Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nursery Visit: Roger's Gardens

Disregarding the fact that summer is officially here and summer is definitely not the optimal time to plant in Southern California, I nonetheless joined a friend this week on a trip to Roger's Gardens, our favorite Orange County nursery.  I brought along my camera on the theory that time spent taking pictures was time not spent picking up plants and placing them on my cart.  I took a lot of pictures but I can't say that my strategy was entirely successful.  I still left the nursery with more than a dozen plant purchases; however, the damages were less than on the occasion of my last visit to Roger's.

Situated in Corona Del Mar, fairly close to both the ocean and the pricey shops that make up Fashion Island, this family-owned nursery has been in business for over 35 years.  It offers seminars most weekends, attracting well-known speakers on a regular basis.  The nursery includes a landscaping service, a florist, an art gallery, and various indoor shops with decorative items of all kinds.  Although I'll pop into the shops to check out the Halloween and Christmas displays during the 4th quarter of the year, I steer away from them on most visits - my plant purchases alone make a sufficient hole in my available funds.  To protect me from my husband's ire, generous friends often give me Roger's gift cards for my birthday and Christmas, which I usually manage to spend within a couple of weeks of receipt even though Roger's is hardly close to home - it's about an hour's drive away in regular L.A./O.C. traffic.

In recent years, Roger's has made a conscious effort to shift its offerings and customer tastes toward more "California-friendly" plants.  This emphasis is apparent from the time you drive into the parking lot.

Planting beds separating the main customer parking area from the surrounding streets

Another view of plantings surrounding the parking lot (I wish I'd asked someone to ID the plant at the front of this border)

Area approaching the main customer entrance, planted with a mass of Echinacea, not yet in bloom
Succulent display just outside the front entrance

As you enter the nursery, there's a raised bed designed to demonstrate how some of the plants offered by the nursery can be used in a garden setting.  The staff changes out the selections on a seasonal basis.  This is just the first of several demonstration gardens.

This is one of the most subdued planting schemes I've seen in this demonstration garden

I'm in love with the Agonis flexuosa on the left, planted here with Trachelium caeruleum and Silene dioca 'Clifford Moor" (I think)

Roger's has given much more prominence to succulents in the last several years.  There are potted succulents everywhere in one form or another.

There are also demonstration garden beds designed to show what can can be done with succulents in a larger landscape setting.

And, of course, there's a large area dedicated to succulents offered for sale, conveniently located near the front of the nursery.

Other areas of the nursery focus on different kinds of California-friendly plant selections.

Like Leucadendrons

More Leucadendrons

A new shipment of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'

Phormiums and Cordylines in all colors and sizes

A selection of plants from Annie's Annuals & Perennials, a NoCal nursery from which I generally mail-order

Mediterranean herbs suitable for use in landscaping

There are also large selections of the usual nursery offerings.

Bedding plants

Vegetables and herbs


Shade plants

More shade plants (That's not my cart - you can tell as there are no plants on it)

There's an outdoor furniture gallery.

An indoor plants shop.

An ample stock of garden supplies.

The size of the place shows in this photo taken from the upper level.

View from the middle of the nursery on the upper level looking toward the front

So, here's what I bought this visit:

  • 3 Milium 'Flashlight' (I needed more chartreuse in the back border)
  • 2 Teucrium betonicum (to replace the 2 torn out by the evil raccoon)
  • 3 Pentas to plant beneath some roses
  • 1 Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', a heat and drought tolerant selection that grows to 5 feet with tiny purple flowers
  • 2 6-packs of blue star creeper (Pratia  pedunculata)
  • 3 6-packs of lobelia

Poor picture of newly planted Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy'

That's not an outrageous list, is it?  Still, it has suddenly gotten VERY hot here so I've skipped my morning exercise routine and gotten out with my shovel in the early morning to take advantage of the coolest time of day.  I'm also going to need to be extra vigilant about watering my new plants while the current heat spell lasts.  And, I'm going to stay away from nurseries for awhile...


  1. What gardener can resist a trip to a good nursery, and Roger's looks like a gem. I usually try to go with a list, but I always allow myself one "impulse purchase." (And if you're going to ask me if I'm self-disciplined enough to always stop at one, the answer is no.) I think about these irresistible, unplanned plant purchases as a good way of supporting independent nurseries, many of which have really been struggling in the recession. (Yes, I'm not actually engaging in addictive behavior; I'm doing a good deed!) -Jean

    1. I've been taking lists to the nursery in order to keep me focused too, Jean. Has it worked? Maybe. A little. There always seems to be something I didn't think of until I saw it - or something I'd never seen before (and thus didn't know I "needed"). I think I'll adopt your view and chalk these purchases up to my support of the local economy!

  2. I've seen Roger's featured on other blogs and it looks like a good one! All through your post I kept thinking "but what did she buy!" Thanks for the list!

    1. Not particularly exciting purchases this visit, although I really like the Gomphrena. I've put lots of repellant granules around it to keep the raccoons at bay.

  3. Ah! Leucadendrons, that's what they're called. I like Leucadendrons.

    1. You should try some in the front yard, Eric (although I'd wait until fall to plant as the Valley's scorching summer heat otherwise might take out this somewhat pricey purchase).

  4. Love your blog Kris, especially the topic (I'm the general manager at Roger's Gardens :). You're a VERY GOOD writer and pretty sharp on your plants too.

    Thank you for such a thorough overview of Roger's Gardens - and very accurate. We work a great deal on attempting to stay "current" with garden trends. Hence, your comments about our succulent inventory and our focus on California Friendly plants is really appreciated.

    We're still pretty old-fashioned: we are passionate plant and garden people, and we're family owned - no corporate big shots, no Wall Street shareholders, just regular folks. We love what we do - bringing smiles and beauty to people. It might sound a little trite, but that's REALLY what were into. That's what gardening is all about, isn't it?

    It is absolutely wonderful that you drive over an hour to visit us. That is quite a commitment and we are very appreciative of that sort of effort. Thank you for such kind words and for such encouragement. I wil share this blog with our staff; they'll love it. It's people like you that make us feel good about what we do.

    Hope to meet you sometime.

    (By the way, that lavender blooming plant in the parking lot is Oreganum 'Hopley's'. It's quite easy, low water and a lovely summer bloomer.)

    Ron Vanderhoff

    1. Thank you for the plant identification and for your kind comments about my blog, Ron!

      My gardening friends and I love Roger's. Your staff members, without exception, have always been wonderful (something I neglected to mention in my post) - their knowledge of your plants is exceptional and all I've encountered have been pleasant as well as helpful. I heard you speak at the OC Master Gardeners annual function a couple of years ago and I know you're passionate about plants, which is reflected in the way in which Roger's is run. It's apparent that you and your staff do indeed love what you do and this is clearly a key factor to the long-term success of your business. Having spent 25 years in Human Resources management in a range of industries, I have to say that sets Roger's apart from the majority of businesses in the most positive way.

  5. Roger's Gardens looks like a good nursery even though I'd have to drive way more than an hour to get there.

    I loved the succulent display, especially the containers, and demonstration gardens. Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' looks like native Gomphrena know as 'Little Grapes' in Texas. Funny it moved to California and changed its name.

    1. As the number of independent nurseries has steadily shrunk, it seems that visits to all my favorite nurseries involve significant commutes. Many, many years ago my favorite nursery was a block's walk away. I still remember how devastated I was when it closed. And that happened again and again - until now I generally have an hour's drive in one direction or another to find more than the standard line-up of plants. So sad.

      Re 'Itsy Bitsy' and 'Little Grapes', perhaps the naming difference is due to production by a different grower? Or, who knows, maybe someone did a marketing study and decided that Californians were more likely to respond to one name than another?