A Saturday road trip took me with two gardening friends, Ann D. and Glee M. several hours south to the inland hills and canyons of Ventura County off California Highway 126. Not the breezy coastal part of that county but rather the dry scrubby hills south of the small town of Fillmore. A little mapping misstep on my part sent us in a wide circle around our destination but resulted in stumbling upon another specialty nursery that had already been a possible #2 stop–more about that later.
Our primary destination was Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis–well, we never really saw any town called Somis but I’m pretty sure there must be one. We were out in the country amongst small ranches and an amazing number of wholesale nursery operations. Definitely dry and I’m pretty sure really hot at the height of summer. The draw for this particular daylily source is its owner’s focus on varieties which are bred for or have shown superior adaptability to Southern California’s particular growing conditions.
As we turned into and then down the long dirt road to the ground I just didn’t know whether to take in the long views first or focus on the masses of color to my left and right! I actually jumped out of the car at the top of the drive to take a few photos as my traveling companions pulled into what we thought was the retail area.
The gardens are in a small valley surrounded by gentle hills.
There are plants everywhere! Greenwood also specializes in pelargoniums and iris. Hoop houses and open ground have rows of exciting colors and shapes.
These two fields of daylilies were across from the hoop houses–probably each a hundred feet in length and 30 feet deep. I was amazed to see when I got up close that they are all being grown in 5 gallon nursery cans cozied up next to each other.
Not many iris were in sight but his hoop house has row upon row of 4″ pots of pelargoniums of all kinds and hues, making a colorful tapestry. As with the daylilies, the pelargoniums are selected for their proven success in Southern California gardens.
It probably should have occurred to us that with no staff, no carts and no labels on most of what was in the hoop houses that we really weren’t in the right place but I can’t say that it did!
Two splashy daylilies and an equally vibrant hibiscus were huddled up together growing out of the hoop house’s dirt floor.
Our soon-to-be best friend Javier and his friendly rescue dog, Diego, arrived presently in a golf cart from some far off place and…we’re busted! This is the staff only area and we should have driven further into the valley to reach the small retail area.
With a silver Airstream as its office backdrop and a shaded area outfitted with chairs looking as though a class would soon start, the retail area was quite small. We learned that the owner John Schoustra and his wife were out of town and Javier was our man for whatever we needed. I was a bit disappointed to have missed the owner. The Greenwood website, http://www.greenwoodgarden.com, has a lot of good daylily culture information (plus the same for the pelargoniums and iris) and reading through it made me feel as if Greenwood Daylily Gardens is as much passion as profitable business for Mr. Schoustra. He feels very strongly about breeding and using plants good for where you live and they’ll prosper–more important than a fancy new marking or ruffle on a bloom. He was named 2018 Horticulturalist of the Year recently by the Southern California Horticultural Society. I had a list of questions and, although Javier told me he had been with John for 20 years, my Spanish and his English didn’t mesh quite enough for me have an in depth discussion rife with horticultural nuance.
This great bloom display gave us an opportunity to study these varieties upclose and each tubular base had the plant ID tag zip tied onto it. Smartest thing I’ve seen in a long time. On this day there was not an enormous variety of hemerocallis to purchase in one gallon cans. My sense is that Greenwood’s strength lies it its ability to provide masses of large, mature clumps (5 gallon whoppers) for large more institutional, commercial jobs. There is at least one photo on the website of his daylilies filling the medians of the streets of nearby Calabasas. Greenwood Daylily Gardens is open for retail sales only during its Open House days which are the Saturdays in April, May, and June. The retail availability list for Open House visitors lists 54 named cultivars with only 36 of them in single gallon cans. In contrast, Oakes Daylilies, who I have visited and purchased from for 20+ years, is a more retail focused grower with over 50 acres planted in the rich, dark earth of rural Corryton, Tennessee and a robust mail order business. Their website lists 400+ cultivars. Mr. Schoustra focuses on limited numbers of locally successful cultivars and does those really well. This fits right into his daylily design philosophy of using large masses of the same cultivar rather than mixing lots of different sizes, shapes and colors up. He offers a visual of those mixed up plantings as being akin to “a bad hair day.”
These two mauve-y pinks were pretty but my focus today was on lavenders and purples of which there were none.
The closest I got was this beautiful poster showing a nice range of my sought after tones. The website does list several lavenders that looked really good to me but I am not sure if the stock was gone for the retail season. Clearly it is best to visit earlier in the span of Open House days to get the most selection for purchase even if the bloom display may not be yet at its peak.
Ann picked out a few reblooming white iris rhizomes–peak iris bloom is long past here. I selected several interesting pelargoniums.
Unlike our first illicit stop at the hoop houses, everything here was well labeled and Javier had a laminated copy of their most recent catalog (2016) which he was happy to walk around with me so I could read about each one I considered.
This Pelargonium x domesticum ‘Dark Mystery’ will fit right in with a small selection of plants settling into the stock tank that have a burgundy element in either foliage or bloom. This species, commonly know as regal or Martha Washington geraniums, puts on the biggest show for the shortest time–the Greenwood catalog refers to them as “the prom queens of the pelargonium world.” This one is a Greenwood Daylily Gardens introduction.
Pelargonium sidoides ‘Lavender Lad’ is already at home in a sunny spot near the sidewalk off our back patio where it won’t get lost in the shuffle and can soften the concrete edge–although it may get buried during the peak bloom of its bellflower neighbors. I have had his cousin ‘Burgundy’ in my front garden for over 5 years with nary an issue so I have high hopes for this lad.
No chance this delicate ferny leafed scented geranium was going to get away from me. Pelargonium denticulatum ‘Folicifolium’ is commonly called the pine scented geranium or balsam scented geranium but I was drawn to it for its unusual foliage. Going to pot this one up until I have an idea of its size and hardiness to both cold and our resident snails and slugs. The above photo is the full flat rather crammed together. My single 4″ pot is much airier.
I had it sitting in a protected spot only a full day and it is already leaning into the sun–a good clue where it will eventually be happiest!
I have grown Geranium maderense before from seeds (maybe seedlings, I can’t recall) from my SoCal friend Judi H.’s garden. I could never keep it reseeding as she does but I’m going to give it another go. This is the only hardy (true) geranium Greenwood grows. A biennial in nature, it is said to perform very well in dry shade, amongst masses of tree roots. Dry shade lovers are few and far between–I would be happy for just the foliage. It is potted up for now but is destined for underneath my Bradford pear trees when I return from Denver.
We had paid for our purchases and were contemplating lunch when Javier ran over to beckon me to a close to purple daylily he had found amongst a seedling mix out in the field containers that Greenwood calls ‘Miami Mix’–a melange of golds, oranges, yellows, et al. So many more questions about the idea of this kind of a mix and how it gets that way that were beyond my Spanish skills. With the work Javier and faithful Diego had put in scouring the stock for it, I had no choice but to purchase it.
The original bloom from the day I got it was tragically lost (but then happily the only fatality) in a very short stop to avoid an accident only a few blocks from home–after transporting it and our other finds several hundred miles without incident. This bloom opened this morning.
This flower (photographed in the field) is also part of the ‘Miami Mix.’ Ruffled, the palest yellow and at least at large as a salad plate, it was so different than the others.
Although truly not what I expected, having only visited one other daylily growing operation, our visit was educational and fun. Even the being sort of lost as we climbed up a two lane road high into the hills with precious little way to turn off or around.
Our other stop was Matilija Nursery on Waters Rd. in (ok, not in–but in the country outside) Moorpark. This seemingly one man operation specializes in California native plants and bearded iris. He had tons of 2″ pots plus other larger containers to choose from but again most of them were unmarked. I love a surprise as well as the next gardening girl but I probably would have bought more if I had not had to track him down each time I wanted to know what something was. Can’t google it unless it has a name!
No rocket science involved in the naming of this nursery–a huge colony of Matilija poppies is busy scaling the slope. Do you think the people up there know what’s coming?
This shade house is home to owner Bob Sussman’s precious collection of Iris douglasiana, California’s native Pacific Coast iris. I will tell you all of his crosses are meticulously labeled but it is in handwriting only his mother will recognize. I’m sure he has a system for keeping track of his hybrids which is simply not recognizable to casual shoppers! It is a little late in their season but a few were still blooming. If you are interested in learning more about California natives or the nursery’s habit restoration work check out their website http://www.matilijanursery.com–it has a well written plant availability list with links to plant profiles and photos.
I don’t think you can beat a day trip with good friends and great plants. A time to visit, laugh, share a meal together–what could be better?