by germinatrix | September 6th, 2009
I got a comment/question from John (no URL, who are you, John?) on my last post, which I tried to answer – and found I couldn’t. So I HAD to post about it. Because it is shocking that I couldn’t answer the question. The question – well, it was really a request – was to for me to list the retail nurseries I recommend in the Los Angeles area.
here is what I wrote in response to John:
“Hello John – hmmmmm… lets see … what nurseries in the LA area do I like ….
(five minutes pass)
I’m going to have to write an entire post about this.”
Now that is awful. Because there was a time when one nursery galvanized an entire community, and I saw it happen. I was a baby gardener at the time, and I think the existence of the long gone horticultural mecca of Hortus in Pasadena did more than anything else to turn me from a hobbyist into a pro.
Every LA area gardener who remembers Hortus does so with misty eyes and a profound sense of loss. It was a place filled with amazing plants arranged beautifully, like each section was a show garden. The staff was not only extremely helpful, they were knowledgeable and passionate, and not at all show-offy. You know what I mean – there are those nursery professionals that make regular people shrink away in fear … they never fail to blister the ear with botanical latin and love to over-explain the nuances of why you are doing everything wrong. Loudly. Well, those people didn’t work at Hortus.
Hortus was where I bought 5 flats of Papaver somniferum ‘Black Cloud’ so no one else I knew would have them – and everyone who worked there understood why I would do that.
Hortus was where I saw Penelope Hobhouse, Pat Welch, Dan Hinkley, Ken Druse, and many other Hort All Stars lecture, in intimate and comfortable surroundings.
Hortus was where I fell in love with Geijera parviflora
Hortus was where I had my first plant-induced out of body experience, at it was a flowering artichoke that did it.
Hortus was encouraging organic vegetable gardening way back in the mid-1990′s, and to this day, their display potager is the most beautiful mix of ornamentals and vegetables I have ever seen. It took the love and care of many people to make this superlative nursery happen, and when it closed its doors, all were heartbroken. I have been looking for my Hortus replacement, but it doesn’t exist.
Of course, I have written of my intense love of California Cactus Center on Rosemead Blvd in Pasadena, but it is a very specialized place – so my quest for a great all-around nursery goes on.
That said, here are the better nurseries I never shop at in LA, because hey still aren’t good enough.
Rolling Greens in Culver City – They have alot of stuff, but most of it isn’t what I’m looking for. Not many perennials or drought tolerants – lots of ‘indoor’ plants and a great selection of glazed pots arranged by color. What they do have is in impeccable condition. This is the place to go for plants you need for a photo shoot.
Sunset Nursery, Sunset Blvd in Silverlake (no website) – A small place, but they always have something great to buy. For such a small nursery, they have a fabulous selection of Australian and South African natives – good drought tolerants as well. Too much room given over to twee annuals for my taste, but I understand why they do that.
Burkhard’s Nursery, Pasadena – This place is way too expensive and the plant material always looks weary, but in a pinch, they’ll do. But I always leave there pissed off.
There are more places on the Westside, but they aren’t so great that I’ll drive across town to go there. And I would … I’d go anywhere for a sublime plant shopping experience.
That’s it. Sad, isn’t it? I want LA to have options Austin gardeners have! ESP (take note! His awesome blog has been jumping around lately!) takes his kids with him to buy plants and they can get smoothies AT THE NURSERY! Yes, I’m at the point that any one of the above nurseries could win my undying love if they would just give me a yummy drink. This is the 21st Century! I want more than just plants in a parking lot!
I am lucky – I get to go to wholesalers and brokers for my plants. I’ll keep the search alive, John – and if I find more nurseries in the Los Angeles area that really light my fire, I’ll post about them. If anybody has places they love, let me know, and tell me why … I’ll be there in a flash!