A North Bay hort trip

My friend Emma's buying lots of plants for a big landscaping job she has in Woodside. We like to visit nurseries and gardens together, and today we headed north to visit some nurseries she hasn't depleted of stock.

Our first stop was California Flora Nursery in Fulton.


This is an excellent nursery for natives, and they sell other plants appropriate for California's long rainless summers including some unusual varieties of Cistus and Agastache. Plus, they sell tons of stuff in 4" pots which is my favorite way to buy plants.

When I was here last year, the place was overflowing with stock, but it looks like they're still in the early stages of gathering and propagating material for 2008. They say on the website their inventory "fluctuates wildly". The last time I was here they had the largest selection of native Epilobium varieties I've ever seen.


Today, I finally reached my seasonal exhaustion point with winter dormancy. I want to see things start leafing out now. I find summer dormancy so much easier to endure than winter dormancy. Or course, it's easy to say that in winter.

Some inventory...

Emma says large established plants of Physocarpus opulifolius 'Nugget' make very impressive specimens.



Crazy stems of Crataegus douglasii.



Elegia capensis is perhaps my favorite Restio. I'd like to try it in a large pot sometime--one that I can keep wet. This plant shouldn't dry out. These look a little yellow to me.



They have a remarkable dwarfed cork oak, Quercus suber. This grew from acorn in 1981 when the nursery opened. It's been in this box ever since. (Note: It's much harder to say "dwarfed cork oak" than it is to read.)


According to Mike Sullivan's book, The Trees of San Francisco, cork oaks can grow 60 feet or higher and can live 300-400 years under the right conditions. He says they do well as street trees in San Francisco although very few are planted here. Could it be because Sunset Western Garden advises against using this plant in San Francisco's climate zone 17? Sunset also says its value as a street tree "diminishes when children learn how easy it is to carve its bark." This is, after all, the original source of commercial cork which can be obtained by stripping the trunk's outer layer every 9 years.

Okay, that's a lot about Quercus suber. Let's admire this specimen and move on.





They have it for sale in tubes.


Our next stop was the Luther Burbank Garden in Santa Rosa. Burbank (link, link) was one of America's great horticulturists and he did all his work here.


The Shasta Daisy comes to us from Burbank, but he also introduced hundreds of other ornamentals, fruits, and vegetables (e.g., Idaho Baker potatoes). I'm growing Sunberry (Solanum Burbankii) in my summer garden this year.




They're growing that here, and also a thornless blackberry he developed.



He developed "more than 60 varieties of spineless cacti" from hyrbids of Indian fig (Opuntia ficus-indica) and Mexican prickly pear (Opuntia tuna).


I had to be sure!

"Luther Burbank experimented for over 20 years, creating many new types of cacti (plural for cactus), trying to find the perfect spineless cactus. He thought that a cactus without spines would make excellent food for cattle. Cactus thrive in hot climates, so Luther Burbank thought that growing spineless cactus would be a great way to use the desert. Sad to say, this set of experiments never really worked out. Why? Well, Mr. Burbank did all his cactus experiments in Santa Rosa, which has a higher annual amount of rainfall than any desert. To grow, his spineless cacti wanted a lot more water than they would get in the desert."

Hmm. Well, if the spineless cactus tolerates drought in Santa Rosa, it will tolerate the drought in San Francisco too. They're selling it for $2 by the pad, or thallus.


The visitor center is closed from November through March, so this is on the honor system.


One thallus sold to Chuck B.! I've wanted to try this plant--artistically pruned in a container--for a long time, but the spines were holding me back.


The growing instructions say cacti can be containerized for a year, "but should ultimately be given plenty of growing space outdoors in the ground." Well, hmmm. I'm sure I've seen cacti that have been containerized for many, many years and I'll bet many of you have too.

Finally, today we went to Tomales to visit Mostly Natives Nursery which I'd never been to before. What a charming place Tomales is. I just snapped a few pictures because my camera was giving me "low battery" alerts.







I bought a few things here, including an osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) and Salmon Flower (Polemonium carneum), and...Quercus suber! This place had a remarkable specimen planted on their grounds and they were selling seedlings too... what are the odds?

I figured it was a cosmic message that I should heed.


Christopher C. NC said...

Now see that is why it is best for me to stay out of nurseries. There are too many cosmic messages in them that I can't afford.

The Thompson and Morgan seed catalog is bad enough.

lisa said...

Hahahaha...oh yea, Christopher's right, I can't ever get the cosmos to SHUT UP when I'm at a nursery! Love the tour as always, and I'm continuously surprised at what "real" California looks like in your pictures. (Although I don't know what I thought it would be...just different.)

Anonymous said...

The LA area needs nurseries like this! No wonder the Bay area has such superior gardens and gardeners!

BTW - you've been tagged, my friend ... post 7 Random Facts about yourself if you want to play along!

Frances, said...

It is always a pleasure to go along on your little excursions. I bought a physocarpus called 'Summer Wine' last fall, the one called 'Nugget' looks like a great bright color. Polemonium, isn't that Jacob's ladder? A native wildflower here in the southeast.
Can't wait for some serious leaf and bloom action here also, it is time.

Angela Pratt said...

Thanks for the vicarious nursery excursions. I'll have to add those to my list of places to visit.

Cork oaks are very cool. Have you seen the huge specimens on the UC Davis campus?

Campus Tree Walk: Cork Oak

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nursery links; I always like to tour, even if it is on line. I particularly like the photo gallery at Mostly Natives.

chuck b. said...

Les, that Mostly Natives was a real treat for me too. Sweet little nursery, but tons of interesting stuff, a lot of which I've never seen offered anywhere else.

Angela, thank you for loving the cork oak with me. I have not seen the cork oaks at UC Davis; thanks for adding that link. I want to visit the perennial garden in their arboretum again soon.

Frances, I think you're right: Polemonium is Jacob's Ladder. There's also an alpine species in the Sierra Nevada called Sky Pilot. Look how pretty: http://www.laspilitas.com/plants/525.htm
Polemonium--a genus of many things.

Germi, you tagged me. I think I already did 7 random things about me, but I can certainly come up with 7 more random things.

Lisa, Christopher--I did really well not buying anything at the first nursery, and only one thing at the final destination. That's the trick I guess: Limit myself to visiting only one nursery. Then stop, go home, and take a cold shower.

chuck b. said...

I mean only one thing at the second destination. If we'd stopped there, I would have only spent $2 yesterday!

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Back in my neck of the woods again !
I've been a faithful consumer at Cal Flora for a long time and will concur with their statement that their stock fluctuates wildly.
Unfortunately I am usually 'on a mission' and require a well stocked nursery so I haven't shopped at Cal Flora on a professional level for quite sometime.
But it is always a great nursery to visit on a non-professional buying trip.

Love love love the photograph that you took in Tomales of the kids riding their bikes down the country lane.
What a slice of Coastal North Marin !

We have some very old cork oaks growing in the street median strips here in Novato. They are on Redwood Blvd and look to be 80 years old or older.
Nice big trunks and sizable canopies !

Thanks for the nursery tour,
See you at the garden show on opening night !

chuck b. said...

The garden show will be so fun!

Now I have to plan a trip to Redwood Blvd. in Novato.

JvA said...

I also appreciate abundance, beauty, taste, hardiness, and thornlessness.