Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: The Jewel Box Dazzle of Broadway Terrace Nursery

By Ron Sullivan
Friday June 09, 2006

Broadway Terrace Nursery is a tad off my regular circuit, and it had been too long since I’d dropped in when I dashed there last Saturday. It was just before closing time—a good time to watch the staff get its collective mettle tested. I was as impressed as I’d been on the regrettably few occasions I’d visited before.  

As I cruised around the tiny lot snapping photos, which I do by way of taking notes, I got one polite “Are you finding what you want?” from a staffer, but wasn’t sniffed after; these folks clearly don’t have Homeland Security ambitions. (Nursery folks are generally less paranoid than the usual retailer, in my experience.)  

Mostly, they were busy with customers. I cocked an ear and heard lots of particular requests and helpful advice going on. “My situation is…,” earned a guided tour with specifics about preferences, tolerances, and ultimate sizes of the plants. 

Well, that sounds more stiff than what I was listening to: lots of enthusiasm on both sides. 

This is a boutique nursery, one that caters to a local clientele and uses knowledge of its needs and the area to infuse what’s clearly a very individual sense of style. 

It’s been on the site for decades, through at least two owners, and has a comfort in its sense of place that allows for flights of imagination. 

One thing that shows itself immediately is an interest in foliage color. “Of course,” a staffer told me, “almost everyone here has lots shade in their yards.” Foliage provides zing in shade where many plants won’t bloom, and adds to a gardener’s color palette. 

Between the size of the place—it’s a fraction of a little pie-slice lot where two streets angle off into the Oakland hills—and all this foliage color, the place has a jewel-box dazzle.  

I have a shady spot in the front yard that I’m stuffing with cannas and tropicals and heucheras (coral bells), and the last do very well there so I’ve been watching the market for heucheras for a few years now. 

Several nurseries, including the Proven Winners/Proven Selections folks, have been having a good time with those: yellows, purples, purple-and-silvers, golds with red undersides, and hybrids with tiarellas (sugar scoops) called “heucherellas” that produce variegations and interesting leaf shapes. 

It’s a bit like the effect the recent flowering of microbrews has on us beer-lovers.  

Broadway Terrace has a couple of heuchera and heucherella cultivars that I hadn’t seen before. Someone’s watching that line carefully, along with other foliage delights.  

There are also lots of variegated foliages: even a striking variegated red-top photinia, of all things, with green-and-cream leaves, blushing new growth, and an open habit that makes it a whole different plant to my eye. 

It’d make a nifty focal shrub, with attentive pruning.  

There are flowering plants, too, and trees, edibles, and a seed and tool collection—including a good assortment of Felco pruners—that rewards attentive browsing. Barn swallows nest in several spots in the shop’s eaves. Go give your eyes a treat. 



Broadway Terrace Nursery 

4340 Clarewood Drive, Oakland  

(corner of Broadway Terrace) 


Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 

Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m