Saturday, September 1, 2007

Annie's Annuals

On the first day of our California trip, my wife and I went to Annie's Annuals, in Richmond. Richmond is one of the few places left in the East Bay area that has land cheap enough for production nurseries to survive near San Francisco, probably because it has some parts that are rather rough neighborhoods. Once inside the fence surrounding Annie's, which blocks off views of the surrounding 'hood, you see a spaceous nursery full of interesting plants in 4 inch containers and wonderful container plantings featuring much of what they carry. There is also a small garden in one corner of the nursery, and other planted areas near the fence.

One of the many lovely planted containers is shown above, with production benches behind. A large clump of Agrostemma githago is the most prominant feature. The next pic shows Xeranthemum texanum, which was splendid with its brillant yellow flowers which seemed to glow in the California sunshine. I did not see plants of it for sale, but it would likely be easy to grow from seed.

Some of the plants at Annie's are in fact better grown from seed for most serious gardeners, among them would be California poppies, various other poppies, the Agrostemma, etc. These plants resent moving (although to be fair I am sure that four inch pots of them carefully planted would be okay) and are quick to flower and die (except california poppies which may persist), so better to grow from seed.

Most of the other plants were quite choice, I especially liked the following: a wide selection of native Californian plants, several new impatiens species unavailable elsewhere to my knowledge, a good and apparently growing selection of South African natives, including herbaceous, shrub, succulent, and bulbous species, and some pretty salvia species. I brought quite a few plants, and even more on my return visit during the last day of my vacation. Among the many treasures I got were Brugmansia sanguinea (both red and yellow forms), four impatiens species that I did not have, a double flowered nasturtium, Saliva corrugata (brilliant blue flower), Balbisia (a rare yellow flowered bushy plant from Chile), Melianthus villosus and M.comosus, Moraea huttonii (they do need to give it more water in summer, I suspect they think it is winter growing--it is not, and it grows in wet areas in nature), a couple of delosperma species, etc.

To prepare all of my finds for transport back home on the airplane, they were all barerooted with a hose, roots put in baggies and sealed with rubber bands. No doubt they don't like such rough treatment, but now all are replanted, with a fungicide treatment for traumatized roots, and I suspect most will survive. For any that might stuggle, propagation via cuttings may be another option to prevent loss.

One thing I have mixed feelings about is that Annie's is very expensive to order from via mailorder, at least from the East. Packing and shipping are extraordinarily high, but I could deal with this if the plants were priced the same way they are for locals--but that is not the case. With very few exceptions, all plants at the nursery are $3.25, 4.25, or 5.25. A quick check of their website will reveal much higher costs for the plants. So in essence they are double dipping with regard to mailorder customers.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy my visits, and would highly recommend that you go to Annie's if you are in the area. If you can get there in person, the plant selection and prices are both excellent, and the plantings are very colorful, interesting, and inspiring.

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