Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: It Doesn’t Get Much Better Than Your Corner Nursery

By Ron Sullivan
Friday April 07, 2006

Flowerland Nursery is the corner store of local plant shops. Evidently it’s been there for generations: the friendly worker there told me that that the current owner, Bob Wilson, has had it for some 30 years and the previous owners had run it “for, oh, 30 to 40 years” before him. 

It’s on lower Solano Avenue in a narrow slot between apartment/small office buildings and across the street from The Baptist Church on the Corner, and you don’t get more neighborhoody than that.  

It’s also, like the rest of us, been flinching a little at the protracted rainy weather. There was recently a note on its old-fashioned wooden marquee that the place would, for the time being, open only on sunny (or was it “dry”?) days. 

Even that seemed optimistic, I guess, and now it’s open almost daily for its regular nine-to-five hours, though, as that worker said, “When it’s raining, we don’t open till about 10 a.m. because nobody comes in before then.” 

That’s not such a puzzle. Back when I was a pro, Flowerland didn’t offer the locally customary discount for professionals, and it’s mostly folks in the landscaping business who get that early start and buy plants at 8:30 a.m. 

So most of the customers here must be home gardeners and weekenders, and even mad gardeners deserve to sleep in once in a while. 

I bought stuff there anyway sometimes, because I just kind-of liked the place, but my business practices tended toward the sentimental anyway. I never did get rich or even turn much of a profit, but I met some good people and plants and some of them were at Flowerland. 

That marquee alternates irregularly between inspirational messages and strictly informational notices like “Bareroot fruit trees are in.” Come to think of it, that’s a little like the marquee in front of the average Baptist church; maybe it’s a neighborhood theme.  

So what do you find here? The basics and standards: six-packs of alyssum, two-inch pots of veggie seedlings, four-inchers of bedding perennials, one-gallon New Zealand flax, five-gallon ferns, and a few slightly larger trees. 

Then, just for fun, there’s usually something different: a new cultivar of an old familiar plant, or something like black viola that you forgot you liked. There’s a half-price table with stuff that’s aged a bit in the pot, but I’ve had good luck with these pound puppies myself.  

Tools, pots, bagged soil amendments including some earth-friendly brands, and potted plants are inside and next to the shop. 

Spotted around the stock are some of those outdoor figurines that can be little-old-lady or edgily ironic, depending on context. The gulls nestled in the asparagus ferns looked odd, but then I’m a birder. I get upset when a movie has a California birdsong in a Dakota Badlands scene.  

In winter Flowerland switches over largely to Firewoodland and Christmastreeland. Other corner-store touches: three-packs for $1.99 (“Will cut inside”) like a half-dozen eggs; a handwritten card patiently explaining the difference between Sun and Shade, a homey potting table where plants get seeded into pots or moved up to larger ones. 


Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in East Bay Home & Real Estate. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Berkeley Daily Planet. 


Flowerland Nursery 

1330 Solano Ave., Albany 

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday