When I talk to people about gardening with natives, they often remark that the plants are hard to find. And it's true that most nurseries stock no natives or very few, and the staff is often confused about what is a California native and what is a drought tolerant plant. There are, however, several native plant nurseries not too far from where I live (SF Peninsula), and in a pinch, there's always mail order.
The most fun (and most economical) is to go to a native plant sale of your chapter of CNPS. The Santa Clara valley chapter just had their plant sale last Saturday. It was truly a popular sale, with many helpful volunteer, a great collection of healthy plants, and a lot of visitors including many kids.
The native plant specialty nurseries sell only natives and often interesting art work.
- Yerba Buena Nursery is off Skyline Boulevard, so it's a good idea to have your shopping list complete. Their beautiful demonstration garden is a delight, and the afternoon teas are a special treat. I wish I had time for the Butterfly Tea on April 11! Yerba Buena has a truly outstanding collection of healthy plants year round, and you can use their web site, which includes photos for most plants, to make your shopping list.
- Another favorite is Native Revival nursery in Aptos. This hidden gem is literally right off the freeway, so I always stop if I have to go over the hill. During the big sale in October, I might even make a special trip. Native Revival has an especially good collection of grasses, and the staff is helpful and knowledgeable.
- I met the wonderful people from Gold Rush Nursery during the Santa Cruz arboretum hummingbird day, and then again at the SF Flower and Garden show. A great collection of 4-inch pot allowed my to try some things in different locations. I've not yet been to the nursery itself, which is in Soquel, but might swing by next time visit Country Mouse.
For truly desparate times, finally, there's mail order. I don't get catalogues but order over the Internet. One of my favorites is Annie's Annuals. The Web site has a truly bewildering selection of amazing plants for any spot. I usually try to resist too much temptation and choose one of the Totally Useful Plant Lists, the Californial Natives. I've ordered from Annie's several times and the plants are expertly packaged and healthy. I also stopped by in person once, and found an amazing place with rows and rows (and rows) of tables with 4-inch pots in an industrial area of Richmond. I found it a bit overwhelming and actually prefer the mail order for Annie's. Anoter excellent source of information and mail order plants is Las Pilitas. Country Mouse has ordered from Las Pilitas already. Because they have to drive to town to ship, shipping is not cheap and I have so far resisted the temptation.
Instead, when I'm truly stuck and need to know where to get a plant, I go to the California Native Plant Link Exchange. If you know the name of the plant you need, it's easy to find the places that carry the plant or sell the seed. And who knows, maybe you'll decide to propagate from seed (after all, we all know that Real Gardeners Propagate).