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A Plant Buying Extravaganza!

by germinatrix | September 3rd, 2009

we landscapers are lucky; look where we can buy!we landscapers are lucky; look where we can buy!

I am constantly lamenting the state of nurseries in Los Angeles. For such a large city, where outdoor living is SO important, we have a dearth of great retail nurseries. I can count them on one hand – and have fingers left over. BUT, a little hop outside of the city we have some GREAT places to shop, but alas, my mecca is wholesale only. Still, I have to post about it! I LOVE SAN MARCOS GROWERS!

And I’m not the only one … just ask Billy Goodnick aka Garden Wise Guy – but he’s local to the Santa Barbara area, so he’s lucky. Others have to make the trek – and we do! The Minion and I go twice a year – he mans the zippy cart and motors us around the growing grounds at top speeds, I keep my eyes peeled for the plants I MUST have.

the minion's attention is captured by a sexy plant in the distancethe minion’s attention is captured by a sexy plant in the distance

We chose so many plants we had to unload the zippy cart three times before we sped in with our last load. It doesn’t matter how many times one visits San Marcos, they keep their inventory so fresh that there is always something new to see. This trip was part of the research and development arm of The Germinatrix, Inc – meaning I was shopping for my garden. I’ve been feeling the need to reach out  and experience some new plants – I can’t be advocating strongly for things I don’t know well. Even though there are plants I use in clients gardens that I don’t currently have in my garden, they are in the minority – I’ve grown most plants I regularly use at one time or another. And many of those plants have come from these very growing grounds!

exuberant! oh, I want them all! come home with me, little plants!exuberant! oh, I want them all! come home with me, little plants!
but wait - there's more! an embarrassing riches of plants!

but wait - there's more! an embarrassment of riches!

I was looking for specifically for more Otatea acuminata, but when I got there I realized that I have five growing in my rather small garden already, and what am I thinking? The second thing on my list was something fabulously sculptural and variegated – I’d used Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ in an Elysian Landscapes garden recently, and had fallen in love. But when I got to the area where they keep the Dracenas and the Cordylines, I went absolutely MAD with desire! I couldn’t decide! The Minion was beside himself – he often has to put up with my antics. Even though he is a mere twenty five years old, he’s much more mature than I. With his input, I decided, and we made our way to the next aisle.

I see them in the distance, and I squeal with delight I see them in the distance and I squeal with delight

One of my issues in my home garden is the screening. I have been a little myopic – dealing with the excitement that is right in front of me  rather than the essential background elements; when I look up I want to see green walls baffling my views of my neighbors, their windows, and their rooftops! And instead I see neighbors, windows, and rooftops! I’ve been working on it, but I need something else in the mix – and if I add more otatea I will have a jungle in no time. What else? Hmmmm…

pretty picture... hey, what is that green pom pom on the right?

pretty picture... hey, what is that green pom pom on the right?

As I was taking a snap of the most glorious field of kniphofia, I noticed the Cyperus papyrus peeking into the frame. Wait a minute! I use Cyperus all the time – it is fantastic and kooky and big. It will do beautifully in both damp conditions and dry (as long as there is some shade – it isn’t a miracle worker!). It will give me a little bit of screening, but won’t totally overwhelm, due to the fact that it is basically pom poms on sticks. The answer!

We selected the cyperus we wanted and bounced off to see the AGAVES! I was so excited – and there were so many beauties! I went to take some photos, and suddenly realized that I no longer had a camera. Huh? Where could it have gone? It was JUST in my hand! One shameful thing I must tell everyone is that I freak out when I lose something. I can’t deal. And losing my camera when I had so many gorgeous agaves in front of me was too much. I whimpered. I ran up and down the rows. I almost impaled myself on an Agave bovicornuta. Thankfully, the Minion found me in a state of disarray and gently guided me back to the zippy cart. What will I do, I asked! I no longer have a CAMERA! I’m a Garden Blogger ! I can’t DO that without a Camera! I can’t AFFORD another camera right now! ( I admit – I was blubbering a little and a tad hysterical) The Minion proved again why he is the minion … he smiled and said it would be okay, and he retraced our path – which freaked me out even more because I could see that other carts were speeding around on the path we were trying to re-trace! Surely my cute little Leica was smashed to bits!

… and then I saw it glinting in the sun. The Minion swooped down and grabbed it (while still driving the cart at top speed), dusted it off, and handed it back to me with another smile. My hero! But at that point I was too frazzled to do anything other than pay for my haul and go eat some tacos with my trusty sidekick.

It was a day full of emotions – I felt ALIVE! And I got lots of great plants! What more can a maniac ask for?

11 Responses to “A Plant Buying Extravaganza!”

  1. Hi !

    You have no idea how lucky you are ! here in France, near Paris, it is worth ! There are no place like this in our area ! we have to go to Belgium or Nederlands to find plants !!
    Did i ever tell you that i love your blog ? Thank you for making us dreaming about american gardening !
    You brings some sun in our cold gardens !

  2. Oh Germi, you never fail to crack me up! The drama of the wholesale nursery experience, including a rescue at the end! If you ever make it up here for a visit, I will take you places that will make you squeal AND swoon ten times over (I’ll bring the smelling salts) places so big you need a GPS to get back to the sales office. Is it a date?

  3. But Germi!!!! What about the agaves??? You can’t just leave me hanging like that!!!! So I’ve got to figure out a way into this paradise. I have “business cards” (if you can count a blog as a business). I’m helping a friend with her garden design (although she is more the roses and hydrangeas type), but yes I am only an industry poser…! I want in! Maybe a special note from the Germinatrix would break down the walls of segregation? And I’ll promise them I won’t try and buy anything (oh the torture!) and just take pretty pictures and write a glowing review! :)

    Thanks for taking us on a tour behind the green wall, and I’m glad you found your camera so I can look forward to future agave pictures! And I am totally jealous that you can grow Papyrus year ’round!!!!

  4. Wowsa….wowsa….WOOT!!! I haven’t gone on one of these plant shopping expeditions in a while for a number of reasons (I won’t bore you with, Germi) ;~D But OMG, did I ever enjoy riding shotgun, zipping through the aisles at this wholesale destination nursery for seriously addicted hortiholics. FUN FUN FUN way to usher in this long holiday weekend. Don’t break your back installing everything, OK?? LOL tendril

  5. I got to visit San Marco’s Growers with APLD a couple of years ago. It was soooooo FRUSTRATING not enough time and serious zonal denial for me. Oh the exotica, oh the architectural, oh the plants I must must must but can never have. Thanks for giving me a fix. My arm is out for more more more.

  6. Hello,

    I would love it if you would post the list of the few retail nurseries around Los Angeles you think are the good ones.

    Also, people who can’t visit San Marcos Growers might want to know what a great resource their website is. Tons of photos and plant info.

  7. Out of all the wholesale nurseries that I have shopped at , and that includes Europe and the UK, San Marcos is my absolute favorite.

    I use to attend their yearly 2 day open house extravaganza , but I haven’t attended one for the past 3 years or so. I wonder if they even have it anymore ???
    It is always pure bliss and you never have enough time to see it all and absorb all its wonders.

    I have read that San Marco’s will be at the Late Show Garden event in Sonoma Sept. 12-29 – ’09, so that should give some of your Northern California reader something to look forward to.

    Germi, if you ever make it up to the Monterey Bay area I have a great list of wholesalers that you would enjoy to visit.
    Several specialize in proteas and succulents.

  8. Oh, Delphine – I am swooning over your French comment! I am reading it in a French accent. Quel cool!
    I wish everyone had access to such a great place to buy plants – it really is a treat to be able to hop up to Santa Barbara and come back with plants that I know and love, as well as new plants to try out. I imagine that ALL shopping in France is better than here, so it is a little hard on my fantasy life to hear that it is not so!
    I am very pleased that you enjoy my little slice of gardening in Southern California, and please comment again! I am always so happy to find a new blog friend to chat with about plants and all things gardening … and a new French Garden Friend is so CHIC!
    Merci, Delphine!

    Laura, when you and I are riding around the aisles at Suncrest, with you driving and me shrieking, pointing, and losing my hat (the Minion has to stop several times because I flip my wig so violently my hat falls off), I want you to remember that YOU INVITED ME! HAhahaha! We will shut that place down!

    Loree, I KNOW! When I got back home and downloaded my pics I was like “What? WHAT???” I couldn’t believe we didn’t go back to get pics of the agaves – but even more shocked that I didn’t BUY any agaves!!! That shows you what a stat of mind I was in! The only thing that brought me around was a chorizo taco and a vegetarian tamale.
    Just between you and me, I shopped there before I was a real pro. If you have the cards, you are about 85% there – and you ARE a garden persona! In MY book, that counts. They do have that sign that says “Strictly Wholesale”, but I was determined. I’m sure you are just as determined as I was! They don’t know they are dealing with an ardent agave maniac! Nothing can get in our way, right?

    Hi Tendril! Being a serious plant fiend yourself, I know that you are right there with me, freaking out and gasping with delight when you see the beauty around each corner! (and please, never hold any info back – because NOTHING bores me when it has to do with plants or friends – and friends who love plants – well …). You have a great long weekend, too! And guess what – the plants are already in! The Minion does his work well!

    Hey Susan – OMG I don’t know HOW I would handle not being able to buy anything if I went there for a visit, being from a far different zone! Well, maybe it’s the way I felt when I went to Heronswood. I actually sat down and cried over a Sambucus nigra ‘Aureus’ that I knew would never make it in my garden. I ended up taking it anyway – and it only lasted 2 weeks. Then I cried again. So I am with you – I understand! You can get your fix via me – and I can get my hardy herbaceous perennial fix via you!

    Hello John – hmmmmm… lets see … what nurseries in the LA area do I like ….
    hmmm…
    ummmmmm…
    (sigh)
    (five minutes pass)
    okay.
    I’m going to have to write an entire post about this.
    Thanks for the comment – I’ll get right on it – and yes, the San Marcos website is a FANTASTIC resource! I am on that site almost every day!

    Michelle D! I love that you love San Marcos as much as I do!
    And yes, they do have their open house once a year – I haven’t been in a few years, but Peggy (who manages the place) was telling me all about the plans for the next one – and I am there!
    I’m glad you let us all know that they are going to be in Sonoma, because the quality of their product is really extraordinary. I know all gardeners will love these plants!
    OOOLALA Michele, you are singing my song, when you throw the words ‘Proteas’ and ‘Succulents’ in the same sentence! I might have to get in my car right now!
    Always great to hear from you!

  9. Billy Goodnick says:

    I like to spell my name “Billy Goodnick” are you turning beet red yet?

  10. Lost camera! I can identify. I get so excited about the plants that I fail to pay attention. On the upside, it often gives me an excuse to revisit the best places to reclaim items left behind. You write about it so entertainingly. Thanks for the great post.

  11. I left my cell phone at the nursery one time, but luckily they found it and held onto it for me. And it was an excuse to go back the next day! I’m glad you found your camera and that you had such fun at the nursery!

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