  8. Wow! This place is overwhelming. What an embarrassment of riches. Perhaps you should rent a large truck for your next visit.

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