The nursery has always had a friendly, family atmosphere, probably because it's family-owned and operated. The staff, even those who work the check-out counter, know plants. Founded in 1971 as a sod outlet by Joe Sperling on one acre of land in what was then a largely undeveloped area, it was expanded it to 11 acres in the late seventies, creating a full-service nursery. When I pulled up the nursery's website, I discovered that Mr. Sperling passed away in August. I sincerely hope Sperling will continue as an independent nursery - I still remember what happened to my beloved Begonia Farms Nursery when the founding patriarch died and the land was sold to a developer. Calabasas has been growing at a wild pace for decades so I'm sure there will be pressure on the family to sell.
It was sunny and hot in Calabasas. That didn't stop me from thoroughly checking out the plant stock but I'm afraid that it did negatively impact the quality of my photographs. Sperling doesn't have demonstration planting beds but there are always nice collections of pots arranged near the entrance to show possible planting schemes.
Succulent prices have sky-rocketed in the last few years, here and everywhere, but Sperling offers a nice selection.
|Aloe plicatilis (Fan Aloe) could be be yours for $200|
|This large Aloe ferox was offered for $400|
More than any other nursery I can think of, Sperling always entices me to buy garden ornaments I don't need. I somehow managed to avoid such purchases on this trip, although I was tempted. (I didn't even set foot in the gift shop.)
|I've admired this cast iron crow before but he goes for $120|
|This little frog might look nice with the orange plants off the patio in the side yard|
|I have a peculiar affection for gargoyles and dragons|
|This photo screened onto wood planks was interesting but I didn't even bother to look for a price|
My friend was attracted to this rhino pot containing an interesting succulent (but she resisted too).
I was tempted by a beautiful Grevillea. I passed on it because I couldn't think where to put it but I'm still kicking myself. Maybe I need to move other plants to make room for it?
Here's what I did bring home:
|Tulbaghia violacea, Aster frikartii 'Monch,' Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire,' and Allium 'Graceful' bulbs|
I was happy enough with my Sperling purchases - they'll fill some empty spaces in my back and side yard borders - but I have to admit that they weren't that exciting. So, after leaving my friend in the Valley, I decided to stop at another of my favorite independent garden centers on my way home. Marina Del Rey Garden Center is conveniently located right off the freeway, not far from the ocean. I once worked nearby and I've been going there for years, although it's a little more out of the way for me now. It generally offers a good selection of plants but the staff doesn't always seem as well-informed as I'd like to find.
The garden center had a Halloween pumpkin patch and jumper/bouncey house thing going for kids. I skirted around that and headed straight for the small-sized perennials.
|Alternanthera tenella 'Crinkle Red'|
|Pennisetum setaceum 'Cherry Sparkler'|
|Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'|
I took a stroll through the larger plants in the back.
|Lots of Leucadendron|
|Lots of Phormium and Cordyline|
|Lots and lots of Salvia|
|A garden cat who just wanted to be left alone|
I spent a lot of time perusing the center's wide selection of succulents.
|A very large Agave 'Blue Glow' with multiple pups (yours for $140)|
|Unlabeled succulents - some kind of Kalanchoe?|
|I searched out help to get the name of this small tree-sized succulent. The horticulturist told me it was called 'Copper Leaf' but she didn't have the species name and it wasn't Acalypha wilkesiana.|
I passed on most of the uber-expensive succulents but I did splurge on a large Agave 'Blue Glow' even though the center offered budget-friendly $10 plants in 4-inch pots. Here's what I took home:
|Agave 'Blue Glow,' Alternanthera tenella 'Crinkle Red,' and 3 small assorted unlabeled succulents|
All things considered, it was a good shopping day.