Of plant sales and garden tours, and California dreaming

It was the day before the garden tour, and while Town Mouse was having adventures with a bee swarm, I was helping out at the Santa Cruz Chapter native plant sale. I showed up just before 8 and along with the rest of the early crew surveyed the empty space.

Before you knew it it was thronging with pleasant plant purchasers!

I couldn't believe how many plants fit into the Suncrest truck! (Suncrest nursery kindly gives CNPS potting materials and and space for the plants to grow in their lovely greenhouses, with automatic watering and so on).

This year I and the truck driver moved the plants to the truck doors where others grabbed them and arranged for the sale.

I am always amazed at the variety of plants for sale in the CNPS sales - many more than you typically see in the nursery. It gives me pause, when I realize how very little I know and how much there is to know. Ah yes, it's just the beginning of a grand adventure indeed.

There were two sales - the U.C. Santa Cruz Arboretum (staffed increasingly by volunteers, what with the state of the California economy and all the cutbacks) has a large sale in the area next to us, with lots of Mediterranean climate plants - from Australia and South Africa, and elsewhere - including California. So we have our sale signs to point the way to our sale.

I love the stampede of enthusiastic gardeners when 10 o'clock arrives and the rope drops - it's all in fun, but the competition is real enough.

I really enjoy selling plants. People have this glow of happy anticipation that I can so empathize with. And it's fun to see people's selections, marked with a flag so everyone knows those ones are "bagged."

I resolutely did not buy any plants. I want to be ready with a plan for fall planting in the pool garden and in the flat front garden. Oh but I was sorely tempted.

On tour day itself I wanted to look at some gardens to get some design ideas, before starting my stint as afternoon docent at Town Mouse's garden, but I set out a bit late and only saw one. It was a lovely garden and it it did remind me of one possibility I have entertained for laying out our one flat area, with lightly mounded beds bordered by Sonoma boulders (reddish brown head sized boulders from Sonoma - cheap and fairly local) and with simple gravel paths.

I liked all those succulents too - the owner said he has deer and bunnies and protects the plants while young. They seemed to be doing fine. The photo does not do justice to the garden. Too contrasty - bad time of day. I got a better shot of the front.

This owner uses Spanish lavender to add some warmth and color, and some iceplant I think, or something with that intense bluish pink color, mixed in with the native plants. I have seen Spanish lavender reseed around our place and I'm concerned that it might naturalize. On the other hand it's been in my dad's little front beds for 6 years now and I haven't seen much of it straying afield. But how much is enough to count as invasive? I'm not sure. I like the idea of spots of exotic form and color and fragrance up near the house, for a bit of variety and interest.

I like the casual look of gravel paths but my only hesitation is that they are not easy for elderly people to walk on, especially with walkers.

Maybe I could extend the stone path in the front through a meandering course to a shady sitting area at the other end of the garden, and do minor paths in gravel. I'd also quite like a small field stone patio in front of the greenhouse, and near the gate into the pool. So maybe one other branch off the main path that's also stone, leading to the stone patio. I wonder if I could do that. It would cost quite a lot of money just for materials. But one can dream - summer is a good time for dreaming about gardens in California. Summer is our time off, while the plants drowse through the hot dry season.


Noelle said…
I always get so excited about plant sales. Even seeing pictures of one makes me want to run out to go and buy some. By the way, I enjoyed your post about your bee swarm :-)
This gardening with natives is like a fever! I too enjoyed the tour and have a host of new ideas for my garden and am so excited about what to plant in the fall. Even reading about your ideas for pathways got my pulse racing!
I'm glad I wasn't the only one that resisted the urge to buy plants this weekend. I actually can't believe I didn't buy anything at the CNPS sale, or the Tour! I can't buy anything else until I plant what I already have.
I have some babies growing from my spanish lavender roots. They are very welcome in my garden. Never thought it could naturalize...
Congratulations on showing such restraint. The spring sales are the hardest, when most of the plants look their best, but deep down you know that anything planted now will require more water and attention to help it get through the summer.

I'm wondering about the seeding qualities of lavender myself. I had a patch for over a decade that I got around to removing a little over a year ago. This winter I began to see little plants that I didn't recognize until I brushed their leaves--lavender! So far they haven't traveled far from the mother plant, so I'm not considering them ugly invasives, but we'll see what they do over time.
Country Mouse said…
I'm thinking I might take a trip to Gold Rush Nursery and ask Nicky there what she thinks of the invasiveness of lavender and other popular drought tolerant mediterranean plants. I would have to say that I don't see it escaping at all, around our neighborhood. I've just been seeing some seedlings, within about 50 feet of the plants, and they look like they could take. It has been an odd year though, a rainy spring. So it's maybe not typical.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets a bit over excited about the spring plant sales with their lush green offerings!
Anonymous said…
These native plant sales are marvelous on so many levels. I admire your restraint in not buying now, but hope you made notes for the fall when the pocket book is wide open! We have scored many hard to find natives at local sales in Knoxville, set up similar to what you have shown in the photos. Your design dream sounds great, but we do love gravel paths. Pea gravel is so much easier to walk in than the larger pieces we used in our ignorance. :-)
Country Mouse said…
Interesting, Faire Garden, what you say - I thought pea gravel was supposed to be harder to walk on because rounder, or maybe yours has sharp edges and beds down. I do hear that's the key.

As far as Fall - I'll probably call on some professional support from a like minded landscape designer with a familiarity with our local natives. So far as design goes so far - I suck.