Annie's Annuals (and Perennials) is a nursery in Richmond, CA, about 60 miles from where I live. Recently, several of my fellow bloggers have posted enticing blogs about the fun to be had there, just have a look at Gossip in the Garden and at Interleafings. I always want to get in the car right away and join the fun -- but truth be told, I'm not a professional garden designer and have to do other work weekdays. According to Google maps, a trip to Annie's takes 1 hour, or 2 hours in traffic. And though I sometimes throw caution in the wind and drive away to see some spectacular wildflowers, spending 3-5 hours on a plant shopping expeditions is usually too much time for me.
Fortunately, Annie's offers an easy way out: Mail order. Readers of this blog might remember that I was not completely thrilled with the offerings at the Flower and Garden Show -- going on Sunday did not help, of course -- and that I put an order in with Annie's right away when I got home from the show. One of Annie's Totally Useful Plant Lists is California Natives, so I was able to order some unusual plants and stay native at the same time.
A little over a week after I placed my order (Annie's ships once a week) I heard a thump on my doorstep on a work-from-home day. When I went to investigate, I found the two boxes above. I'd ordered from Annie's before, and I know they encourage customers to open the boxes right away, so I did.
Who could have resisted? I was very pleased to find large healthy plants. Sometimes, when I order early in the season, the plants are a little on the small side, but I've had a very good survival rate.
Annie's has perfected plant shipping, using cardboard stencils that hold the plant in place so they can breathe (the boxes have holes). Before shipping, each plant is removed from its 4 inch pot, wrapped in wet newspaper and a small plastic bag. The plastic-wrapped root ball is returned to the pot, which is anchored in the stencil. Because the stencil fits tightly, the worst that can happen is that some dirt is shaken lose.
I set to work freeing and unwrapping the 12 plants I had ordered. 3 Gilia capitatia chamissonis, 3 Claytonia sibirica, 1 Clarkia speciosa immaculata, 3 Lupinus densiflorus aureus, 2 Clarkia Cocinna 'Pink Ribbons' and 1 Lupinus succulentus 'Rodeo Rose'.
After I had unwrapped all my plants, I had to plant them right away, of course. They were quite large, and had to be freed from the confines of the small pots.
And there went the morning, which meant I had to work rather late that day. Did the plants start blooming in time for the tour? No, but they're all looking very promising, and I'm looking forward to the first blossoms in a few weeks. And I enjoyed spending my time planting instead of sitting in the car in traffic. Yes, the shipping isn't cheap, I think I spent $20 just on shipping, but when I consider the 2-4 hours it would have taken to drive there, it was a bargain.
I used the "extra" time to plant the gallon pots of Phacelia I had grown from seed. Or maybe there was really no extra time, but I was already dirty. Regardless, the Phacelia actually did bloom for the tour and have been a big attraction for the bees, all thanks to Annie and her amazing mail order service.