The same day I visited Pottery Planet, I also paid calls to two different plant growers, Pacific Plug & Liner and Soquel Nursery Growers. The central coast of California, with its mild climate and agricultural focus, is home to many kinds of growers, from small specialty to annual color to huge commercial wholesale.
My first visit was to PP&L, a starter-plant grower in Watsonville that provides small plants in large quantities to wholesale growers (Like Soquel) who grow them on until they are ready to sell to retail nurseries and landscape professionals. PP&L also tests and develops plants provided to them by breeders all over the world.
The gorgeous Gaillardia above is one of PP&L's summer perennial trials; if bee votes count, this beauty is a sure thing!
~click any picture to enlarge~
Boy, not a plant in sight! This is where it begins for many of PP&L's plants, the cold closet where seed stock is kept at a preserving temperature until ready for propagation. I felt a bit guilty, thinking of all those unscientifically stored seed packets in my garage!
Check out the seeding machine! Large trays with compartments not much bigger than sugar cubes are run through this machine, where the seeds are planted at the proper depth, covered and watered, just like that. I was impressed. The planted trays are then taken to the indoor growing field.
And, I do mean field. You are looking at thousands and thousands of perennials, grasses, even small shrubs and groundcovers, on a vast sea of waist-high tables in a carefully controlled greenhouse.
The next field over is the propagation room; the plants you see aren't the end result, they are the beginning...mother plants from which thousands of cuttings are taken and rooted in a similar fashion to the seed trays, but with slightly larger cells.
These mother plants are never sold; they are harvested until that can't take it any more, and then composted. Here we see a field of Dianthus.
These are starts of Cordyline 'Festival Grass' from FitzGerald Nurseries in Kilkenny Ireland, who provide very small sprouts to PP&L to be started like this. These will probably grow for another few months before being sold to growers, who might tend them for another six months (small wholesale size) to a year (full retail size) before selling.
Ah, that's more like it! Some of the many plants they are developing; a couple of beautiful Carex in the middle (also from FitzGerald) a beautiful variegated Euphorbia, pink Agastache, and some bright Coprosma.
Here's what all the cuttings and seedlings look like when they are ready to come outside, still in their propagating trays. Amazing to see familiar plants in their infancy! I believe the foreground trays are the ornamental cabbages that are a common winter annual in California.
This is a batch of a new variety of Pennisetum Rubrum almost ready to ship out for planting in 1g containers; these will likely be going in to gardens next spring. It was fascinating for me to see the 'early childhood development' of some of my favorite (or next favorite!) plants! Now on to one of my favorite wholesale nurseries.
A half hour north of Watsonville you'll find Soquel Nursery Growers. I've been shopping at Soquel for years. They are a small wholesale only (sorry!) nursery specializing in unusual perennials, grasses, groundcovers, shrubs and vines, mostly in 1-and 5-gallon size.
As you can see, they are a terrific place to go for color, also a good choice for a client visit. They nearly always have an electric cart for me to use, and a tour of inspection is always a pleasure!
I was shopping for the containers I had purchased earlier at Pottery Planet, which were destined for a partially shady deck. So to the shade house I went, for a look at their choicest plants. Here we have two varieties of red Loropetalum chinense, Lamium 'Purple Dragon' and blue-flowered Brunnera.
Southern sword fern, (Nephrolepis) Coral Bells (Heuchera) and Sweet Flag (Acorus 'Ogon') remind me of how gorgeous these three are planted together!
I'm a visual designer, and prefer to choose plants on the spot rather than plan everything out and just execute a shopping list. I played with groupings on the flatbed of the electric cart until I had what I needed. Then, I went home.
Thanks for joining me on this 'Day in the Life' it's always more fun when someone comes along!