Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Take a Nursery Jaunt Up Tomales Bay

By Ron Sullivan
Friday November 02, 2007

Mostly Natives is a classic, and worth a jaunt on a nice day. If you’re the sort of traveler who appreciates dramatic and various weather shows, that would include the average rainy spell; the rolling curtains and airborne leviathans of fog and cloud that unroll across the Richmond—San Rafael Bridge and lie in the folds of Marin County, alternately dazzling and shrouding you on the road are one of our particular local pleasures.  

Aside from being a retailer, Mostly Natives is a wholesale source of California native plants. When I see its tags in other nurseries, I take it as a sign of good buying practices. 

The retail stock is exciting to native-plant mavens: rare things like fawn lily and Sierra rose (I've seen three native rose species here), and merely unusual and handsome things like ninebark, ocean spray, the natives Iris macrosiphon and I. douglasiana as well as the more commonly found Pacific Coast Hybrid irises.  

There are more species of native bunchgrass than you can shake a stick at, and they're available as gallon-size or four-inch plants. Showy and useful non-native grasses and grasslikes such as those brass-colored carexes share display space with them, always labeled as to origin. 

Native shrub youngsters are here in the four-inch size, too, to stretch your dollar and allow flexibility in use. It’s a good idea to plant small when you can, because you don’t have to dig as big a hole—less labor and less disturbance of the soil—and a younger plant tends to suffer less from transplant shock. It’ll catch up to something planted at a larger size within a year or three.  

These people clearly know what they’re doing; the stock is healthy, questions get answered, and the informational tags are a horticulture course in themselves, with details like which plants are native to the Bay Area; what their cultural preferences are, vis-à-vis water, drainage, sun, and other details; what they’ll tolerate, for example, wind and salt spray near the ocean; and which ones do well in containers. There’s great information on the Web site, too. 

“Mostly” isn’t misleading, either; there are other plants here, a small but choice assortment, and generally as robust and inviting as the natives. Herbs we’ve picked up there over the years have included classics like lemon balm, and slightly adventurous things like Thai basil; when we dropped in there last month, though, there were fewer herbs on sale than usual. I suspect this might be a seasonal thing. 

The edibles are the sort of thing you want if you have precious little dirt space to squander. Prices are good for natives and exotics both. You can get soil amendments and tools here, too, if you can resist spending your whole budget on plants.  

If your timing and budget are right, you can also stop for barbecued oysters on the way along Tomales Bay, at Tony’s or (for, as I recall, more bucks) the newly refurbished Nick’s Cove. Otherwise, the little deli in Tomales has quite decent lunches and breakfasts and thoughtful service. 



Mostly Native Nursery 

27235 Highway 1, Tomales  

Wednesday–Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  

Sunday 10 a.m–4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 

(415) 878-2009