Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: There’s Still Something for Gardeners at The Gardener

By Ron Sullivan
Friday May 18, 2007

One might be forgiven for thinking otherwise, but there are things to buy at The Gardener that actually have something to do with gardens. 

The tony and tempting Fourth Street shop has been, shall we say, wider in its scope than the average nursery or hardware store since its inception. I do believe that the proportion of garden stuff has shrunk over the years, but that’s entirely subjective. 

Maybe I’m just personally dazzled by the perfectly Zen furniture—imagining each piece playing solo in a room of hand-burnished cypress and off-white rice paper—or the perfectly textured fabrics in table linens and scarves, or the perfectly hilarious renditions of an entire Shakespeare play in relatively fine print on a poster.  

Of course, the stuff displayed on the sidewalk outside is suitable for outdoor use, in the garden or on the deck or by the front door. 

I do like the recycled rainbow-rubber renditions of those familiar school foot-scraper doormats in a couple of sizes, and the weathered-wood Adirondack chairs, though, having some experience with weathered wood, I have to wonder about splinters.  

There’s an interesting strategy going on inside. If you have the same tendency I do to wander through a store in a circle, you’ll find the path leads from garden stuff first through garden stuff last whether you go sunwise or widdershins.  

On your right, you’ll encounter the $200 birdhouses and zinc plant markers (carbon pencils to use on those are sold separately) along with more practical items like the “tip bag” and Bosbag-type gadgets for toting your pruning scraps or leaf litter, and a few models of the indispensable Felco pruning shears. I do think that at those prices the birdhouses should come with at least a pair of orioles.  

What else? 

Well, while you’re on your expedition to pick up a castle for the kids or lunch at Bette’s or a yummy rat for your snake, you can drop by The Gardener for some Italian veggie seeds—or Seeds of Change or Kitazawa seeds—maybe a Designer watering can. A waterproof notebook; I’d thought only birders were crazy enough to need those.  

Maybe you need West County gardening gloves, or a pair of rose gloves with long gauntlet cuffs. Speaking of Zen: natural-fiber cordage for tying up vines or tomatoes.  

Maybe a stylish gardening hat. Hand hoes and other such clever tools. Garden clogs (for the kids, too) or big plastic bucket/baskets like those used in Spain. Polished pebbles to mulch your potted plants.  

And when you’re finished with planting and maintaining, some fragrant soap (maybe Juniper Ridge wildcrafted California scents: bay laurel, juniper, cedar) and a handsome $18 nailbrush to clean up with, scented hand cream afterwards.  

Then off to your South American-style hammock, with a copy of Sunset’s latest edition, or Native Treasures, or some such garden book, or Yoga for Gardeners. Maybe a hand-thrown cup of fancy tea.  

And dream of the garden that The Gardener thinks you should have: perfect in every way.  



The Gardener 

1836 Fourth St. 




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