California native plant sale at Tilden Park in Berkeley

This fall, plants sales have been happening at a frantic pace. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more because I've been going to more of them than I usually do.

In any case, you'd think I wouldn't need more plants, especially after my Portland haul. But I got those additions into the ground very quickly and I cleared more space elsewhere by removing dead, dying, and/or underperforming plants. And since gaps must be filled lest there be a disturbance in the force, I simply had to continue shopping. Just like Sarah Winchester had to continue adding on to the Winchester Mystery House in order to the appease the spirits that were haunting her.

Above is one of the many rolling hills you see as you drive to the Bay Area from Davis on Interstate 80. In late winter and early spring they are often a vibrant green. In the summer they turn golden brown (some claim California's nickname, The Golden State, was inspired by these hills). I love those hills, and they're never more beautiful than when there are puffy white clouds in a deep blue sky.

As you can see, going to plant sales has other benefits, too!
I didn't take photos at all the sales I've gone to this fall. Often the venues are just too crowded or I'm too focused on getting what I'm interested in. After all, plant shopping is serious business, and the competition can be fierce, especially when there is only a limited quantity of any given species. Rigorous discipline is required. No lollygagging, dillydallying, or daydreaming. You snooze, you lose!

For the first time, I went to the native plant sale in Tilden Park in the hills above Berkeley. This twice-a-year sale organized in cooperation with the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden is arguably the best opportunity to buy California natives in our area. 

I took the back roads to the Berkeley Hills and saw some pretty sights along the way:

San Pablo Reservoir

The sale was held near the entrance to Regional Parks Botanic Garden. The plants were organized by category and either set out on the ground or on tables. Members of the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden had a one-hour headstart on the public. Since I'm not a member, I was afraid many of the plants I was looking for would be gone, but that was not the case. 

Aside from cactus, California doesn't have a lot of native succulents. The largest group are dudleyas. This sale offered 374 plants from 21 different Dudleya taxa. (No, I didn't count them one by one; I simply added up what was listed in the plant sale inventory available online prior to the sale.)

I already have a few Dudleya farinosa, but I couldn't resist these "extremely chalky-white" beauties.

I saw Dudleya pulverulenta growing on the hillsides in northern San Diego early this year

Dudleya albiflora was new-to-me species

I was equally surprised by the variety of prickly pears and chollas on offer (Opuntia, Cylindropuntia):

The plant in the next photos wasn't very popular, but it was exactly what I was looking for. Going by the WTF name of turkey tangle frogfruit, or just frogfruit, it's a ground-hugging perennial—others would say it's a weed. It's becoming more popular as a water-wise lawn substitute. Since the Dymondia margaretae lawn in the backyard turned out to be a failure for reasons still unknown, I've been looking for alternatives. In my search I stumbled upon turkey tangle frogfruit (Lippia nodiflora). Annie's Annuals is promoting it as a lawn substitute, and UC Davis is running irrigation trials of several lippia cultivars. I bought 10 4-inch plants and hope they will spread enough to fill the area. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here are the other plants that came home with me:

Dudleya farinosa (front) and Dudleya 'Frank Reinelt' (back)

Back to front: Solanum umbelliferum var. incanum 'Spring Frost', Rhamnus ilicifolia, Mahonia neviniiEriophyllum lanatum 'Siskiyou'

Back to front: Ceanothus hearstiorum 'King Sip', Arctostaphylos nummularia × uva-ursi (2x), Juniperus communis var. saxatilis 'Point St. George', Arctostaphylos auriculata (form with large inflorescences from Black Diamond on Mount Diablo)

Ceanothus hearstiorum 'King Sip', Arctostaphylos nummularia × uva-ursi (2x), Juniperus communis var. saxatilis 'Point St. George'

Here is my plant haul from the Regional Parks Botanic Garden sale:

Size HxW (in)
Where it will go
Arctostaphylos auriculata (form with large inflorescences from Black Diamond on Mount Diablo)
60 × 60
6 × 36
Front yard, in front of lime tree at the head of the driveway
12 × 72
Backyard, near Acacia baileyana
12 × 12
Front yard, dudleya bed (already planted)
12 × 12
Front yard, dudleya bed
10 × 24
6 × 24
Front yard, along sidewalk (already planted)
2 × 24
Back yard, lawn substitute
96 × 120
Mother-in-law’s garden in Mount Shasta
96 × 96
Mother-in-law’s garden in Mount Shasta
24 × 24
Front yard, along sidewalk (already planted)

In my next post, I'll talk about the fall sale at the University of Santa Cruz Arboretum.

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  1. Those landscape shots show how beautiful California can be. Dark oaks, golden grass, my favorite combination of all.

    Nice haul from what looked to be a great plant sale. I was looking for Mahonia nevinii myself. It is said to attract the Western Bluebird--what could be better?

    The UCSC sale must have been awesome. Awaiting the post!

    1. As much as I love the green hills in the early spring, it's those summer vistas of golden grass, blue sky and white clouds that make my heart beat faster.

      My experience is that with the exception of Mahonia repense and aquifolium, native mahonias are hard to find.

      The UCSC sale was awesome--and awesome madhouse. So many plants I've never even heard of before! And some will even grow here.

  2. Well if you end up going to the UC Davis clearance this weekend I will tick your plant sale addict box. I was pretty jealous of some of the stuff you showed me on Sunday though. These fall events are hard to resist.

    1. This weekend I'm going to the Markham Arboretum sale in Concord and East Bay Wilds Native Plant Nursery in Oakland.

      The UC Davis clearance sale is November 3. And I'm going to that as well--everything will be at least 10% off, many plants up to 50% off. How could I resist, seeing how it's not even 10 minutes from my house!

  3. That picture labeled "San Pablo Reservoir" is my ideal of California - live oak, waving wild oats, blue skies. Ahhhh. I grew up with them in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills. The blue skies were, of course, on the inland - Pleasant Hill, Concord, Walnut Creek - side where my Grandfather lived.

  4. That's a pretty fabulous setting for a plant sale. I'm surprised you still have room for all these new purchases.

    1. I'm surprised as well. But I'm cramming plants in for a fuller look.

  5. What a gorgeous venue! Like Kris said I really am surprised you have room for all these, oh and I hope your “turkey tangle frogfruit“ thrives, what a name!!!

    1. Turkey tangle frogfruit, who would ever come up with a crazy name like that!

      I've talked to two people now who have had great success with a lippia "lawn" in Davis. Keeping my fingers crossed...

  6. Your first photo of the clouds and rolling hills reminds me very much of the Windows XP background, Bliss. You probably weren't too far from it, literally and figuratively.

  7. Some gorgeous scenery on the way to this wonderful sale. Great haul. Your dedication to plant shopping has paid of nicely!

    1. Finally I'm having the kind of plant shopping experience that guys have routinely :-).

  8. That scenic shot of the reservoir is pure California. The golden hills with okay patches never stopped being strange to me, child of the eastern woodland, but it was a beautiful strange, and now I miss being able to see them. Thank you.

  9. We see Lippia nodiflora on occasions when hiking the hills. Its a bit of a nuisance in the garden but great for tough sites. Delta Blue Grass is selling a variety of it in sod form under the name Kurapia. Supposed to be a sterile form which is probably a good think as the Bees adore the flowers.


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