I checked out Annie’s Annuals website before making the journey to her Richmond, CA nursery.  One of the first bits to pop off her home page is a quote that reads:

“A trip to Annie’s Annuals nursery in Richmond is for true plant fanatics what a religious pilgrimage is to the devout believer.” -Barbara Wood Palo Alto Weekly

From the looks of the entrance (left), chain link fence topped with barbed wire meeting up to an equally ominous gate (minus the token, cheerful sign), you might wonder who else would go there except a fanatic?  Or you may simply question, “Are they keeping people in or out?”

But upon crossing the threshold from what looks to be a scary Bay Area warehouse district I was immediately greeted by this lady here (right), a just-popping-up demonstration garden and rows upon rows of starts, all in Annie’s requisite 4″ pots accompanied by colorful tags and signature signs.

This place is more than a curiosity or plant geek mecca.  It’s a haven.

Apparently Annie started her business out of her home.  Growing and offering cottage style plantings in the beginning.  Over time, as demand had it, she grew into a wholesaler, retailer and mail order plant provider.  She offers a growing number of native plants, edibles, succulents, grasses, ornamentals, heirlooms, rarities and bulbs, all laid out with detailed information on cultivation requirements and personal growing experience.

Annie often sources and brings new plants to market, particularly natives, and every once and a while the plants come to her.  Someone, typically a local resident, will bring in an heirloom or other plant that’s been growing in their yard but is not found in nurseries.  She takes them in, tends, figures out their growing preferences and potentially propagates for sale.  In fact, most of the plants that are offered are propagated on site by seed or stem cuttings.

This particular plant, Lewisia cotyledon, was shyly bright and shiny on my rainy day visit.  (I think this is a great iPhone photo.)  If curious, you can find it in the native plant area.

When you venture to Annie’s be prepared for an emporium experience.  There is a bit of everything.  Go already knowing what you want or take time to research, giving yourself ample time before buying, or plan to make more than one trip.  Ask about the plant layout and how to find what you need.  There is a book at the entrance with all of the plants for sale listed alphabetically by scientific name, giving row and table number, and there are sheets with plant suggestions for various planting needs.

Learn more at http://www.anniesannuals.com/

PS. Pass the pistil and don’t forget to ask about the parties.

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