Goodbye Grr

Poor Grr turned out to be a rooster. He crowed from 5:30 am to 6:30 am and just when you would fall back asleep, he would start again!

  

Advertisements

Designer Chicks

Tags

,

Bubbles the Ameraucana, Gretal the Silkie and Esmerelda the Giant Orpington, back in April when we first got them.

Bubbles, the Ameraucana; Greta, the Silkie and Esmerelda the Giant Orpington, back in April when we first got them.

(This is a story about how we got our chicks and continues the previous blog. Names have been changed. Scroll to the end to see our chicks two months later.)

Driving down the winding road toward the chicken farm and our new chicks, we were all happy and full of expectations. I pictured a tidy barnyard with happy chickens running around. There would be a quaint old farmhouse surrounded by old oak trees.

I thought that was where we were headed as I read directions, and we finally turned off the highway onto a dirt road.

“There’s the house,” I said as the GPS pronounced, “You have reached your destination.” A new stucco house sat on top of a barren hill.

“Look at the goats,” Samantha my youngest daughter announced, and sure enough maybe 50 goats came over the hill toward us, churning up dust as they stepped. They had eaten every plant in their pasture.

“This isn’t right,” I said. “Where’s the chickens?” My husband was already turning the car around. We drove back to a fork in the road. A bearded man waved at us.

He stood in front of a metal gate.

“That’s it,” I said and waved back. The man opened the gate and shut it behind us after we drove through.

We arrived on a dirt lot with several trailers, one tree and pens and pens of chickens. We parked in between the two trailers. The man had disappeared and no one else seemed to be on the property.

“Meg?” I called, getting out of the car and peering around. There was no house, just piles of fencing, wheel barrels of chicken poop and rusty tin oil drums. Then a woman wearing what looked like hospital scrubs and clogs walked around the side of the trailer. A golden retriever and a German pointer bounded up barking.

“We came for chicks,” we all said in unison. “We talked on the phone about the lavender ones?”

“You came to the right place,” she said. With ringlets of blonde hair, a wide face and blue eyes, Meg the Chicken Lady reminded me of a grown up Heidi of the Alps, but instead of goats, she had chickens. Many, many chickens.

I held my hand out to shake hers, but she shook her head.

“You probably don’t want to do that,” she said, holding her hands up for me to see how dirty they were. She laughed. “Let me give you a tour.”

As we lined up behind her for the tour, my husband looked at me with his eyebrows raised.

“Quiet,” I said, but he hadn’t said anything.

Meg started at the far left side of her lot, where a pig pen sat under a tree.

“These are my pigs,” she said methodically. “And these are my turkeys.” Meg showed us each pen, naming off each animal as we came to it. After the turkeys, came the chickens. Lots of chickens. “Here’s your Leghorns, your Rhode Island Reds, your Lace Winged Wyandotte.” She went so fast, I could barely keep track of all the chicken breeds or see where she was pointing.

As we walked, I noticed chicken poop dotted the back of Meg’s shirt.

“I am a little obsessive, I guess,” she said, stopping to point out a pen of Barred Rock pullets. “I got a few chickens to start, but then decided I needed one of each kind. That’s what I’m aiming for—one of each.”

Now, I understood the East County Zoo referred us. Meg was collecting ONE of EACH kind of CHICKEN in the universe.

As we continued on the tour, I realized there were maybe 500 birds, but it could have easily been 1,000.

“These are Silkies, here’s a Plymouth, this is a black xx (I did not hear the name) — all black skin, black insides, too. I’ve eaten it, highly prized in Asia. They are high in antioxidants—the meat is black. The bones are black.”

Did she mention she’d eaten it?

Next there were the pens of meat chickens, bred to have such large chests that they could barely walk. They didn’t seem to be standing or moving around just huddling together under a small shade structure in their pen. They were white with red combs and huge protruding blobs of breast meat.

Hmmm. That’s disgusting.

Next she showed us her goats. Why did she have goats? “For fun, for the milk. I sell a little, drink a little.” The goats liked my youngest daughter and danced on their hind legs when she stuck her fingers through the fence.

“I’ve never seen them do that before,” Meg said.

“Stop!” I said, pulling Samantha’s hand out of the goat pen. “Where’s the Orpingtons?” I asked. Enough with the goats, I was eager to see the lavender chicks I had been searching for.

Meg shook her head and walked us to another section of her chicken plot, where fences formed a large square, divided into maybe fifty pens, each with a different chicken breed flock.

“Here’s your Australop, your Brahma, your Polish and your Showgirl.” She went so fast, I could barely keep track of all the chicken breeds or see where she was pointing.

“We just want good layers,” I said. “Lavender ones, and the girls each get to pick out their own.”

The tops of each cage were open with no chicken wire.

“Don’t coyotes jump in and eat them?” my husband asked. We were out in the country. WE live in the city, yet our chickens are wrapped up in a fortress of chicken wire.

“Not yet,” she said. “Darn that rooster.” A bantam rooster flew out of his pen into the neighboring pen. “He likes to pay a visit here and there,” she said. “Won’t stay where he’s supposed to.”

My husband looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

“Where’s the chicks?” the girls asked.

“We’ll get to them when we complete the tour.”

I had lost sight of what we were doing I was so overwhelmed with her chicken operation.

“Ah, there’s the lavenders,” she said. “Ameraucana and that’s your Orpington.”

“Those are sure dusty,” I said. They were a little — disappointing. Did I really think they would be a soft shade of purple? They were gray, but more than that they were skinny, not like our big fat feathery fluffy Orpington at home.

“They clean up good. They just took a dust bath,” Meg said. “People see them and they are dirty like that but you can clean ‘em up and the color is nice.”

All this hunting on Craigslist and phone calls and driving all over. The vision I had of lavender chickens walking in my garden of blue flowers was fading fast.

“Oh well, let’s get chicks. I don’t need a lavender one,” I said. LAVENDER, I realized, meant GRAY. GRAY chicken. Why in those posts on the Internet did they look so purple?

My husband looked at me again with his eyebrows raised. “Really? We came all this way,” he whispered.

“We were out here already,” I said, “to see Bayito, remember?”

“Let’s go to the chick house,” Meg said.

“To the chicks!” the girls announced, and Meg led us toward the center of her property where a bunch of clutter and trash was piled on a wood structure with a tiny shed.

The La Jolla Cove, for all its glamour, glitz and astonishing property values, really stinks on a summer day. If you drive down Coast Street, park and get out of your car to peer out at the ocean, there on the rocks where hundreds of pelicans and seagulls sit and seals and sea lions bask in the fog, it smells terrible. Without driving very far, if you live in La Jolla, you can catch a whiff of something very similar to the stench of a chicken farm.

Imagine that smell bottled up and pumped into a little closet that is heated to 95degrees. That’s what we walked into to see the chicks.

Picture a tiny trailer with linoleum floors and walls, and only room for the five of us (and the two dogs) to stand single file with the door open. Tall bookcase-like structures lined the walls. Each had five or six had drawers in them. As Meg pulled out the drawers, we saw that each was full of hundreds of peeping chicks.

“Aw, these are so cute,” the girls exclaimed. “Look at that, Mom!” They were so excited, they jumped and hopped from foot to foot. “CHICKS!”

I had to get of that room. It gave me claustrophobia, and it smelled so bad I was going to pass out. My husband shook his head and excused himself right away. He hates the heat and I could see that he had instantly broken out in sweat.

“Get your chicks and get out,” he said, fanning himself. “Get good layers.”

Meg was displaying chicks at rapid speed, capturing them in a small butterfly net and pulling them out for us to appraise.

“Here’s a black speckled Orpington, beautiful and rare, from England,” Meg said, holding up the great big chick. “Remember I showed you these when we first walked in and you liked them.”

I did?

“How old is that one?” I asked because it really was HUGE.

“Oh it’s about ready to go outside,” she said. “A few weeks older than the others.”

I remembered admiring some of the speckled black and white chickens when we first walked in, before I got overwhelmed. She was right.

“I’ll take it!” I said “That’s mine. “As I left, I thought I heard Meg say something about it being a GIANT.

“As long as it is a good layer,” I said. “We want eggs.”

She assured me it was.

I headed outside and the door shut behind me. I left my children in there with the chicken lady, I thought.

My husband was smirking and shaking his head. “You just can’t go to the feed store and get chicks for five dollars — you have to get some designer chickens.”

“I am doing what the vet suggested,” I said. “He said lavender Orpingtons were good.”

“Did you get one?”

“Well, no, but we can’t leave here without chicks now. Do you want crying children?”

We both sighed as we stared at a wheelbarrow full of chicken poop and dirty rags.

“This place is kinda creepy.”

“Ya think?”

The door opened.

“We got our CHICKS!” The girls each held a tiny fluffy, peeping pet. “Silkies!”

Meg held my Orpington and began looking for a box to put it in.

“Now these two,” she pointed to the chicks the girls held. “These are bantams so they will lay little tiny eggs.”

“WHAT?” my husband and I both said.

“We only have chickens for eggs,” my husband said. “They have to go back. I need big eggs.” He frequently bragged about his daily three egg omelet. With our egg production down now, he was lucky to get one omelet a week.

Our littlest daughter had tears, “big crocodile tears” is what my husband calls them, forming in the corners of her eyes.

“But I love him,” she said, looking at her little lemon yellow fluff ball. It really was cute. “I can’t put him—her—back.” She peered up at her daddy.
“Please, Abby, I said,” looking at our oldest. “Can you put yours back and let Samantha keep hers?”

“Okay mom,” she said stoically. “Okay.”

This time I went back in the chick house with them.

Meg opened up a door and rummaged around. She captured a few in her butterfly net and held them up. Abby shook her head. Meg tossed them back in.
Meg opened another drawer.

“Look here,” she said, holding up a lavender – gray colored – fluffy chick with a black beak and shiny black eyes. “I have a lavender one after all. Must have hatched today.”

“We’ll take it!” I practically screamed and turned to exit the room as fast as I could.

My smirking husband waited outside.

“You found one after all that?”

“Let’s just pay and leave. Give me some money.”

“That one’s extra,” Meg said. Of course, it was extra.

“Now how do you know if these are hens or roosters?” My husband. He thinks of everything!

“Oh I don’t know,” Meg said. “Can’t tell until they start to crow. They chest butt a lot too. If it’s a rooster, bring it back and I will give you another one, but you’ll have to buy another one ‘cause you can’t just get one chick.”

Obviously not, you can never have just one chicken. You get one chick, which leads to two chicks, which leads to two thousand chicks….

He gave me that look again, that look like “You are crazy and you are brining me into your crazy world.”

“Designer chickens,” he mumbled. “You had to have designer chickens.”

“Give me another ten.” I said, and grabbed it from his hand, gave it to Meg.

“Now that yellow one is a bantam,” she said. “It will be tiny. And the lavender one is a—” I couldn’t hear what she said I was so eager to jump in the car and get out of there. I only heard, “It’s not an Orpington, and it will lay blue eggs.”

“Thanks,” I yelled. My door barely shut, my husband stepped on the gas as if he could not drive away fast enough. Fortunately, the gate was now open, and we peeled out with a great cloud of dust. I felt thankful to get out of there with just three chicks regardless of their size or color or if they were roosters or hens.

“I always wanted a chicken that laid blue eggs.” I said to no one in particular.

As we turned onto the main road, my husband began laughing uncontrollably, the way you do when you are a kid and you have escaped getting caught pulling prank.

“How did you find that place?” he asked through his laughter.

“East County Zoo!” I said.

“WHAT? What’s that?”

“THE EAST COUNTY ZOO,” I yelled, now laughing too.

I thought he was going to drive off the road.

“There’s an East County ZOO?”

“It’s a chicken guy, not a zoo.” I was snorting and smiling so much that my cheeks hurt and tears formed in the corners of my eyes. Taking in a deep breath so I could speak, I said, “If we got a rooster, I’m throwing it over Meg’s fence. I’m never going back there.” I shook the way a horse shakes its hide to get the flies off.

“That was weird,” my husband said. “Why can’t you just do things normally like go to the feed store for chicks, like last time?”

“I don’t know!” I laughed because he was right. “But that was definitely an experience to remember.”

Greta (now called Grr), Bubbles and Esmerelda today.

Greta (now called Grr because we think he’s a rooster), Bubbles, who turned out to be a frizzle, and Esmerelda, the giant, two months later.

Chicken Keeping Can Make You Crazy: New Chicks

Tags

,

Chicken keeping has been keeping me busy! We decided it was time for new chicks because we only had two Buff Orpingtons and they were slowing down egg production. They were only three years old, but I guess if you spend your engery laying an egg every day for two years, that can happen.

About a year ago, I learned from our chicken vet  that Lavender Orpingtons were for sale in our area. He described them in such a way that I had to get some.

(So the adventure begins. It is really long and you will think I am a crazy chicken lady by the time you are done with this story!)

I went hunting Lavender chicks. Little did I know this would be so troublesome and lead to general hysteria in our household, crowing hens, calls to the vet and desperate runs to the feed store when I should be working.

After looking all over the Internet for lavender chicks and not finding any, I heard a tip from a place called The East County Zoo (they sell chickens not elephants) that a woman in Alpine raised lavender Orpingtons.  I was very thankful for the help of East County Zoo, although my husband wishes I had never heard of them.

Alpine is near my horse so I thought, “Great, I will talk to this chicken lady and go get my chicks one day after visiting Bayito. The kids will love it.”  Sometimes I have to find fun things for the kids and husband to do on the way to see the horse. It is a long, boring drive.

I made a fun day for the family out at the ranch, and our big excitement was going to the chicken lady, who it turns out told me she had lavender chicks, but then when I called to confirm we were coming, told me she didn’t. They hadn’t hatched yet.

You can’t cancel a trip to pick out chicks when your two little girls are so excited and have planned this for about a year. So we decided to go anyway, and the chicken lady told me she would drive the lavender chicks to me in San Diego when they hatched, and we would have a chick delivery.

We would pick up the other two chicks that day and since each of us agreed we would get our own, the girls could each pick one.

There is a reason I call this lady the chicken lady. It will become clear as this story goes on.

Also, notice in the pictures we have five chicks and not three. This will also become clear. We also do not have a Lavender Orpington…I think we have an Ameraucana frizzle, but we are not sure what she is. We don’t even know if she is a chicken. Sometimes she looks like a dove.

It has all taken hours of research and left very little time for anything else!  I will continue this story tomorrow and start with the Chicken Lady.

Day of the Cowgirl

Tags

, , , , , ,

My sister called me the other day and told me about the National Day of the Cowboy celebration coming up on July 25, 2015. She wanted me to come to Flagstaff and Prescott and write about. That sounds great, but I am going to Flagstaff later in the summer so I can’t go in July, too.

A few days later, I sent her this picture of me cutting calves last Saturday with my horse on my friend’s ranch.

cowgirl

I sent my sister that photo and told her that last Saturday was National Day of the Cowgirl! (It was for me, anyway!)

My horse Bayito looks really good. He lost all his shaggy winter hair and I could move the cinch in a notch. Did he loose a little of his hefty girth or did all that hair just make him fatter? (He is a fat horse, I won’t deny it.)

He loves to chase after the cows and make them behave. See how his ears are pinned bacK? He is very serious. Those calves had better not misbehave around Bayito.

Here he is on the round up taking a break for a photo. He really just wants to eat grass.

Mayroundup corrected

I’m wearing that Carhartt flannel shirt in May on Memorial Day weekend because it was 48 degrees in the mountains last Saturday. Yes, in the mountains outside of San Diego! It was freezing (and drizzling). My sister just gave me that shirt last week and I thought I would not wear it until next December — well, I was wrong!

(Also, to my newphew, do not make fun of my helmet.)

Our kids were so cold they sat in the car and waited. I told them to watch when the cows we rounded up came through the gate. I remember round ups from growing up and hundreds of cows and calves moving in a great dusty herd down the road toward the barns. I forgot that we were only rounding up about 40 cows and cavles. I don’t know if the girls even noticed the cows coming in! However, they were very taken in by a new born calf on spindly legs. Some things never change!

 

 

Water-wise Demonstration Gardens Teach Conservation and Design

Tags

, , ,

IMG_3843

With the turf replacement rebates from San Diego Water District and the state, we are thinking of replacing our turf in the front yard with some lower-water use plants. Since I have a cottage garden, I need to find something in this style. I don’t want rocks like above, but I liked that fake stream, which we might put on our hill one day.

I recently went to the Master Gardener demo garden at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad for a look at different water-wise plants from different regions: Mediterranean, South African, Australian, native… it’s a good way to learn about different plants from different regions but not so much about landscaping.

Over the weekend, I went to Cuyamaca College Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego (www.thegarden.org), which was tremendous and I recommend going.

Most of the pictures are from the Cuyamaca garden. I loved how natural everything was, yet there was still lots of color and lots of green. (The rock stream with the log “bridge” photo at the start of the blog is also shot there.)

Below are photos of plants that want to remember for my yard: African daisy and creeping germander below. My landscaping idea is to replace our turf with patchwork meadow of water-wise groundcovers. We will also add a much needed walk-way meandering through it. The trick will be to find ground covers that look good all year and don’t die down in the winter. I will need some evergreens and hearty heat-lovers.

A very cute bunny topiary with two other cute bunnies on display in the topiary garden.

I like the fern below. Once established, some types of ferns do not require much water. This is a Wooly Lip fern. There is a lantana in the front (purple ground cover).

The blue fescue grass in the lower left of the next photo will probably be one of the main grasses in my front yard meadow.  Then I think I will plant Santa Barbara Daisies and blue geranium incanum  with it. In the lower left part of the photo is snow in summer ground cover, but it doesn’t live for more than a year or so and it needs water. Maybe that’s why it is under the pink bush.

Below are pictures from the Flower Fields Master Gardener displays. The first picture is of native plants, and I like the Dudleya succulent in here this picture. To the left is a native huechera and in the front is a native penstemon. It’s a little sparse for my taste! (And I had that native penstemon and it died fast!)

The plant below with red flowers are  a type of protea from the South African garden–great for flower arrangements, too. These would be good on our hill. The next photo with the “bee hive” is of a herb garden with thyme, rosemary, etc.

The Cuyamaca Water Conservation Garden will have a Butterfly Event in May 9 and also the college has a spring garden festival coming up. They sell plants too.

As I am writing this, I realized I missed the meadow garden. I was on the way to see my horse, and I had three little girls with me so I was in too much of a hurry and a little distracted. Oh well, good excuse to go back!

If you know of any groundcovers that would look good in my meadow, let me know! I want ones that will look good in winter and summer.

Water-wise Gardening: San Diego Demonstration Gardens to Visit

Tags

,

 ( I apologize for publishing this earlier without the text!)

With the turf replacement rebates from San Diego Water District and the state, we are thinking of replacing our turf in the front yard with some lower-water use plants. Since I have a cottage garden, I need to find something in this style. I don’t want rocks like above, but I liked that fake stream, which we might put on our hill one day.

I recently went to the Master Gardener demo garden at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad for a look at different water-wise plants from different regions: Mediterranean, South African, Australian, native… it’s a good way to learn about different plants from different regions but not so much about landscaping.

Over the weekend, I went to Cuyamaca College Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego (www.thegarden.org), which was tremendous and I recommend going.

Most of the pictures are from the Cuyamaca garden. I loved how natural everything was, yet there was still lots of color and lots of green. (The rock stream with the log “bridge” photo at the start of the blog is also shot there.)

Below are photos of plants that want to remember for my yard: African daisy and creeping germander below. My landscaping idea is to replace our turf with patchwork meadow of water-wise groundcovers. We will also add a much needed walk-way meandering through it. The trick will be to find ground covers that look good all year and don’t die down in the winter. I will need some evergreens and hearty heat-lovers.

A very cute bunny topiary with two other cute bunnies on display in the topiary garden.

I like the fern below. Once established, some types of ferns do not require much water. This is a Wooly Lip fern. There is a lantana in the front (purple ground cover).

The blue fescue grass in the lower left of the next photo will probably be one of the main grasses in my front yard meadow.  Then I think I will plant Santa Barbara Daisies and blue geranium incanum  with it. In the lower left part of the photo is snow in summer ground cover, but it doesn’t live for more than a year or so and it needs water. Maybe that’s why it is under the pink bush.

Below are pictures from the Flower Fields Master Gardener displays. The first picture is of native plants, and I like the Dudleya succulent in here this picture. To the left is a native huechera and in the front is a native penstemon. It’s a little sparse for my taste! (And I had that native penstemon and it died fast!)

The plant below with red flowers are  a type of protea from the South African garden–great for flower arrangements, too. These would be good on our hill. The next photo with the “bee hive” is of a herb garden with thyme, rosemary, etc.

The Cuyamaca Water Conservation Garden will have a Butterfly Event in May 9 and also the college has a spring garden festival coming up. They sell plants too.

As I am writing this, I realized I missed the meadow garden. I was on the way to see my horse, and I had three little girls with me so I was in too much of a hurry and a little distracted. Oh well, good excuse to go back!

If you know of any groundcovers that would look good in my meadow, let me know! I want ones that will look good in winter and summer.

Garden Stars: Flowers that Re-Seed

Tags

, , ,

My friend was visiting my yard a few weeks ago and she said, “Wow. You really worked in your garden a lot this spring. You have so many flowers.” Truth is, I haven’t! I have mostly been crawling around on my hands and knees pulling weeds.  The flowers I have are self-sowers or perennials that re-seed. Every spring, they come up and I just sit back and pull weeds out so they can grow.

Here is an example of Toadflax, which is growing in my front yard. I planted a package of Toadflax about ten years ago, and every year it comes up like this, a frothy mass of colorful flower eye-candy. Of course, it needs water, which our winter rains usually supply, but even in the drought and hardly any water at all, it grew like this:

Below is a native purple geranium ground cover that also grows all over my front yard. I love native geraniums because they re-seed. You can also see lavender mixed with it. Lavender will also re-seed  and you can transplant the baby lavender as well as the geraniums around the yard to fill in bald spots.

Another great re-seeder is verbena. I just learned that the type of verbena that I have growing naturally in my yard is called Moss Verbena. It is drought tolerant, according to the new book I just bought Water-Wise Plants for the Southwest, by Nan Sterman, Mary Irish, Judith Phillips and Joe Lamp’L. Nan Sterman is in San Diego so her advice is particularly relevant.

GROWING TIPS: What are the secrets to re-seeding these plants? You have to live with a little ugly when the blooms die. Just let them go to seed and let them get brown. Then when you cut them, leave the cuttings out where you want them to re-seed. You don’t have to do this forever, just until they dry up a little.

For example, have you ever noticed that when you cut lavender and bring in for a bouquet, after a while you see little black dots all over your counter? Those are the seeds. They are miniscule. When I trim back all the lavender after the spring blooms, I thrown the stems in the ground for a while so the seeds fall out. Same idea.

Here is my list of perennials that can re-seed in my garden–hopefully, they will in yours too:

  • lavender
  • native geraniums; geranium incanum; also Bill Wallis geranium as referenced in my post on Annie’s Nursery; oh great, geranium incanum is also invasive according according to the link above. Oh well, I can live with invasive. I can’t live with dirt!
  • verbena (moss)
  • euphorbia caracias
  • Santa Barbara Daisy
  • Jupiter’s Beard or Red Valerian (some say this is invasive but my hill is so hard to grow on that I don’t care)
  • Pacific Coast Iris or Douglas Iris (a native plant, it is considered invasive by some so beware)
  • yarrow (but it often doesn’t bloom in my yard)

For annuals that re-seed in my yard:

  • Toadflax
  • Other wildflowers like California poppies or any poppy
  • sweet peas (believe it or not)
  • nasturtiums

The hens might help. I find little tomato plants growing from seeds that they pooped out growing all over!

Nasturtiums on the hill:

Mother-in-law’s Squash Tip: Plant squash in mounds. Put five or six seeds in each mound and place a stick in the middle of it. That way you can find where you planted it.

I think that makes sense, right? At least it did when she told me on the phone yesterday. Now that I write it down, it doesn’t. But I’m going to give it a try.

A Visit to Annie’s Annuals and Perennials Nursery

Tags

, , , ,

WIN_20150220_171443

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!

Sonoma’s Beauty

Tags

Here are some more photos of California’s beautiful wine country. Later in the afternoon after we took this picutre, a big rain storm hit.

On our drive back to the airport, we stopped at a great general store called Fat Pilgrim (www.FatPilgrim.com) and they had a chicken yard with these enormous rusted eggs! Do you think these make the chickens feel inferior? Or maybe they are inspired?

I liked the GARDEN sign on the back fence in the photo below. I also liked the hanging orbs in this tree (2nd photo down).

Our stop after this was Annie’s Nursery in Richmond so stay tuned for photos and the scoop on one of my favorite nurseries!