Every year on the last weekend in September, one of my favorite road trip nurseries hangs the works of local quilters throughout its grounds and welcomes quilters and gardeners alike for a weekend of shopping, classes and special exhibits.
Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, California is a family owned full service garden center established in 1955 on a parcel of land home to dozens of majestic Valley oaks (Quercus lobata.) Once in the countryside, it is now surrounded by town and takes its role in this small community seriously, sponsoring many weekends of seasonal activities every year.
Alden Lane’s gift shops, houseplants and administrative offices are housed in a beautiful residence like structure with a Country French vibe–offering lots of “yard” spaces to introduce planting schemes. I had always assumed this to have been an original home on the property but learned on this trip that despite the building’s vintage feel, it was built only 20 years ago.
As you can clearly see, on this morning it was slightly overcast and very windy. The main nursery entrance is decorated with colorful quilts and seasonal pumpkins. The addition of huge swathes of dappled shade from the centuries old oaks made photography challenging.
If you could line up the far left of the top photo with the far right of the bottom photo you would have the full expanse of this oak branch which lies close to the ground. I can imagine having this unbelievable living sculpture as part of my garden would become a quiet place to sit in the shade and a magical climbing structure for anyone over 2 and under 90.
Despite bring pretty windblown and wishing I had brought more than a lightweight jacket, I spent a couple of hours wandering the grounds taking in the more than 250 fabric works of art ruffling in the breezes.
Alden Lane Nursery’s website http://www.aldenlane.com is full of information about upcoming events including October 12 & 13th’s Fall Festival. Their associated blog posts offer seasonal gardens tips and a useful monthly garden checklist. I am sure you will enjoy the wealth of gardening resources Alden Lane provides!
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?
Although neither our alkaline clay-ish soil nor our zero humidity screaming hot summers are friendly toward them, I have a never ending friendship with the hardy geraniums, specifically the genus Geranium, not the pelargoniums we casually call geraniums. As they are not as common in California as other parts of the US I cannot resist buying almost any one I see in my gardening travels and am guilty of not always doing my research before swiping my credit card.
Three years ago while on my first Garden Conservancy Open Days jaunt I visited Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, CA near the Mendocino coast. My post Mendocino madness…#2 will give you a glimpse of Deborah Wigham and Gary Ratway’s wonderful demonstration garden, retail and mail-order nursery flourishing in a forest near sea level in Northern California. They have great selections in small sizes so it’s easy to try a lot of different plants for not such a huge investment. One of three hardy geraniums I purchased there is Geraniumnodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’, named after a famous garden in the Normandy region of France. G. nodosum spreads by underground rhizomatous roots to form medium sized mounds and is indicated to use in medium to light shade area. My reference material–which I had with me to consult as I shopped–states “At least two sources have reported G. nodosum can become very invasive and that it is very difficult to eradicate.” Well, I have made a few missteps in the past on planting things purported to be invasive–the dreaded Lippianodiflora (AKA Lippiarepens AKA Phylanodiflora) took years out of my gardening life to finally see the last of it after I blithely planted a 4″ pot in a rose bed needing ground cover, foolishly believing I could confine it with a brick edging. It not only overtook the bed but also everything else planted in it. Hoping to not have a repeat of that messy situation I planted little ‘Clos du Coudray’ in the Secret Garden behind our outdoor pavilion where I thought it could not do lasting harm if it ran amok under the sequoias. I never saw it again until today. After its almost immediate disappearance I have periodically checked the ground near the ID tag for signs of life three or four times a year since the summer of 2016. Nothing, nada, zilch.
Like Lazarus, the little jewel has risen from the dead. It actually looks as though this might be its second bloom, albeit only a single bloom stalk (stem? whatever!) With nine leaves I think I am in no immediate danger of the area being overrun! I will keep a close watch over it though as it has had almost three full years to build up its strength.
Those of you who read my post Purple reigns… know that I have been anxiously awaiting the first blooms on a new addition to my small cache of daylilies. In my former Georgia garden I had a massive collection–over 150 named varieties–all in the apricot, orange, gold and coral palette. Finding daylilies that work in my Central Valley’s predominantly lavender, blue, pink and purple palette has been a challenge. Most pinks seem to lean to orange rather than the blue, and the purples tend to fade out in our strong summer sun. Last year I added Hemerocallis ‘Pink Perfection’ and, although beautiful, its coral hue stuck out like a sore thumb. They are now happily settled into my fellow daylily aficionado Ann’s garden. Last fall I replaced those first season clumps with a grouping of H. ‘Lavender Tonic’ and her first blooms are indeed a tonic for my daylily longings.
Ok, I’m still having to stretch my concept of lavender but, regardless of what she’s called, the mauve-y rose tone works well with not only the cool blues but also the more purple leaning pinks. This one is a keeper. Ann is also trialing a few purples this year so hopefully once our successful ones clump up nicely we’ll be able to pass them back and forth over the proverbial garden fence.
Ann is blessed to have a horticulturist daughter who recently gave her the lowdown on a Ventura County grower called Greenwood Daylily Gardens. Located in the small community of Somis, they are open for retail sales only on Saturday in the months of April through June–so…we’re making an early June road trip to check it out. Their website http://www.greenwoodgarden.com has a wealth of cultural information including the tidbit that all daylilies have some underlying yellow pigment. It tends to come out after planting the scapes in a new location or experiencing other stressful circumstances–thus the pink ones looking so peachy or salmon toned and the lavenders looking muddy. The message was to give the plants a few seasons to acclimate and the more desired (and hybridized) color should emerge. What a revelation and I can’t wait for this visit! So just as we patiently wait while new perennials sleep and creep for their first couple of years before we are rewarded with the LEAP we so desire we must let our daylilies settle in before they offer their true colors.
Greenwood also grows irises, pelargoniums, clivia and cannas–something for every garden. I’ve got my eye on dark red (almost black) Pelargonium ‘Queen of Hearts’ PPAF, one of several bred specifically for California gardens by SoCal local hybridizer Jay Kapac. Wish us luck on our quest and I’ll be sure to report back to you what we bring home!
P.S. Thanks to Ann for providing the inspiration for this post’s title–it was her subject line on a recent e-mail bearing a photo of one of her new selection’s first blooms.
I paid a visit to an acquaintance the other day–that is, a garden center I had not shopped at in about 7 or 8 years. Sierra View Nursery on Academy Ave. is about as far east in Clovis as I am west in Fresno and almost requires me to take a canteen and pack a lunch! I had purchased a couple of Blue Point junipers there when we first started renovating our current garden but found nothing else compelling enough to make many return trips since then. After chatting about salvias with Adam Steinkraus who does our lawn weed control, his recommendation of the nursery prompted me to take another look.
The planted vintage pick up truck ‘driving’ through a sea of ground cover roses was worth the trip all by itself.
The grounds have changed immeasurably since I was there years ago. My recollection is of an open air space stocked with mostly shrubs and trees plus some edibles. They now have an extensive selection of perennials and natives and it appears they grow a fair amount of their own stock.
Yarrows, salvias, penstemons, oh my!
I recently saw this unusual foxglove on a garden tour and was excited to be able to put a name to it: Digitalis Foxlight™ Ruby Glow, apparently one of a series of exciting new foxgloves.
I also was excited to see a yarrow similar to one I had seen on my tour of Urban Adamah in Berkeley (Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…) which Landscape Coordinator Emily had been momentarily unable to identify. Most of my yarrow experience has been with the ferny-leafed Achillea millefolium which is available in a number of pastel and hot color shadings. New to me is Achillea ptarmica. It is native to Europe and Asia and is a more erect plant having deep green, narrow finely toothed leaves. The flower heads are born singly rather than in the flat clusters of common yarrow and are larger at about 1/2″. I think the foliage will provide some contrast to the mostly gray green plants in the new lawn free front garden areas. Above you can see one of the two I added to those beds.
The Achillea ptarmica ‘Peter Cottontail’-ish button flower heads will add a bright white pop to my purple, blue, pink palette. Who could resist a plant which evokes the playful and whimsical feelings every cottage garden needs?
So, take time to visit someone whom you never got to know well enough to realize you have so many interests in common…even if you have to pack for a road trip.
My out of town garden tour junkets provide me with lots of opportunities to shop at both botanical gardens and retail garden centers all over California. Although I am a believer in purchasing plants grown locally or in conditions easily adaptable to my garden we have very few such resources in my community. Our few independent retailers are good but don’t often venture out past the stock selections used all over the Central Valley–sort of an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” attitude. True be told garden centers will only select and stock what people will readily buy–it’s not realistic to ship in lots of niche plants which may not sell. So I travel..I look at everything everywhere I go…and always come home with a few new plants to try out.
On my second trip to the East Bay area in 3 weeks I left an extra hour early to be able to do some shopping at the East Bay Nursery on San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. I’d stopped there briefly on my first trip and came back prepared with a short list of hopeful garden additions. A few bits and pieces, not on the list, sneaked their way into my cart!
Meet Parahebe perfoliata, common name digger’s speedwell. I did a quick Google on this and decided it was worth try, if only for the eucalyptus like leaves and nodding racemes of small blue flowers. I have Parahebe catarractae (below) elsewhere in the garden and it is a very small woody subshrub with small green leaves and white flowers bearing a red eye. Given the stark differences I did a little more research when I arrived home.
The parahebes were formerly classified as genus Hebe and before that as genus Veronica–now the cloud’s are lifting a bit. Speedwell is the common name for perennials in the Veronica genus. Apparently the shrubbier ones were split off of the classification for the softer herbaceous perennials, then the smallest, or subshrubs, were split off yet again. Are these folks lacking for other productive work??
Both my parahebes are from down under–Australia for the new one (hmm…eucalyptus like leaves) and New Zealand for the little white one.
Digger’s speedwell is low growing to about two feet with a graceful arching habit. The evergreen foliage of rounded blue-gray leaves clasp the stems in opposite pairs making it a handsome foliage plants and giving rise to another common name in the literature, shish kabob plant. The flowers are set on new wood so pruning for shape and density is best done mid-summer.
The terminal spikes of veronica-like blue flowers produced in April or May are airy but heavy enough to give the racemes a nodding look.
I’m going to pot this little shish up and try it in a few places in the front garden, close enough to paths to not get lost or overrun but with enough neighbors for its flowering stems to have a little support and stay off the ground. Full sun or light shade is recommended and as with most Australian specimens, good drainage is essential.
I can also be drawn in by a good story on a plant label–I picked up this new little sage labeled Salvia ‘Rohana’s Angel’ grown by emerisa gardens (they don’t capitalize either word.) This was a chance seedling found amongst Salvia greggii,S. microphylla and Salvia x ‘Mesa Azure’ and thus its parentage is unsure. It’s a little one so I can tuck it in anywhere.
This bubble gum pink baby sports a little white edge on its lip and is named after the wife of the founder of emerisa gardens. Emerisa is a family run-wholesale nursery in Santa Rosa, CA that has seasonal retail hours from March through November. They specialize in four-inch plants emphasizing hardy and unusually perennials, herbs, ornamental grasses and succulents and have long been on my road trip list. Check them out at http://www.emerisa.com if you find yourself in the vicinity!
I guess some plants just know when you’ve picked the right spot for them and they reward you in kind. Such has been the life of Salvia ‘Bon Bon’ since I dug it in near the base of our mailbox on March 20th of last year as part of the replanting of an area previously predominantly turf.
I’d like to say the ‘plan’ for this area was laboriously developed, plant by plant, using age-old principles of good landscape design. Alas, it came to be as most other parts of my garden have–with the statement of a broad goal (reduce irrigation) and whatever plant materials I find in my garden travels supplemented by stock from big box stores and the very few independent garden centers in my city. Sometimes the pickings are good, other times not so much. There is no benefit in developing a design for an area with a pre-planned plant list if those plants cannot be sourced fairly locally.
Having bought several selections new to me at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale in October 2017 I was still in salvia mode when I ran across a single sad 1 gallon ‘Bon Bon’ at a local nursery, Willow Gardens. It looked as though it had been hanging around awhile and while not especially appealing it was one I didn’t have and fit my broad parameter of being at least moderately xeric. I stand guilty of buy now and research later on this one.
At planting it was not even worth a close-up pic but you can see it just to the left of the stone mailbox. Monterey Bay Nursery’s website described it as “a perky, cute little native hybrid of S. clevelandii ‘Aromas’ and S. leucophylla ‘Point Sal'” and as “a very tough, low diminutive dry garden ground cover for full to half sun.” While I can attest to its toughness–this spot has NO source of summer water and it is full on south facing–I am assuming the diminutive appellation is relative to other closely related salvias. Its size is described as about 30″ tall when in flower by about 36″ wide.
From only a slightly different angle this bed has filled out beyond my wildest dreams in the last year! Salvia ‘Bon Bon’ is a standout snuggled up against the mailbox’s stone column and awash in blooms and bees. I am still unsure if this is its normal bloom cycle. I recently added another to the opposite side of the front walk and it is also starting to bloom. This second spot is slightly less dry and I’m interested to see if the additional water results in a less robust plant. At just a year in the ground it is already at Monterey Bay Nursery’s mature size estimate. I am planning to tidy it up when these blooms are done and that effort will be the first I’ve made on its behalf since it was planted–my kind of minimal maintenance requirements for sure. I’ll let you know when it gets to be bigger than a coffee table! I’m giving ‘Bon Bon’ an A++ for its fledgling year.