Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Lafayette Work in Progress Is Worth a Visit

By Ron Sullivan
Friday August 03, 2007

Change is inevitable; it’s always reassuring when a change in a good business is in the spirit of the original, an enhancement rather than a trip to the oubliette—for example, when an owner retired and sells the place to people who are familiar with it and like its style already. A breath of fresh air is much better than a tornado where there’s something worth preserving. Oh, Toto! 

I’d visited Mt. Diablo Nursery and Garden just a few times since writing it up for The Garden Lover’s Guide: San Francisco Bay Area around 1997. It was engagingly eccentric, homey, with the oddities that come with long independent ownership. It sat in the shadow of a big fat pretentious hotel of some sort—still does, though the stucco coat on the architectural iceberg is a slightly different shade now—and made a quiet, ornery statement about what East of the Hills used to be like when it was the outback, before it got all pretentious.  

You know, I know people who live over on the hot side of the hills and they’re not pretentious themselves, even the most genteel ones. Maybe nobody there is pretentious, and it was all just the developers’ fault. Could we spare a day to take weedwhackers to all the gratuitous “The”s and “at”s that are popping up in such unfortunate places? Thanks; it would mean so much to me. 

So Mt. Diablo Nursery has just changed hands. Garth and Marcia Jacober bought Harry’s Nursery from its former owner (that would be Jiro Mishimoto, who’d taken over from his friend the eponymous Harry some 30 years back) and changed its name. They’re sprucing it up now. Redoing the gift shop, restocking the stock, gearing up for a Grand Opening day in the near future.  

I’ll announce that here as soon as I hear when it’s happening.  

Marcia said they intend to include work from local artists in the gift shop, and they’re considering throwing some classes too. Garth has taught gardening classes at Heather farms and at Magic Gardens.  

When he was a student, Garth worked with the eponymous Harry and the post-eponymous Jiro at the nursery, so he does know and like what he and Marcia have acquired. The lot is funny, shaped right for a spaghetti farm and rising in little terraces up a steep hill. ’Round the other side of that hill is Lafayette Cemetery, which looks rather like the “cemmies” in my Coal Region hometown where we used to say are so steep that the dead must be buried standing up, ready for Judgment Day.  

The Jacobers like camellias and have a lot of them waiting for blooming season to be on display at the nursery. They have, even in the current under-renovation space, some unusual plants such as native vine maples, Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eye’—a golden cut-leafed staghorn sumac I don’t think I’ve seen before—and a rose named ‘Golden Winds’ whose scent has a note of cinnamon.  

There’s a nifty mural in progress along the bordering wall too. Go on out and have a look; it’s worth braving the heat.  


Mt. Diablo Nursery & Garden 

3295 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette 

(925) 283-3830 


http://mtdiablonursery.com (Site is under construction too, clearly.) 

8:30 a.m.—5 p.m. daily 



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.