- Author: Alison Collin
It is important to keep plant labels, preferably inserting them next to where the plant was put. But failing that, at least keep the label in a safe spot – a box or envelope or suchlike so that it can readily be accessed for future reference.
As a Master Gardener it is often difficult to give advice on how to grow something when the owner has no idea as to what variety it is. A case in point was the “non-fruiting raspberries” that a grower was complaining about. She had been told that you cut all canes to the ground in spring, but she never had a raspberry to eat. I asked what variety they were but she had no idea as she had thrown away the labels, but then luckily recalled that, “It was something like Shortcake”. Without a label or a notion of which variety the plant was, helping to solve the problem relies on a fair measure of guesswork.
From her recollection, I knew immediately that her pruning regime was completely wrong. She had been cutting to ground level all the stems that would bear fruit that year because that particular variety is a floricane bearer, but it had erroneously been pruned as though it was a primocane bearer. Not all raspberries are the same!
Keep the labels of fruit trees that you plant, too. Moving into a house with an established garden, we became owners of a very old peach tree which gives wonderful crops of excellent-flavored peaches every year. The tree itself has many sun-scorched branches and is well on its way to dying. I should love to replace it with a younger version, but have so far not been able to identify which variety it is.
If you grow roses, before long many of the names will be forgotten and you may want more of the same variety, or like me want to make sure that you don't buy a “mistake” again! In this case it was one called 'Westerland' which has beautiful flowers but the most ferocious thorns making gardening around it a misery.
Fruit and vegetable plant varieties and cultivars are important since they provide differing flavors, sizes, hardiness, crop yields, and flowering times. We go to endless trouble to buy the right sort of car, or breed of dog, but many people buy an apple without realizing that it may need a special pollinator in order to set fruit, or buy an apricot that may be a variety that blooms so early that it will inevitably be frosted in or erratic climate.
Most labels will have vital information to help you decide whether your purchase is likely to ensure that you are planting “the right plant in the right place” and not putting a 50 foot tall tree under powerlines, planting a zone 8 plant in Mammoth Lakes, or buying an acid-loving plant for a garden with strongly alkaline soil.
When you have planted your new acquisition keep the label!
Then you will:
- Learn the correct name of the plant and remember it.
- Remember where you planted things that die down in the winter and so avoid planting something else on top of it. Especially important with bulbs.
- Be able to exactly replace it if it dies, or buy more of the same if it is a plant that you really like or does exceptionally well.
- Be able to look up further information regarding its care and special needs.
- Know for certain which tomato is which in a tray of seedlings so that you won't accidentally give away the one that you really, really wanted to try!
- Be able to leave instructions for a specific plant if someone else is caring for your garden or harvesting produce when you are on vacation.
- Accurately know the name of any seeds or bulbs that you save.
Labels come in all shapes and sizes but whereas those marking vegetables are only needed to last a season, long-term landscaping plants require more durable markers if they are to be of any use. For information and suggestions on materials to use check out the following website:
And one final thought: Unless you plan to check on them often, the place to keep plant labels is not on tree branches. They either blow away eventually, or if they are durable, may girdle branches in the future.
- Author: Harold McDonald
I live at the very edge of the Volcanic Tablelands in West Chalfant. Sixteen years ago, they scraped most of our acre clean of vegetation, spread decomposed granite and hauled our house in on two trailers! My plan all along had been to plant mostly California natives and other drought-tolerant plants. I brought a few with me from my previous house in Big Pine, and some we got from the old county windbreak program, but that still left a lot of empty space! We were able to purchase some plants locally from Bishop Nursery and Sierra Gardens Nursery (which unfortunately closed several years ago), but I soon realized that much of what I was looking for wasn't even available to our nurseries from the standard wholesalers—they are only available from specialty nurseries.
I still shop locally first. During the growing season, I check at least once a week to see what's come into town. Most of the backbone of my yard has come from Bishop Nursery (e.g., mountain mahogany, fernbush, and coffeeberry); I've found Cleveland sage and other star performers at High Country Lumber; and most of our trees came from our own Chalfant Big Trees Nursery. But I'm always searching for something new, and I've never been able to drive past a nursery without stopping, so over the years I have discovered a number of other sources for xeric plants. Today I'd like to share some of those with you.
In Person Only
http://theodorepayne.org A non-profit that really works to promote the preservation and use of native plants, Theodore Payne has a retail nursery in a rural setting between I-210 and I-5 near San Fernando. They have a great selection of seeds available online, but if you want plants, you'll have to visit in person. Ten percent discount (15% for members) at their fall, winter and spring sales.
https://californianativeplants.com Tree of Life Nursery, on the Ortega Highway between Lake Elsinore and San Clemente, is a fun place to visit in person. Good catalog available online, but no online ordering.
https://www.rsabg.org/grow-native-nursery/gnn If you've never been to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont, you're missing out. Spread over 86 acres is the largest selection of our state's native flora to be found anywhere. And their Grow Native Nursery has a nice selection of CA natives for sale to the public. Discounts are available for members (10%) and for individuals working for a public or school garden project (20%). If you're both of those things, you save 25%!
https://www.cornflowerfarms.com I've looked many times, but never ordered from this place. They're primarily wholesale, but you can look at their inventory list (email them for login info), choose what you want, and then pick up your order at their nursery near Sacramento. The downside: $200 minimum order. The upside: they have flats of many plants, which is a cheap alternative if you need multiples, say for a ground cover ($2/plant, 25 minimum). A good choice for a group order, maybe?
https://plantsofthesouthwest.com My personal favorite for seeds. And if you happen to be in Santa Fe, NM, they have a retail nursery with both seeds and plants that's fun to visit. And while you're there, you could also check out Agua Fria Nursery on the same street, which has lots of 4” pots (my favorite!), but unfortunately no online ordering.
http://www.alplains.com Seeds only, but if you're looking for something obscure this is a good place to look. They also have good germination information for each species.
http://www.seedhunt.com Not one I have used a lot, but a fair selection of CA natives and other seeds, including 18 species of Salvia.
https://www.dianeseeds.com OK, this one's not really a source for CA natives, but I love their catalog, prices and speedy, friendly service.
Some of these I use more for info and dreaming, because shipping is such a killer, but it's cheaper than going and getting it in person!
https://www.laspilitas.com A huge catalog and a great resource for learning about CA natives. You can visit the nursery in Santa Margarita, which makes for a great spring trip if you combine it with a wildflower expedition to the Carrizo Plains!
https://www.highcountrygardens.com Another Santa Fe, NM, nursery, and one nearly everybody knows about, with a beautiful catalog of plants adapted for the high and dry West.
https://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com The focus of this nursery near Fresno is more on herbs than CA natives, but I always get in on the great deals at their fall sale in September. Their (all organic) plants come in 3” pots and are always beautiful, and their packaging for shipping is by far the best I have encountered anywhere.
https://www.fbts.com Again, shipping can be expensive, but if you're looking for a Salvia (and I always am!), Flowers by the Sea in tiny Elk, CA, is the place to find it. Good catalog with lots of filters and photos, and the plants themselves are reasonably priced.
Editor's Note: there can be some restrictions on bringing in plants to California from out-of-state without a certificate. Many nurseries can provide this. Most mail-order sources take care of this for you.
Mention of a business is not an endorsement, but only for informational purposes to obtain hard-to-find plants.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
In this case I was surprised to get a confirmation and an expected ship date of March 1. This is about 6 to 7 weeks earlier than I planned to plant. No worries, but it did cause me to think about yet another issue we have to deal with in the Eastern Sierra: our ZIP Code.
Most of the population in our "935" ZIP codes lives in warmer places. Even Disneyland thinks we're Southern California! When you place an order for plants online or through mail-order, know that they may ship your plants a bit sooner than you would like.
Many nurseries do offer the option to schedule a date for arrival. If you are purchasing live plants or sensitive materials like begonias, elephant ears or tropicals, you may want to use this option. If you do not let them know your preferred arrival date, odds are they will come earlier than you expect. Be ready to deal with them when they arrive.
If it is too early too plant, you will need to protect the plant from drying out and from getting too cold. That doesn't necessarily mean turn up the heat and force it to grow, either. If the plant breaks dormancy and begins to grow, you will have to be especially careful to protect from frosts. Most deciduous trees and shrubs lose their cold tolerance once they begin to grow.
If you do not see an explicit option to schedule delivery, just make a note in the "comments" section or order form that you live in the mountains and to ship at a time appropriate for Reno, NV and you should be fine.
This will be most important to sensitive plants. Most mail-order and online nurseries have instructions on what to do when your plants arrive. If not, contact them.
For seeds, you can disregard this advice entirely.