East Bay Wilds native plant nursery: nothing ordinary about it

I'd heard whispers of East Bay Wilds for a while:
► “I think it's in Berkeley. Maybe Oakland. Somewhere over there.”
►“Never been there myself, but I've heard it's great.”
► “It's hardly ever open, but it has stuff you can't find anywhere else.”
► “You have to go. They have all kinds of stuff, not just plants.”

I love nothing more than a challenge so to the Interwebs I went. It turns out that East Bay Wilds is a small nursery in Oakland that specializes in California natives. It's the brainchild of Pete Veilleux, a plantsman and garden designer who maximizes the use of natives in his residential and commercial work. You can read more about the history of East Bay Wilds on their website.

Since landscaping is the main focus of East Bay Wilds, the nursery doesn't have set hours. According to the website, “the nursery is open for an hour or two on most weekdays, but you must call first to find out what time to meet me there.”

Unless I had a larger landscaping project to shop for, I'd feel uncomfortable having Pete come to the nursery just for me if all I wanted to do is look around and maybe buy a plant or two.

So back to the Internet I went. On the East Bay Wilds' Facebook page, I found out about an all-day open house on Saturday, October 20. Perfect timing, because Markham Nature Park & Arboretum in Concord had their fall plant sale that morning. Two birds with one stone—I love being efficient!

Google Maps helped me navigate the unfamiliar streets of Oakland, and I found East Bay Wilds without getting lost. The nursery is located at the corner of Foothill Blvd and 28th Ave in Oakland's Fruitvale district. Foothill is a busy street, mixed commercial and residential from the looks of it; 28th is residential. East Bay Wilds has no parking of its own, and finding street parking was a bit of a challenge. Eventually I found a spot on Foothill kitty-corner from the nursery. Not too bad for a Saturday morning.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the lot were the signs. So many signs! Road signs, parking signs, traffic signs: “Sea otter rescue,” “Eye hazardous area,” “Gas main,” “Group picnics,” “Drive safely,” “Be courteous.” I didn't see any prices, but I assume all the signs are for sale, as is most everything else.

Maybe even the rusty old tools?

Let's not forget the pots—with and without plants...

...and the statuary—angels and gargoyles...

...and an Ent? An Ent without a tree?

Oh no, the Ent's tree got turned into this:

Metal boy and metal girl:

My Lady of the Bucket:

My main focus that day was to look at manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), and I was fascinated by the many dwarf specimens growing in containers:

I hadn't realized that you can containerize manzanitas like that.

I was inspired by what I saw.

Manzanita and dudleya—a perfect Coastal California combo:

Dudleya farinosa

Dudleya virens ssp. hassei
Potted agaves, too!

Agave margaritae, endemic only to two islands in the Gulf of California off Baja California Sur

For reasons I can't quite figure out I didn't take any photos of the plant section. Picture 8-10 aisles of California natives in 1- and 5-gallon containers. East Bay Wilds' online inventory has close to 1,000 entries but not everything is in stock at any given time. With 70+ entries, manzanitas are particularly well represented, ranging from Arctostaphylos "Austin Griffiths' to Arctostaphylos viridissima.

I ended up buying two manzanitas (Arctostaphylos 'Ian Bush' and Arctostaphylos franciscana) and a California barberry (Berberis pinnata).

My haul: Arctostaphylos 'Ian Bush', Arctostaphylos franciscana, and Berberis pinnata (or is Mahonia pinnata again?)

Arctostaphylos 'Ian Bush' is an A. densiflora hybrid that is fast growing, with an open habit that highlights the beautiful bark, all in a compact package (4-5 ft.) that's perfect for our front yard. It was originally discovered as a seedling at Las Pilitas Nursery.

The other manzanita, Arctostaphylos franciscana, is the famous manzanita native to San Francisco that was presumed extinct for 70+ years until a single plant was found at the Presidio in 2009. Find out more about the fascinating story behind the Franciscan manzanita in this KQED Science article and then check out these photos of where this lone specimen was found and how it was moved to a new undisclosed home.

The biggest surprise of my visit to East Bay Wilds weren't the plants or pots or paraphernalia, it was the number of people. Considering this is a small boutique business filling a small niche of the nursery market, I hadn't expected dozens of people! And apparently they weren't just looking, they were buying, too. The day after the open house, a post on the East Bay Wilds Facebook page indicated that this had been their most successful day ever.

If you're interested in visiting this under-the-radar gem, keep an eye on their Facebook page and their event calendar. I'll be back for sure!

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  1. I expect you were too intent on nabbing whatever plant gems you could find and photography took a back seat to the search. I usually give myself a short amount of time when I enter a nursery to snap photos of whatever grabs my eye and then put the camera down so I can get down to business.

    1. Yes, they only had 1 of the Arctostaphylos 'Ian Bush', so I had to grab it before somebody else did.

  2. I've never been still. I'm eager to lose that cherry.

  3. What a fun place! That tall Manzanita looks like a winner.

  4. Quirky one-of-a-kind nurseries are the best ones!

  5. Just to clarify, you bought a native that grows to 14' across? Yep, that's what I thought. :)

    (that's my kind of plant!)

  6. That looks like a great nursery! It's sort of morphed with a junk shop. Two of my favorite kinds of shopping rolled into one.


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