Friday, February 2, 2018

January is not the time to shop for plants

While much of the country is dealing with cold temperatures, snow and ice, it feels like early summer here in coastal Southern California.  We've had next to no rain and there's none on the immediate horizon, which is a bad thing, but the unusually warm temperatures nonetheless entice me to spend as much time as I can in the garden.  I've taken care of the usual winter chores: getting the trees trimmed, pruning my roses, spreading mulch, and cutting back overgrown shrubs and perennials.  Plant shopping seems a natural follow-up but, even in our climate where one can garden year-round, there's not much to get excited about in most of the local nurseries and garden centers.

A friend and I visited one of my favorite garden centers in Orange County, Roger's Gardens, this week and the pickings were slim.  The staff was busy sprucing things up and conducting inventory but the shelves were as bare as I've ever seen them.

Herbs and edibles were prominently displayed

But succulents, previously given a large amount of shelf space, were relegated to a small area


I checked out the demonstration bed near the front entrance.  It was pretty but not particularly inspiring.

I love blue and white flowers but there wasn't anything in this bed, heavy on Anemones, English daisies, pansies, and primroses, that I found different or exciting and I could only think how difficult it would be to maintain a garden built around these plants in our current rain-less state


The most interesting display featured succulents in rusted metal planters reminiscent of Potted's City Planter.

I liked the miniature garden displays in these planters a lot


I almost never stroll the gift shop but I stopped in briefly on this visit.

I liked the faux barnacle-encrusted pots and the embellished octopus and squid but they were all very pricey


Plant selections were limited every place I visited in January so I guess the message is that January is just not the time to visit nurseries and garden centers.  However, local plant inventory shortages haven't entirely stopped me.  I received 2 orders of plants from one mail order nursery in January and 2 seed orders.  I've got 2 more bulb orders outstanding, as well as 2 more plant orders due for delivery this month.  There's always a way to scratch an itch.  In any case, I hope all the local plant providers will boost up their stock up in February in preparation for spring.

The best part of this week's fruitless plant shopping expedition was a brief but pleasant exchange with the garden center's official greeter.



Best wishes for a pleasant weekend!


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. You can feel the collective holding-of-breath from all the way over here on the other side of the continent. And not just because we're going to enter the growing season in a drought ourselves (something that hasn't happened for almost 20 years). The difference is that a drought here could be ended at any point by a few good storms, Really hoping hard for you all that some rains come soon to make this winter less of a bust...

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    1. Thanks for the good thoughts, Nell. I just checked the 90-day forecast, even though I keep telling myself I shouldn't as it flip-flops continuously. The rain forecast has sunk even further, showing just 0.01/inch in February, 0.12/inch in March, and 0.25/inch in April. All I can say is that I hope Northern California's forecast is much better.

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  2. I really like those steel planters, too, esp. the middle one.

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    1. That middle planter was the one that drew my eye first too, Eliza. I wasn't entranced by the City Planters when they first came out but I really liked the way these are planted.

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  3. Well we have 70 temps for the next few days here, not your typical 1st week of Feb ! Perfect for pulling the first wave of winter weeds though -we have had no rain for a while but the ground is still moist . With he exception of Annies there's not much to be seen at local nurseries here either. Still the requisite Pansies, Cyclamen and kale.

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    1. Our temperatures here are vacillating between the upper 70s and and the low-to-mid 80s, Kathy. Despite several years of regular amending it, my soil is still on the sandy end of the spectrum so, while it drains well, it doesn't hold moisture well. I've been adding more mulch to help forestall evaporation. Annie's is my go-to source for mail-order plant fixes when local providers let me down.

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  4. I wish we had your dry sunny weather so that I could finish some of the outside projects that have been suspended for the last few months. I'd like to clear out most of the pot ghetto I accumulated last fall too. We've started getting new plants in most of the nurseries, and the show about to start in town, of course, so I'll probably be buying more soon too. I wish we could send you some of our rain. We all seem to be in a holding pattern about something.

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    1. When it comes to rain, it's looking more and more like what we're going to be left holding here is an empty bag. I stopped at a different local nursery on the way home this afternoon and found it well-stocked so perhaps the tide is turning.

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  5. I always prefer to plant in autumn but the nurseries here don't have much stock then because, I suppose, most people want to plant when they think spring is on the way. I was very taken with the plant containers attached to solid panels to create a sort of picture frame. But metal containers aren't very practical in a hot climate are they?

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    1. Yes, entranced as I was by those rusted metal planters, I couldn't help but wonder how long the plants would hold up. The taller plants in the planters on the left and right sides were olive tree saplings and those certainly couldn't have a long life in those small containers.

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  6. I was disappointed with the selections when I shopped on the weekend too. Even the traditional winter bedding annuals were a bit monotonous, though there were plenty of snapdragons in lieu of anything else! But I did manage to snag a grevillea, which made up for a lot. ;-) Now to decide where it goes...

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    1. Oh, a Grevillea! I look forward to seeing it featured in a future blog post, Amy!

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  7. Me too! I've already received two mail order plant deliveries and three seed orders. There's more than one way to scratch an itch!! And I bought that pink flowered Camellia I posted photos of on my blog. Nurseries need to hurry up. They don't understand how much we need them to help us deal with winter. :) I LOVE those rusty wall planters too. What is the name of the plant that your cute hummer is enjoying? It's really pretty. And an excellent shot, by the way. Those guys don't make it easy.

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    1. I'd add that the mail order nurseries also don't understand that it's better for those of us in warmer climates like SoCal to plant during the cooler portions of the year - not that winter has been especially cool this year. I think the red-flowered plant visited by the hummer is Bryophyllum manganii (often classified as a Kalanchoe). I've grown it before. It didn't look as good in its 2nd year but I just noticed this morning that a small cutting I planted in the front garden has a flower so maybe it'll make a bigger splash in future years.

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  8. Hi Chris,
    Please do post pictures of the garden center when it's in full swing. It's nice to see different landscape and plants than we have here. Praying you guys have rain soon.

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    1. Regrettably, our prospects for rain aren't looking good, Sally, but I'll most definitely be visiting Roger's again as the year progresses.

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  9. Water and more water. We all need it don't we? Poor Cape Town: whatever are they going to do? It is (hiding face...) raining nicely here right now; and yet, all is quite grey and dreary despite the Hellebores just poking their heads up and the daffodils about 6" above ground. I love seeing your sunny pictures, much as you would like greyness!


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    1. The specter of what's happening in Capetown is haunting me, Libby. I've lived in SoCal my entire life and I can't remember a winter this dry. The sun is nice but a gray blanket hangs over the view as there's been no rain to clear out the smog.

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    2. I think the city dwellers will survive, but with huge sacrifices from the agricultural sector. Rural unemployment and food inflation.

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    3. In contrast perhaps, California's agricultural industry is a huge component of the state's economy and a critical provider for the US population so the impacts may be different here. During the 2015-2017 drought restrictions, there was a lot of dialogue and tension on establishing the balance between urban dwellers and agricultural outlets. One area of criticism aimed at the agricultural industry that I recall concerned the fact that California currently has a lot of nut tree growers, who use especially high levels of water to support their crops. If things got ugly, I wouldn't be surprised to see campaigns to manage what growers can grow.

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  10. I'm sorry you're having to resort to mail order. Why aren't the nurseries better stocked now, isn't this a good time to plant? I suppose fall would be better, with the idea that rain would be on the way. But isn't now better than say three weeks from now?

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    1. Planting here is best during the "cool season," which I've always interpreted as including winter and early spring as well as fall. But this year winter isn't at all cool and definitely not rainy. I don't know what that bodes for spring. Perhaps putting a hold on new planting is advisable this year. Inventory seems to be a January exercise and that, plus the fact that most buyers don't flood garden centers until spring, probably drives their schedules rather than what makes the most sense from a planting perspective.

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  11. While it is cold and blustery here in the northeast, it is a sight for sore eyes to see those blooms, but I understand the feeling of anticipation as one goes to a nursery, only to find that the inventory is lacking. I am sure the drought is affecting the growers there, and do hope that you get some rain soon.

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    1. I look at the extended weather forecast more often than I should, Lee, and the outlook just gets worse and worse. The ridge of high pressure preventing rain from reaching us isn't letting up. I try to remind myself that the situation is probably of benefit to the folks in the burn areas but the long-term implications remain scary.

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  12. Slightly surprised seeming as the climate is much milder there. One more month I suppose and stock levels will sore dramatically, fingers crossed!

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    1. I've already stopped in at 2 local garden centers since the calendar page flipped and both were better stocked, which is good especially as it now feels like summer here!

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  13. Have not even been plant shopping. This lack of rain is extremely depressing. Even the aloes are tired and stressed.

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    1. I know, I've been depressed by the rain situation too. An article in the LA Times today makes it sound more like a one-off La Nina-related event than part of long downward spiral into deepening drought, though.

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  14. You make an interesting comment above about what drives schedules in garden centres. Wherever we garden, the weather dictates what we can/can't/should/shouldn't do. Books and garden centre schedules can be thrown out of the window on some years. I hope that you get rain soon. That is a worry.

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    1. You garden in an environment in which shoppers are much more attuned to plant and garden requirements, Sarah. We have far fewer dedicated and knowledgeable gardeners and our retailers depend on pretty flowers in full bloom to bring customers in. My own local botanic garden has phased out its fall plant sale, claiming that it doesn't attract the traffic that the spring sale does when, in our area, fall is widely acknowledged by real gardeners as THE time to plant.

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