Annie's Annuals mental-health outing

California continues to be under a shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since I work at home, my life during the week hasn't changed all that much. It's on the weekends that I notice the restrictions the most. It's not like public life has stopped altogether, but everything requires a lot more planning: Do I have disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and, most recently, my mask? Since I don't go out every day, the new routine hasn't become routine for me, and I hope it won't have to.

Strictly speaking, nursery visits aren't exactly necessary outings. However, I figure anything that improves my mental health is at least somewhat essential. Using that reasoning as an excuse, I made the one-hour drive to Annie's Annuals in Richmond on an eerily un-busy Interstate 80. I knew that Annie's had a solid social distancing protocol in place. Customers are requested to stay 3-6 ft. away from other customers (and staff) as they pass them, and the size of the nursery does allow for that. In the checkout area, belt dividers separate the customers from the employees; cash is not accepted, and you insert your credit card in a reader the employee holds out to you, so your card isn't touched by anybody else.

Another new thing: a couple of handwashing stations at the entrance where customers are requested to wash their hands as they arrive and leave

Another difference: Usually, inventory printouts listing the nursery location of every plant available at any given time are laid out on lecterns at different spots throughout the nursery. On every visit, the first thing I do is head to one of the lecterns and find the location of each plant I'm interested in. It goes without saying that these paper printouts are handled quite a bit during their lifetime so the risk of contamination is high. As part of the new routine, the printouts have been replaced with an online PDF accessible from Annie's homepage.

I got to Annie's Annuals at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning—a gray, drizzly morning, I might add. I fully expected to see no more than a handful of cars in the parking lot. To my surprise, the parking lot was more than half full! I wasn't worried about bumping into people inside the nursery because it's a large space. In fact, I was very happy to see so much support for Annie's Annuals!

The photos in this post are of the demonstration beds near the entrance. I was going to take more photos as I was making my way through the nursery. However, I had to stop because the drizzle was turning into light rain, and operating my phone while wearing nitrile gloves was awkward enough. But you get the idea: The demonstration plantings are at or near their peak right now, looking like an Annie's Annuals catalog come to life. In one word: beautiful.

This, to me, is classic Annie's Annuals. The blue flowers are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), a California native. The pink flowers are red catchfly (Silene dioica), a European native.

The vine in the back is Thunbergia alata 'Rose Sensation'

The blue-flowering grass-like plant at the top is Aristea inaequalis, a South African iris relative

Aloe conifera backed by Echeveria elegans

Aloe cameronii in a bed of Echeveria elegans
Crassula sp. and Phacelia campanularia

Echeveria 'Lola', proving that sometimes all you need is one beautiful plant and a few rocks

Madre Tierra wrapped with shrink wrap

Geranium maderense and Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green'

Graptopetalum paraguayense

Agave ovatifolia

One of my favorite beds in the demonstration area right now. It's easy to see why!

This incredible flower stalk belongs to Beschorneria yuccoides 'Flamingo Glow'

The tall yellow plant is Todaroa montana, the Canary Island giant mountain carrot.  Unfortunately, Annie's isn't selling it right now, but here's more info.

More Beschorneria yuccoides 'Flamingo Glow', with Pelargonium 'Veronica Contreras' in the front

Crassula capitella

Echeveria and sempervivum

This is one my holy grail plants, Clianthus puniceus. A New Zealand shrub that looks great all year but becomes a standout in the spring when it's loaded with parrot-beak flowers.

I've tried growing it in my own garden on several occasions, but it just can't handle our summer heat.

It goes without saying that I did some shopping myself. After all, in times of crisis, it's important to support your favorite nurseries as much as possible. Check back in a few days to see what I bought—19 plants in total.

How are you coping mentally with the situation?

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  1. Thanks for this, Gerhard, nothing like bountiful, colorful gardens to cheer one up! And to top it off,the new Annie's Annual catalog arrived in the mail just now.

    1. If I wrapped myself in shrink wrap, do you think I could lose a few pounds and get a nice svelte figure like that?

    2. Of course! Shrink-wrap is the latest and greatest weight-loss regimen!

  2. I was close to heading off to Annies myself during my 5 day weekend- but instead I have put in two mail orders. Or maybe I should say 2 so far ! The idea of driving on a low-traffic I80 was compelling though. I did get in my car on Friday and drove to Glen Ellen and back just to get out in the world. Took plenty of coffee and never got out of my car. Annies is looking splendid right now.

  3. Annie's is blessed with that strong ocean influence, the perfect place to grow things. I could use some garden-center/nursery therapy myself, but staying home. There's always autumn for planting new things.

    Only 19 plants? Admirable restraint!

    1. I've often said that plants begin to die as I descend down into the Sacramento Valley past Vacaville because they want to be in Richmond, not in Davis!

  4. Thanks for the virtual visit, Gerhard! Like Kathy, I had to make do with perusing the online catalog and placing a mail order (not due to be delivered until the 17th). My closest garden center, part of a chain, is closed to in-store shopping but they're accepting orders for pickup or delivery, and I placed one of those today. Roger's, still open an hour's drive south, continues to tempt me. I'm spending more time in my own garden these days, and have queued up a number of projects. In the good news-bad news category, it seems I may even have an opportunity to complete all of them. Best wishes!

    1. I hope Annie's is seeing an untick in online orders as people aren't able to visit the nursery in person!

      I need to find some cool garden projects to keep me from wanting to go places. Something other than fixing drip emitters or raking up old leaves--chores I find anything but exciting.

  5. Thanks for this virtual visit to Annies. We ventured out last Sunday to Sebright Gardens and had the place to ourselves, with the exception of one other customer. They're doing a great mail-order business though, so all's good—well, except for all the lost business from the spring plant sales that are cancelled.

    1. I'm quite confident that I would have found a bunch of plants to buy at Sebright Gardens :-)

  6. omg that todaroa is t-t-t-die-for. I think I've tried that clianthus before too. I've yet to see blooms on my Flamingo Glow -- it might be a Bay Area thing. thank god for Annie's Annuals. This post was a nice quarantine gift, Gerhard!

    1. I wanted that todaroa so bad! I wonder why they're not offering it anymore? Maybe it was a diva!

      My 'Flamingo Glow' has never bloomed either. In fact, it's never done much other than look sad :-(

  7. Echeveria 'Lola' surrounded by those rocks is the proof that less is often more, but who among us can confess to such restraint? Not me... Yucca 'Flamingo Glow'!!! Is that bloom for real?


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