I’ll take the weekend’s set of rainstorms as the starting gun for fall planting season this year. As some might have noticed, I’ve been personally less than productive lately, and quite slow. (Blame the damned fruitless mulberries that shut my lungs down way back in spring. Plus, I Blame the Patriarchy, but then I always do.) As a result, I’m seriously impatient with limitations like energy and stamina and time itself. I want to plant!
What I really want to do is dig out half the flowering ginger and revise the front garden patch, which is mostly weird variegated stuff and semitropicals. Imagine my delight when I found the old Flowerland Nursery on Solano Avenue had been taken over by an old friend and favorite plant lover, and is slowly being revised itself.
Katherine Zapata used to be half of what I called The Pot Girlz, who ran Clay of the Land back in the day. They sold pots (Surprise!) large and small, and water plants and assorted bamboos and, well, you never knew what you’d find, out of a lot on Seventh Street and then a larger one on San Pablo Avenue.
The business folded when that lot became a construction site. I was happy to see at least half of The Pot Girlz is back in the business.
She and her new biz partner Carly Dennett bought Flowerland from the esteemed Bob, who’d run it for some 30 years. They’re making some changes that reflect their own eclectic taste in plants, and keeping some of what they inherited.
Right now they’re gearing up for the Christmas tree rush. They’ve kept Flowerland’s relationship with a family-owned tree grower, Holiday Tree Farms. This Oregon company raises its trees without a lot of pesticides and other nasty inputs, Katherine told me.
Also, bit by bit, the new owners are working to restore the 1947 nursery office building to its original mid-century modern look. This won’t take much (easy for me to say, as I’m not up there on the scaffold myself after closing hours, scraping away layers of paint) because the bones of the place are still intact and pretty much visible.
Some of what’s new is old, too: a pie safe and turkey feeders and other such gardenworthy objects from the Alameda Antiques Fair; handbuilt shelves and bulb crates used as displays; heirloom food plants like a beet mix, ‘Getti di Napoli’ cut-and-come-again broccoli, ‘Violetto pugliese Francescino’ artichokes, and ‘Fava di Carpino’ beans, part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
Most herbs and edibles are from Flatland Flower Farm (and hooray for that); lots of ornamentals hail from Annie’s Annuals. But what I like best is that Flowerland is doing some propagation of its own. We grabbed a 4-incher of a great impatiens we hadn’t seen before, a woody little shrub with brilliant yellow-and-red blooms on it now and into Fall. The mother plant is on display, a longtime pet of Carly’s.
Brian Whyte, one of the staff, also does garden design and consultation. He’s smart, enthusiastic, and fairly ornamental himself.
1330 Solano Ave., Albany
Weekdays 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (closed Tuesdays); Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
firstname.lastname@example.org (under construction)
BRIAN WHYTE DESIGNS