Plant-stravaganza at Annie’s Annuals: San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling

We stopped for shopping and lunch on the 1st day of the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, a retail and mail-order nursery tucked behind high, wire-topped fences in a blighted neighborhood. “Plant heaven in the ‘hood,” adorable owner Annie cheerfully dubbed it during a brief talk while we ate our box lunches.

“Annie’s is a 2.5 acre woman-owned and run nursery/laboratory/mad science experiment based in Richmond, CA (across the bay from San Francisco)! We grow over 2000 varieties of plants every year,” their website explains.

Entering the nursery is like being dropped into technicolor Oz after sepia-toned Kansas.

Floriferous and colorful foliage plants — potted as accents along nursery aisles and planted in display gardens by the entrance — dazzled and elicited excited “oohs” from our group.

Bees buzzed, and so did I, trying to capture the exuberance with my camera.

Curved beds raised about 10 inches with rock edging offer not only good drainage and soil but a sense of enclosure for seating areas — an idea to steal for our home gardens.

I spotted a painted cow wearing a lei and a flower at her ear…

…and a flamingo lolling in a flowerbed.

Quirky decor proliferates…

…and encourages play among visitors.

Many of the beds are planted with the flower-loving abandon of a cottage garden.

Spiky-plant lovers are not left out in the cold, however. This is, I believe, a dyckia in bloom. If so it’s the biggest dyckia I’ve ever seen at 3-4 feet tall, with bloom spikes towering above my head. The “chapel” art installation in the background was for sale.

Foliage plants are loved here…

…as are ornamental grasses.

But cheerful flowering annuals and herbaceous perennials are the stars of the show.

I rarely buy plants far from home, being cautious (from experience) about what will survive in my drought-prone, Death Star-baked garden. While I enjoy visiting distant nurseries, I tend to admire more than shop, except perhaps for some small item of garden decor that will easily fit in my luggage. So while other bloggers were filling their baskets with small, packable plants — I mean, who can resist a “Rarities” sign? — I contented myself with admiring and photographing. I did buy one little yucca with purplish leaves when I saw L.A. friend Denise of A Growing Obsession snapping one up. The power of peer pressure.

If you’re in the right growing zone, however, this place must be heaven. Covering 2-1/2 acres, Annnie’s grows most of its offerings from seed, without growth hormones, so you know the plants won’t go into shock from exposure to the real world when you bring them home. Annie’s prides itself on growing old-fashioned species, which tend to be taller and more fragrant than today’s hybrids. On top of growing their own plants and operating a retail nursery seven days a week, Annie’s also ships via mail order anywhere in the country.

One thing I look for in a retail nursery is information-rich signage. Annie’s has it. Check out the info for Yucca whipplei, a California native I bought from Santa Barbara Botanic Garden earlier this summer. It has everything you’d need to know about this plant, including a photo of it in bloom.

I could have spent more time here, poking through the succulents…

…and perusing the garden art. But soon it was time to reboard the buses and head to the next garden. Thanks, Annie’s, for the warm welcome and beautiful displays!

Up next: The bay-hugging Wave Garden. For a look back at the Organic Mechanics courtyard garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

15 Responses

  1. kathy says:

    I never take for granted my good fortune in living within reasonable(under 1 hour) driving distance from Annies. I love getting up on a Sunday, filling the commuter mug with Peets French Roast and tooling down to Richmond for a couple of hours of budget-busting. A great post Pam, including all the attributes that make this nursery a destination.

    That sounds like a pretty great way to spend a morning, Kathy. —Pam

  2. Blackswampgirl Kim says:

    I’ve loved browsing Annie’s on the web for years – how cool that you got to visit in peron!

    Side note: I’m not sure what that red-tipped, blue-leaved succulent is in the photo below the blue chair pic…but I need it!!!

    I know, me too! Isn’t it fabulous? —Pam

  3. A place where dreams are made.

    Annie’s was wonderful. Coming up in a few posts is another great S.F. nursery, Flora Grubb. Stay tuned. —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    There really was not enough time to both shop and take pictures! I don’t remember that leaf birdbath, it’s cool! It was such an amazing place.

    I think the birdbath was near the gift shop, Alison. Yes, I could have used more plant browsing time since I spent most of my time taking photos. —Pam

  5. Peter says:

    This place was more spectacular that I’d imagined! Ordered from them for years but was thrilled to actually be there! That chapel could come live in my garden any day! (When I win the lottery.)

    It was spectacular, and wasn’t it fun to meet Annie herself? This was a really fun stop on the Fling. —Pam

  6. sandy lawrence says:

    Annie’s is a never-disappoint online ordering experience for me. Generously sized, fully established plants packed for perfect arrival. Annie’s and Plant Delights are both tops for mail order plants in my book. Thanks for this “in person” visit.

    My pleasure, Sandy. Yes, both Annie’s and Plant Delights are first-rate online nurseries. —Pam

  7. Tomi says:

    As a SF Bay area resident, I am lucky to be able to visit Annie’s at least twice each year, usually more often and I always find and buy more than I planned. Her plants transition well into my Walnut Creek garden, despite my different microclimate.
    And why have none of the Garden Fling Bloggers posted a photo of the Pink Chicken Coop?

    I have no recollection of seeing a pink chicken coop, Tomi. I wonder if it’s still there? I’ll be looking on other bloggers’ posts for it now. —Pam

  8. ricki says:

    What fun to see the legendary Annie’s Annuals up close and personal. I’m so glad you spent your shopping time taking pictures instead.

    Ha! Pictures usually win out with me, Ricki. The only time I regret it is when I miss out on time to talk in person with people. —Pam

  9. Jason says:

    We actually bought two of those metal flowers in the picture with the morning glory vine. There are some decent nurseries in Chicago, but I wish there were some that really embraced the approach embraced at Annie’s.

    Lucky you to have snapped up some of the metal flowers. I quite liked those! —Pam

  10. Laura says:

    I live across the bridge from Annie’s and I am glad it is far enough so I don’t end up there every week or I would not resist buying one of each. I have bought many plants from this nursery and they all delighted me with beautiful blooms.

    Glad you got to experience it.

    Me too, Laura! What a treat, even though I just got the one plant. —Pam

  11. Is that a Rodgersia in front of the fountain? I love those leaves. And I agree, those plant signs are fantastic. Hope I will get to visit there someday.

    I gave up trying to ID any plants in San Francisco, MHM. So many were so foreign to me! —Pam

  12. Heather says:

    I love Annie’s so much. I tried to steal that Chionochloa rubra once–I’m so glad you got a photo of it!

    Ah, is that what that grass is? I’d have to have one if I lived there. —Pam

  13. Rose says:

    What a fantastic place! It is nothing, and I mean nothing, like any garden center around here. It must have been hard not to come home with a basketful of plants.

    The plant selection was amazing, but I generally don’t buy plants when traveling because Austin has such a tricky climate that I assume most plants bought from afar just won’t succeed here. I’m not much of an experimenter, I guess! —Pam

  14. Excellent description, sepia Kansas into Oz. Loved exploring Annie’s.

  15. […] plants as well as cottage garden heirlooms and wildflowers. Regular readers may remember that I visited Annie’s while I was in San Francisco last June; click for pictures of this fun plant-lover’s nursery. […]