Annie’s Annuals: The Best Place to Buy Native Plants
Ever heard of Annie’s Annuals? If you’re not already shopping for native plants at this retail and mail order nursery, you should be.
When was Annie’s Annuals founded?
Annie’s Annuals is an iconic California retail and mail-order nursery beloved by gardeners across the globe. Founder Annie Hayes didn’t set out to start a nursery; she practically fell into it. In the late 1980s, Annie worked at the Berkeley Horticultural Nursery selling some of the unique plants cultivated right in her backyard. Customers eagerly snapped up Annie’s plants, but that gig was relatively short-lived. Encouraged by her initial success, she began to sell her plants to local nurseries, who were enamored with her unusual – and often native – varieties.
As her business grew, word of mouth spread like wildfire. Nurseries and home gardeners were all clamoring to get their hands on Annie’s plants.
In 2001, she moved into her current location in Richmond – a 2/12 acre site that she christened “Annie’s Annuals”. Then, in 2006, she launched a quirky mail-order catalog adored by gardeners worldwide. In 2021, Annie retired and sold her flourishing gardening business to its current owner, Sarah Hundley.
Why are native plants so important?
Annie’s specializes in rare and unusual plants and offers an impressive selection of native plants and wildflowers. A whopping 2000 plants are native to California, more than any other state and in fact, more species than in the rest of the states combined. Annie’s currently offers over 250 of California native plants for sale.
Encouraging home gardeners to choose native plants is crucial. Fortunately, these plants are both beautiful and beneficial. Once established, native plants are typically drought and disease resistant. Native plants serve as a habitat for numerous animal and insect species. Some plants, like milkweed, are critical to the survival of an entire species. That might sound dramatic, but it’s just a simple fact. Without that particular milkweed pollinator, monarch butterflies would cease to exist. Many birds, insects and animals depend on native plants and have evolved along with them.
How does Annie’s Annuals decide what plants to sell?
Before offering a new plant to the public, each variety is either grown from seed or propagated from cuttings and nurtured in the on-site test garden at the Annie’s Annuals nursery. These “test plants” come from many different sources such as seeds or cuttings brought in by customers from their home gardens or from their travels.
Hard-to-find seeds are purchased online. Each variety is then evaluated by color, habit, and growth for up to two years. Those that live up to Annie’s rigorous standards are finally included in their extensive selection. The folks at the test garden are particularly excited when they discover new plants that thrive in the most challenging conditions – environments like dense clay soil, extreme shade, or “hell strips” (surrounded by concrete in full sun).
What makes Annie’s Annuals unique?
Annie’s Annuals is nothing like their “big box” competitors. Not only are all plants sold at Annie’s Annuals grown onsite from seeds or cuttings, they are grown the “old-fashioned way” in the elements and are sold almost exclusively in 4-inch pots. While many garden stores grow their plants in a controlled greenhouse environment, Annie’s chooses to grow their plants “the old fashioned way” – from seed, in the elements. That means that they are already “hardened off” and have the best possible chance of survival. For many customers, that makes plants from Annie’s better than those of big box competitors who sell plants grown in controlled greenhouse environments and in larger, and often more expensive sizes.
Another fact that sets Annie Annual apart from your typical garden store is its inventory. Annie’s offers plants during prime planting season rather than showcasing plants at their prime.
Many of the plants you’ll find for sale at Annie’s retail location have yet to bloom – which is why the folks at Annie’s have lovingly created signs for each plant with a picture of what it will look like once established, descriptions, and specifications. What’s more, fully mature plants can be found in the gorgeous demonstration gardens scattered throughout the property!
Is Annie’s annuals open to the public?
Annie sells thousands of varieties of plants to over 60 independent nurseries and avid home gardeners. Annie’s regularly hosts events, ranging from parties to informational talks. Many of these discussions are led by experts from the UC system, local non-profits or master gardeners.
What is a master gardener?
The University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources Master Gardener Program trains volunteers in sustainable horticulture and pest management. In exchange, graduates of the master gardener program are required to donate their time and newly gained knowledge to educate the general public. Working in conjunction with their local UC Extension, Master Gardeners are a valuable resource. They can provide advice on plant selection and location, water management, pest control and more!
How can I purchase Annie’s Annuals and Perennials?
Annie believes “gardening is magic – and good for all that ails you”. Obviously, we can’t prove that her gorgeous plants are a cure-all, but we can confirm that the selection of California native plants is simply magical. If you’re in the Berkeley area, visit Annie’s Annuals at 740 Market Avenue in Richmond.
The nursery is open seven days a week from 9-5. Not in the Bay Area? No problem. Request a mail-order catalog to peruse Annie’s fabulous offerings.