|Part of the demonstration gardens, with informal lawn paths, berms and sculptures|
Sierra Azul and Rosendale Nurseries are a very different proposition from the large investor-funded business that my horticulture class toured earlier in the day (see A Trip to Suncrest Nurseries). Jim Marshall (General Manager of Suncrest) is a thoroughly passionate and dedicated nurseryman. But I get the feeling Jeff is viscerally connected to his nursery. He struck me as a brooding visionary, a hard working dreamer.
The nursery truly is a delightful place to visit. If you live near Watsonville, go there - it's just opposite the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.
|The first thing you see when you park at Sierra Azul Nursery is a spectacular border of succulents dividing the nursery from its neighboring property.|
|Then you enter the nursery itself and find interesting islands of plants, each with a theme like Succulents, Australians, California Natives, and so on|
The garden is more alive and more moving because of these sculptures and because the artist's expressions are moving within the garden, they are moving within our minds.Wow, I really like that.
|I love these colorful screens that add mysterious perspectives to the garden|
|More sculpture in the garden ...|
|Whimsical dragonfly sculpture|
But my main interest here was not so much the pretty retail side of the business - I wanted to see the sister business, Rosendale Nursery, where plants are propagated and grown for sale both at Sierra Azul and also to wholesale customers.
|The nursery's dog accompanies us to the other half of the property.|
|The propagation house, with misters and underbed heating.|
|A wide variety of propagules|
|Jeff explains about the heating, while our illustrious professor, Dave Sauter, listens with interest (I blurred out other students' faces)|
|Underbed heating. The crusty stuff on the tubes is no doubt caused by minerals in the well water.|
|More healthy babies|
On to the potting bench...
Jeff's wife Lisa Rosendale, is the chief propagator. Here he's showing us the mixes they use. Interesting that each of the two nurseries we visited uses different kinds of mixes, and different treatment for the propagules.
- For rooting, they use 75 percent perlite and 25 potting medium (peat? - I missed the detail here sorry). And also Root Shield. It's an anti-fungal powder, itself a "predatory fungus" which we just heard about in our class. Fungus in the greenhouse can be deadly of course.
- For liner soil the mix is potting soil plus perlite and fertilizer pellets, and I'm sorry that I didn't get the percentage details.
The rooted cuttings (or seedlings) go into liners. Tiny liners. If you've read the post on Suncrest, you may recall Jim saying that they now use extra deep liners. At Sierra Azul by contrast, Jeff said they get great results - and save money - using very short liners. Again the economy.
|Jeff showing a nicely rooted plant that was growing in one of the tiny liners.|
|They are also experimenting with selling plants in quart containers instead of gallons. Very successful - and saves money in potting media.|
Rooted cuttings (and seedlings) in liners go into the shade house to grow more roots. I like shade houses in general. I like the feeling of airy protection.
|We follow Jeff into the shade house where cuttings grow|
|Propagules that need extra protection and warmth go into a quonset style house covered in shadecloth and plastic.|
|More plants growing on in a quonset-style shade house.|
The tour made me admire Jeff and Lisa greatly. They are doing both what Suncrest does, and what Suncrest's retail nursery customers do. It made me realize that I'll likely never run a nursery as such, not one that pays any bills. Just a "gentlewoman's nursery," like a gentleman's farm. Maybe I can earn my bread and butter by writing a book about living in the WUI. (Wildland-Urban Interface). We in the WUI, I'll call it - It'll sell millions! Millions I tell you!
|Here is the very large shade house where the plants are finished off|
Note: After Jeff read this post, he left a comment on the topic of debt - please see his comment at the end of this post.
|Very large! There is also a similar area outdoors (see photo above, with dog)|
Touring both these nurseries was truly fascinating, and I'm grateful to Jim at Suncrest and Jeff at Sierra Azul for their time and for the information they shared. Such a contrast in the scale of these businesses, but in both cases, such dedication, and such a variety of nice healthy plants they are providing for use in California gardens. I'll close with just one -
|Fremontodendron blooming in the shade house - one of my favorite California native shrubs|