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My garden is in full bloom from the spring-like weather we are having. It is nice to sit and looked out on all the colorful nasturtiums growing on my hill, filling in many of the dirt spots. I spent a few hours weeding then digging up the little Bill Wallis geranium seedlings that had grown in on our path up the hill. I transplanted them to the edge of the retaining wall on the second part of the hill. I hope they grow there. They have a good chance because I can easily water there with the hose in the summer. You can see the strip of growth where that water reaches.

I mention the Bill Wallis geraniums because they are some of the most thrifty and thriving plants in my terrifically difficult clay hill. They came in the mail from one of my favorite places to shop for plants Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. I circle plants in that catalog the same way I used to circle all the toys I dreamed of in my mother’s Sears catalog at Christmas.

Then I occasionally buy a lot–probably too much. Some of the plants I have bought haven’t lived as expected. I find little sticks around my yard with Annie’s name on them marking where I tried to grow things: a cigar plant–it looked so much bigger in the picture; clarksias–they were awesome until they died; verbena bonariensis–I loved those but they died in the drought last summer, etc. Some of the most enduring plants from Annie’s have been these great re-seeding, low water geraniums. They are the native type of geraniums and are purple. Annie calls them”floriferous, fast and easy.” They are heat tolerant and self-sow. The other reseeding favorite of mine is the rare geranium maderense or as Annie’s calls it “ginormous geranium.” Unlike Bill Wallis who hugs the ground and mounds, the maderense is tall and has dark green leaves and pink blooms when you can coax it into blooming. I like it for its dark green foliage and dramatic looks. It needs water and a cool, shady spot.

I have been trying to go to Annie’s for a couple of years because the catalog is so enticing. I wanted to see her gardens and the place where all my plants came from.

So when we flew into the Oakland airport on our way to Sonoma, I knew Annie’s was nearby in Richmond, CA, and I planned a morning stop there on our way back home. It was literally “across the tracks”– two train tracks and back in an industrial zone. My husband said it was built on a parking lot, but I didn’t notice. I was so excited and so bummed that I couldn’t fly home with a couple boxes of plants. If I had been driving, I would have loaded up the car!

Here is the front entrance. Oh so exciting!

Here are some of the beds of plants. Everything is arranged by type of plant: “Rarities,” “Annuals,” “Natives,” “Vegetables,” “Drought-tolerant,” etc.


This is a verbena that does really well in heat and drought:

I liked this succulent display:

One of the planted beds is below. I was a little disappointed by these demonstration gardens because in the catalog, they look huge. But this was a serious nursery with a ton of green houses where everything is grown right there. You can’t go in a lot of them. Since the plants are typically sold in small container (4 inch pots for $7.95), Annie has big pots planted at the end of each row (like the verbena I showed above) so you can see what the plants will look like when they grow.

One of my favorite plants that does well in my yard is below: the majestic Geranium Maderense.

Something I wanted to buy…I am really into purple and orange in my garden right now.

I walked around with my mouth hanging open and I could barely ask the salespeople any questions. It was a bit overwhelming and it was probably for the best that I could not load up my car and drive them home eight hours to San Diego. I would have bought way to much and then been in a panic to plant it all!