Home & Garden Columns
A sunny morning spent at Annie’s Annuals and Perennials is worth the trip to Richmond, and a good way to celebrate the belated arrival of spring.
Annie’s is already well known from its handsome, innovative labels on retailers’ plant displays. These include a picture of the mature plant or its flower and a short story—where it came from, its family, how Annie’s acquired it—and care instructions. For those who garden by eye, they’re a godsend, and I’d bet they bless retailers with good sell-through rates too.
The business, wholesale and retail, has bounced or been bounced from several locations starting with the backyard of founder Annie Hayes. Even then, it wasn’t all annuals, but the name was irresistible. In fact, there are two Annies; propagator Anni Jensen brings in new plants from all over the world, never neglecting our own back yard. Annie’s is one of my favorite sources of California natives.
Back yards play a more literal role, as every new plant has at least a season or two of trial growing in the garden of Annie or Anni or an associate. This would be one reason the plants consistently prosper even for me, the exemplar of bad-habit gardeners. Seedlings from Annie’s often look small compared to other wholesalers’. This might be a reason they make themselves at home so well after planting: their roots are still ambitious about spreading into new soil, and they haven’t been cramped by pot life.
I don’t go up there for cheap plants; the nursery sells to retail customers at retail prices, and these aren’t the cheapest around. They are economical, though, because they survive, and they’re not the same old marigolds besides. In fact, I was tempted by the one marigold I saw, a jolly striped pinwheel, though to me marigolds are strictly snail chow.
The Annies love our natives, and sell several species of Calochortus, the genus that includes the gorgeous mariposa tulips and fairy lanterns. (The endemic C. pulchellus globe lilies in Mitchell Canyon on Mount Diablo are blooming now—rush right out!) They’re also fond of traditional cottage garden posies, and indeed I saw love-lies-bleeding and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate there last week.
They’re no more able than I am to resist the weird and charming plants from places like the South African fynbos or the Canary Islands. Their playful, gorgeous demonstration gardens and pots are equal parts “Yum!” and “What on Earth?”
That’s no surprise from people who proudly call themselves “Flower Floozies.” In case there’s any doubt, floozies have firm principles: no wildland invasives, no junk, lots of teaching including via Anni Jensen’s mostly unirrigated home garden, featured in the Bringing back the Natives tour.
Apparently their principles make for a good workplace, too. A young woman at a propagating table said privately she loves the work there, and the most frequent sound I heard was laughter. The workers that don’t show up in poor conditions—bushtits, finches, several butterfly species—were there in abundance too, blessing the industrial Richmond-San-Pablo border with natural grace.
Don’t miss the Mother’s Day party, May 13 and 14!
Annie’s Annuals and Perennials
Market Street, Richmond, west of Rumrill; no visible address, but there is a big sign.
Wed.—Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Mail order and directions:
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.?