There Should Be More Places Like This

We got back from the Garden Bloggers’ Fling last night, and found that our own garden has been progressing at breakneck speed: flowers blooming, buds swelling, vines twining, berries ripening, seeds sprouting. I’ll post about these developments shortly, as soon as Judy is able to get out with her camera and take some pictures.

Annie's Annuals
The entrance to Annie’s Annuals and Perennials

In the meantime, I really have to mention that the organizers of the 2013 Fling did an outstanding job, particularly Kelly Kilpatrick and Andrea Fox. Remarkable that such a quality event was organized entirely by volunteer labor.

Annie's Annuals
Plants, lots of plants …

For now I’m going to post about another highlight of the Fling: a visit to Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. Annie’s is a grower and seller of herbaceous garden plants, and I have to say I wish there were more nurseries and garden centers like them.

For starters, the wide selection of plants. Wandering the aisles of Annie’s is like going on a plant-finding expedition in a new country. They have standard favorites, sure. But they also have many lots of unusual California natives, heirloom, and cottage garden plants.

Annie Hayes on the cover of the Annie's catalog.
Annie Hayes on the cover of the Annie’s catalog.

Plus, Annie’s has a real focus on offering good quality plants without marketing gimmicks. For example, Annie’s founder Annie Hayes explained to us that she does not use growth regulators. Growth regulators can induce early blooming – they are the reason you see so many plants at the Home Depot in flower weeks or even months before the normal bloom period. The reason: flowering plants sell, especially to inexperienced gardeners.

Annie's Annuals
Nice flamingos

But that early flowering can mean that the overall plant is actually weaker and will not perform as well once in the ground. Annie Hayes told us that if you find flowering plants for sale at Annie’s, it probably means they planted too many of them. They aim to sell plants that are healthy and ready to put down roots in customers’ flower beds.

This doesn’t mean, though, that there is a lack of color at Annie’s. There are all kinds of blooming flowers in displays throughout the center.

Annie's Annuals

Annie’s is a no frills operation. Located where land was cheaper, in an economically struggling area, it has been referred to as “the garden in the hood”. The bathrooms are port-o-potties. No cappuccino is available. And while they do have some interesting garden art for sale, there is a general shortage of cutesy stuff.

Annie's Annuals

Annie’s has a mail order operation as well as a retail center. If you live in California or a California-type climate, you might want to check out their website.

Annie's Annuals

As for me, it is probably good that Annie’s does not have a branch in Chicago. I spend enough money on the garden as it is.

42 Comments on “There Should Be More Places Like This

  1. I can’t believe I’ve never paid them a visit considering I go to SF quite frequently. Shame on me he he he! Im reminding myself of an Egyptian friend of mine who went to Egypt every summer but had never gone to the pyramids.. or am I being too dramatic? Thanks for the report 🙂

    • Speaking for myself, Annie’s is a lot more fun than a pyramid! Regardless, you definitely have to make time to go there on your next trip to the Bay Area.

  2. It was a treat to visit Annie’s this past weekend, and a pleasure to meet you and Judy, Jason. And now that I’ve sussed out this Word Press thing, you may be hearing from me a little more regularly!

  3. Seems like a really nice garden center. Looking forward to seeing the progression in your own garden.

  4. This Annie’s looks a little zany with those bizarre mannequins at the entrance and those Disney-like signs, anyway the place is well known as far as this part of the World, which is rather amazing. Did you buy anything during your visit?

    • Just say the place has a lot of character – but more important, it has a lot of great plants! We couldn’t really buy anything because we were travelling back by plane.

  5. Annies was inspirational and it is such a pity we dont have such forward thinking garden centres/nurseries here in the UK. Great to meet both of you and putting faces to the blog.

    • Great to meet you as well. We have some decent nurseries in our area but they do not compare to Annie’s. One reason I buy a lot of plants by mail order.

  6. Growth regulators are common at even small nurseries. One, called B9, (benign) is used to keep mums from blooming too early. When you’re growing 15,000 mums it’s tough to pinch the emerging flower buds from each and every plant, so that’s one example of why these growth regulators were developed.

  7. I love Annie’s! My annual garden get together was based in Napa in 2010 and we visited many of the fling stops including Annie’s. Three years later and It’s still the only place I’ve ever seen Angelica gigas purpurea for sale. If only we had more nurseries like that around here.

  8. I want that garden in NJ. What a wonderful retreat place it will become then. By the way where do you get information about Garden Bloggers Fling?

  9. Jason, Anny has a reason, the plants have to grow and flower in their time. I sometimes use the growth regulators, when the weather is bad and the plants are weak. It support them and they have less diseases.
    Have a nice week!

  10. I loved visiting Annie’s! I order from them often, they do a great job packing and shipping. You managed to get some excellent photos, good post. I enjoyed meeting you and Judy too, and I’m glad you guys had a good time.

    Hey, don’t forget to post a link about your trip to Annie’s on the Fling blog, so others can find it.

  11. Thank you for showcasing Annie’s, I love the way you’ve described her philosophy. Always nice to meet a non-gimmicky, honest plant vendor.

  12. Hi Jason, that sounds like a place I could spent a lot of time and a lot money in, repeatedly. I prefer no-frills nurseries like this to garden centres as the plants tend to be cheaper and there’s more choice.

    • There were people I met in San Francisco from England who complained that garden centers there tended to be more like genteel cafes.

  13. I agree. I like her gardening philosophy, it is mine also. I buy wholesale from growers so prices seem a bit high to me, but I am rarely in retail nurseries for plants, so I am out of the loop on retail pricing. We do have one here very similar called Lockwood’s Nursery and Greenhouses, but it is a drive for me. They have a local garden writer and expert on staff too.

    I have a giveaway coming up on GWGT with items from Lockwood’s. They have so many unique items.

  14. Gardening in the Pacific NW near Puget Sound encourages my tendency toward “zonal denial,” So Annie’s catalog — naturally — is a favorite of mine.

    My last order even included some zonal appropriate Auriculas, like ‘Purple Rain,’ propagated by Claire Woods, which is pictured in my post about Primula marginata.

      • Verbena bonariensis is a plant I’ve always liked and repeatedly (just a few days ago in fact) forget its name whenever I see it in a garden with it’s tall open habit rising above the other plants. A dwarf cultivar sounds intriguing.

        Also in the can’t remember a genus name department: Just today I was weeding the upper, drier parts of my rain garden and admiring the profusion of yellow blooms on three Coreopsis verticillata “Zagreb’ plants. Zagreb is a little shorter and more mounding then other Coreopsis. Of course, it wasn’t until your comment about Verbena bonariensis that “Coreopsis” finally jumped back into my aging brain. 😦

  15. Hi Jason! I’ve really enjoyed your posts from the fling and just love the fact you’ve visited a garden centre too! I always find time to visit garden centres wherever I am in the world and it makes me happy to think that so many people also get enjoyment from their gardens as much as I do 🙂

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