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.
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."Link.
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.