Now how do I find my plants?
You have some sort of planting plan. Now what? Where do you start? Hopefully these pages
will help you get started with acquiring the plants you need.
If you have a plant list I've given you, it should include accurate botanical names of all the
plants. I haven't used Latin to show off, you need these names to ensure you purchase
specifically the correct plant. The common names are included simply to make you more
comfortable; they are not always accurate identifiers, as some different plants share similar
common names. Every part of the botanical name should be accurate; to have even one part
of the name wrong could mean getting a plant that looks entirely different from the one
intended. Because there is so much variety in the plant kingdom, no nursery can carry every
type of plant. I attempt to specify plants that are reasonable to acquire (plants that are
currently available in the landscaping trade). If you're buying plants where you trust the sales
staff, you may take their advice about making substitutions for some of the plants, but make
sure from your plant list that they are the same height and width needed and they grow in your
zone; when in doubt feel free to call me, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Go into these
stores armed with your plant lists and your Sunset Western Garden Book. Scrutinize every
plant you buy to make sure it has the correct botanical name and is healthy.
A healthy plant in a container is neither too small NOR TOO LARGE for its container
size and plant type. Plants that are very large for their containers can stress because their
root systems have a harder time sustaining all that green growth. The roots should have
reached the sides of the container, but try to avoid plants with a lot of roots circling around the
sides of the pot - those plants can be root bound and also more prone to stress (you may ask a
sales person to take the plant out of the pot so you can inspect its roots).
Here's a quick botanical (scientific) name primer:
In the case of the green shore juniper Juniperus conferta 'Emerald Sea'
Juniperus conferta 'Emerald Sea'
refers to: GENUS SPECIES CULTIVAR (CV)
~This juniper is a groundcover to 12 inches; if you only referred to a juniper for this
plant without the other significant name parts, you could end up with a 15 foot tall
shrub, as some junipers in this genus are quite tall.
~The conferta (species) part of the name tells us what type of juniper we're looking for,
in this case a shore juniper, which is a low, spreading groundcover.
~Shore junipers have bluish green needles, but in this case 'Emerald Sea' is listed as
the desired cultivar, which has bright green needles for a different look.
A change in any part of this name would have led us to a different plant.
You have several sources for types of places to purchase plants.
They include: the box stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Orchard Supply, Kmart, etc.);
local or semi-local nurseries (The Front Yard Nursery, Green Acres, Village, etc.); plant sales from
local groups (California Native Plant Society, farmer's markets, etc.); catalog or internet
nurseries (Foxfarm, Territorial, etc.); plant wholesalers (you usually have to qualify for an
account with them / be a contractor, spend a lot of money, not require help).
Check your vendor lists for some plant purchasing references.
With most plant lists expect to purchase your plants from many sources.
Pros: They usually have lower prices, but surprisingly, not always. Sometimes you can find
large quantities of one single type of plant. They usually provide plant guarantees.
Cons: Take extra care in the cold months to avoid plants with lots of lush new growth;
many of the plants in box stores are grown in warmer areas and may suffer cold
damage when exposed to our winter climate. They don't have a large variety
of plants. It is often difficult to find knowledgeable staff. Many times their
plants are neglected, so be sure to buy a healthy plant.
Local and semi-local Nurseries
Pros: They usually offer excellent service. When in doubt about any advice from a
sales staff , discreetly ask another staff member for similar advice and compare
their answers. They usually have plants that are grown in Northern California,
especially in the winter months. They'll have plants that grow well in the
nursery's zone; if you live in a different zone, be sure to check the plants for
hardiness or ask for advice from the sales staff. With many nurseries you may
order plants that are not in stock in a matter of weeks (it may take longer in the
winter). Their plants are healthy. They add a caring atmosphere to the community
the box stores can never hope to contribute. They may have a large variety of plants.
They usually provide plant guarantees.
Cons: They are sometimes, but not always, more expensive than box stores. They may not have large
quantities of some types of plants.
Plant sales from local groups
Pros: The farmer's market variety often have plants at very low prices. Garden
clubs like the California Native Plant Society offer specialized plants (in this
case California native plants) that might not be easily available from other sources.
Cons: A low variety of plant types. With the Native society, they only offer sales
twice annually. Plants not always guaranteed.
Catalog or Internet Nurseries
Pros: You will find loads of high variety and specialty plants this way. Many
wonderful plants that will do well in our area are unavailable any other way.
Cons: After shipping, the cost of the plants can be high. It's best to use vendors
that come recommended; many catalog nurseries don't offer good value and
the plants can be disappointing when they arrive. Sometimes plants guaranteed.
Pros: Great prices, knowledgeable staff. Mostly one-stop shopping. If you buy
enough plants, you may qualify for a delivery.
Cons: They might not want to deal with you, they don't like to interact with 'the
general public. Some only require that you spend more than $500-$1000,
some require a contractor's license. These guys originate in 'The Valley' and
beyond. Some do not tag their plants, you should know your plants or hire someone knowledgeable on the day of your delivery.