In coastal Southern California, our cool season is the optimal time to plant. But when summer hangs on well into autumn as it usually does here, I often delay the plant shopping trips intended to fill the empty spots in my garden. The fatal flaw with such delays is that, when I finally get out there, I run head-on into the all-consuming rush toward Christmas that consumes most garden centers. I don't blame them - they need income to stay afloat and selling Christmas trees and other holiday paraphernalia is a big moneymaker. It's entirely my fault when I fail to recognize that the holiday take-over is already underway.
A friend and I made a trip south to Orange County earlier this week to visit two garden centers. Although the trees hadn't yet arrived at Roger's Gardens in Corona Del Mar, space had already been cleared to make way for them, which means there were fewer garden plants to peruse.
|Overview of the garden center's front area from the upper level. The large area already cleared for Christmas trees was in the back (not shown).|
|This demonstration bed near the front entrance is changed out several times a year. The small red and green electric trains always featured during the holidays were already running but the area was otherwise devoid of holiday references.|
|That was not the case in the interior areas|
Our other stop was OC Succulents in Irvine. The year-end holidays weren't an obvious issue there but the prices were. Since the pandemic, prices at this wholesale nursery (and its smaller outlet in Torrance) have soared. Maybe customers with wholesale licenses get much better deals but I didn't see any of the bargains we found years ago when shopping the nursery.
|This area used to feature current "deals" on mid-sized succulents. I didn't see any of those.|
|However, there was a large variety of succulents in a range of sizes to be found. A sampling included, clockwise from the upper left: Aeonium 'Sunburst', Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light', Agave 'Blue Glow', Echeveria 'Blue Atoll', assorted cactus, succulents in 2-6 inch sizes, and Sedum dasyphyllum 'Minor'. An Agave 'Blue Glow' I recently purchased in a 1-gallon container at my local garden center was priced at half what OCS was charging for a specimen of similar size. The Agave parryi I bought for a steal on my prior shopping trip to Carpineria for $12 was priced at nearly $40.|
|The outlet also offers a massive number of decorative plants like orchids and bromeliads, houseplants, and Tillandsias. If you need a significant number of particular plants, this is the place to go but it might be a good idea to look into a wholesale license first.|
Given the circumstances, my purchases were relatively modest.
|At OC Succulents, I picked up 2 Tillandsia harrisii. One is now attached to the chiminea adjacent to the bromeliad-succulent bed in my front garden and the other has been added to the collection in my lath house.|
|At Roger's Gardens I found the Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' I was looking for during my trip north 2 weeks ago, as well as flowers to fill one of the barrels in my front garden (Argyranthemum 'Aramis Bicolor Rose' and a mix of Calibrachoa), and the first Osteospermum '4D White' I've seen anywhere|
I managed to polish off planting the barrels that were left empty when I dug up the dahlia tubers and stored them away for the winter.
|Most of the plants in this barrel in my cutting garden were purchased during my earlier trip up north but I picked up the last orange Calibrachoa at Roger's Gardens|
I also finally addressed the area around our backyard fountain. I'd decided months ago to replace the mess that was there with a variegated Lomandra and purchased a 'Platinum Beauty' for that purpose but I held off because I was afraid that it would quickly get too large for the space and I'd be back to square one. Finding a dwarf Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' was the ticket.
|This is a "before" shot of the area. The seashells were here when we arrived. I've moved them around many times, trying to disguise the ugly electrical outlet that controls the fountain. I wanted a plant that would hide the outlet without making it impossible to access if necessary.|
|Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' should cover up the electrical outlet when it reaches 2-3 feet tall and wide. In the meantime, I've moved many of the shells back in place, principally to stop the raccoons from tearing up the drip lines. In the past, they've been known to fight the drip lines as though they were snakes.|
|Dwarf Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' echoes the 3 Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' planted nearby last year. The latter will grow 3-4 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide but, at least at present, the plants look nearly identical.|
|The Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' I've had on hold since mid-summer ended up in another area of the same bed on the other side of Echium webbii, where its mature size won't be a problem|
Yesterday afternoon, in an effort to find a few small plants to fit into the empty spots in the pink-themed barrel planter, I made a brief stop by Armstrong, my local garden center, after a Friendsgiving lunch. Just three days after my prior plant shopping trip, the holiday influence was even more pervasive there.
|The first Christmas trees had already arrived! From the looks of things, they are going to be even more expensive than last year.|
|Christmas decor was all over but no holiday music was playing (yet)|
|For lack of many options, I picked up plugs of English primrose to fill in the empty spaces in this front garden barrel. Hopefully, it's full enough to keep the raccoons away but I think it might be a good idea to stick in some sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) too.|
I've absolutely no issues with the holiday themes that take over garden centers, although I do wish they'd hold off until after Thanksgiving. However, as that's not the trend, I need to factor the ever-advancing creep of holiday preparations into my fall season plant shopping schedule.
Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.
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by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party