June 28, 2013

A Visit to Annie's Annuals

Finally, I was able to visit Annie's Annuals - one of my favorite nurseries ( from a list of many, it may be number 1 for container plants). I hope you are seated, since you must prepare yourself for awesomeness!

Annie's Annuals is well known among the gardening geeks for offering plants found no where else ( nursery-wise). It's as if someone took your great grandfathers cold frames of pansy seedlings, and combined it with Kew Gardens, a plant explorer fresh back from China in 1900 ( and South American, and South Africa too), and then gave them a nursery where they could sell their discoveries.

Did I mention that they use now growth regulators ( virtually unheard-of in the nursery trade today) so that even these annuals will perform like crazy in your garden? Look - if you were like me, and wondered who would ever buy a nasturtium seedling via the internet, then all I can say is that you need to try it. Just once, and let me know. Last year, I ordered many Californian natives, as well as hard-to-germinate cold-weather annuals like Nemisia, and I soon discovered why people order these plants from Annie's - they were well branched, in 4 or 5 inch containers, (perfectly packed in a box, I must say) - I could never have raised such seedling, even in my cold greenhouse. Annie's is like having a private English gardener raising your fancy annuals ( and biennials and perennials) for you - it's my secret to growing many hard to grow plants like some poppies. Try them next year.

for unusual and well grown plants. You may have thought that Annie's Annuals primarily sold Californian natives and plants that perform well in western gardens, but many of the plants from Annie's make excellent Eastern plants for early spring or summer beds, exceptional salvias and late blooming annuals, and some tender greenhouse plants found no where else via mail order. I love Annie's, so here are a few pics to share from my trip there with the fabulous Garden Blogger Fling'ers.

 A glorious day color , fine plants and inspiration at Annie's Annuals in Richmond, CA.

Amazing what a white marker on a black nursery pot can look like! This works for me.

Every region of the United States has its garden mecca, and for those of you who live in the Western part of the country, the specialty nursery known as Annie's Annuals comes as no surprise, but you might be surprised to know that many of the fine plants sold by Annie's are also sent to gardeners who collect and grow unusual or rare plant elsewhere in the Country, as many of the species are just impossible to find anywhere else. This past weekend, I was so fortunate to visit this fine nursery, to see Annie herself present a bit about what her nursery offer ( thanks for the shout out Annie!), and to speak a bit about what makes her place so special and different, but sadly, I never had a chance to catch up with her after the talk, which was part of this garden bloggers fling that I am attending this weekend in San Francisco.

Every detail at Annie's helps communicate the brand, from the staff, to the accessories. I was so surprised to see that the displays and plants all look exactly like the catalog, as if I fell down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

Sure, Annie's grows and sells hundreds of annuals that are difficult to find, and but they also sell many perennials and tropicals. Plants from Annie's perform incredibly in the garden, because unlike those found at big box stores and large retail nurseries, the plants are grown without growth regulators, so they bloom, and bloom becoming giants.

The rarely seed red delphinium, D. cardinale

I did want to take some time ( just a bit, as I am in my hotel room and getting ready to go to more events) to share some of the photos of Annie's today. If you are like me, you may at first be wondering "why buy annuals from a grower in California?" - let me tell you why. First, the plants are magnificent and strong, as many are grown in the Californian winter outdoors, and all are started from seed or cuttings, second, no growth regulators here - you will get amazing plant, strong and often branched, in four inch pots shipped anywhere in the US, and third, there is no way that you could even try to start to grow many of the species and varieties that Annie's offers.

If I never told you that this was a photo from Annie's Anuals, you would still know it. 

Late June can often be a transition period in many gardens, but at Annie's, the show is just beginning.
I was good, and didn't go where clearly evil rabbits lay, but I did check out the growing area.

Annie's grows their plants from seed, on-site. Something very few nurseries do anymore. These sunflowers have just germinated, and are growing nice and short due to the bright sunshine of late June. If you want large, healthy Sunflowers, plant your seed now, just at the summer solstice, or at the latest, before the 4th of July. Any sooner, and your plants will be weak and spindly.

That said, it's no secret that Annie's Annuals  is quirky and fun - it's one of those places where  one feels relaxed as a customer, no matter what level gardener you are, but I will share with you that if you are a plant geek, they are very serious and professional about what they grow here. Annie's Annuals is dedicated to quality, particularly with the plant itslef - and this care affects how the plant will survive in your garden.  Annie's has earned my highest of recommendations, heck, they may even be first on my list of where I buy plants anywhere in the country. I never start my own California poppies anymore, even though they are easy, I would much rather get large, dense seedling that are branched and ready to bloom rather than late blooming self sown ones in my garden.  If you want unusual annuals, this is the place to get them from, since they are grown outdoors in full sunm I'd much rather order 6 or 8 from Annie's, and plant a border that blows my neighbors away!

I love looking at the back stage - here is the potting room at Annie's. Yes, they really do grow everything, what a system, so well organized, one can see how experience, care and knowledge factors into the process.

Back at the retail space, no hint of chaos or disorder - only energy and the potential beauty of many plants.

Clarkia rubicunda blasdalei, another drought tolerant, deer resistant and clay friendly annual that will self sow in
many gardens ( not mine in the North East) but if you live in California, this is a must. I still sneak a few plants in
every spring into my rock garden, just to trick visitors, as it does well until mid-July when the weather turns sultry.

Inspiring combinations are everywhere at the nursery, even green can be nice.

OK, after seeing this Mimulus primuloides var. linearifoliusm I can admit that I am a little jealous -
you California gardeners have all the luck!

Here is what I bought ( I have little, if any room in my suitcase, but I may throw out some clothes to make rook for these few treasures that I could not pass up:

Pychnostachys urticifolia - The Blue Witches Hat - for the damp bed in front of my greenhouse
( and so my hotel room will smell like cat pee - sorry Westin!).
Melianthus pectinatus - just because everyone else has the other Melianthus
Calothamnus quadrifolius - The One-Sided Bottle Brush, for a tub in the greenhouse
Cunonia capensis the "Butterknife Tree" - because I never heard of it before, and, well, it's "capensis"
Phylica pubescens - I know I will kill it, but does that ever stop us, really?
Erica baccans - a larger Erica for the greenhouse
Euphorbia lambii - because I can't grow nice euphorbs outdoors in the winter, this will be tubbed.

OK, here are some fun pictures from today's journey there. Oh, and Annie? I will be sure to look you up when you are not surrounded by hoards of garden bloggers with questions. We love you!



  1. I was there two days ago, I have to hold my wallet really tight every time I visit. This time it was for a client.

    Annie started with annuals but now sells many perennial plants, which I tend to favor because of the money.

    Her plants are really tough, they adapt to our climates and are well worth the price.

    I hope you are having a great trip, you got lucky with the weather. It poured on Tuesday.

  2. These are the first pictures I've seen posted from your weekend excursion. Simply fabulous!

  3. You got really great photos--I was too agog to think straight. Excellent post!

  4. Er, I live a little south of Providence... Where is our Mecca?
    I love Farmer's Daughter, but it is not fully a Mecca....


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