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Fun Finds January 2022

Happy New Year! At least in Northern California, we often ring in the New Year with great weather, and after December's record soggy and snowy events, the break offers an opportunity for me to visit nurseries that have hold overs from last season, bulbs, bareroot, ball 'n burlap, and new inventory filling in where Christmas trees once stood. Maybe something here will inspire you.

Coveted garden pottery by Ben Wolff: For decades, I have followed Ben's father, Guy Wolff, and his American crafting of garden pottery. I first saw Guy's work on Martha Stewart Living, where we were introduced to classic designs not found anywhere else unless imported from the U.K. or Italy. I have only been able to afford one piece that I still cherish today. Years later, Guy's son Ben is taking up the craft with his own style and broader availability. I found a pair of Ben's pieces at Half Moon Bay Nursery, where they have several in a couple different sizes and colors. I love this white stoneware, a modern twist on classics. I still covet Guy's larger pieces, so perhaps one day more will fill my garden.

Agapanthus africanus 'MonKageyama' (Sun Stripe® agapanthus): Admittedly, agapanthus is not high on my list of plants I would like to introduce in my garden, but this one is too unusual to resist. While I have standard A. orientalis praecox and A. 'Peter Pan' that I need to donate away or compost, this variegated cultivar with contrasting deep blue blooms offers a unique opportunity to add something different to what is becoming the gray/white foliage area of the garden. A couple days ago we had a hard frost, and I was pleasantly surprised that this plant was undamaged. I think it is here to stay until I decide otherwise. Found at Wegman's Nursery in Redwood City, which is another Fun Find for me as a Bay Area Native that never heard of the place...established in 1960.

Picea pungens 'Baby Blue' (Baby Blue Colorado spruce): This was a real impulse buy based on a discussion over the holidays. Feeling nostalgic for missing a living room picture window where I could show off a Christmas tree, my spouse suggested planting a live tree in the front yard. I immediately dismissed the idea, but here we are with a little tree not even a foot tall. Of the trees to seasonally decorate, this is one of the better choices due to its slow growth. Choosing the right living Christmas tree was a lesson I learned the hard way; as a kid we planted a Cedrus deodara, and every year decorating it meant buying more and more strands of lights until it became too big for my family to feel excited about the upcoming decorating challenge. Baby Blue, on the other hand, takes decades to reach any substantial height. This little guy is still too small for even one strand of lights, but I'll wait knowing we made the future commitment sans picture window. Also found at Wegman's Nursery.

The remaining plants I found at the quirky but worthy Yerba Buena Nursery where they cover a lot of native plants but few in quantity. It is an interesting location shared with several other growers of lavender, carnivorous species, cut flowers, and others, so it is a fun place to visit on the way to or from the coast. From left to right are California natives Ribes viburnifolium, Eriogonum fasciculatum, and Rhus integrifolia. I am excited about this last one; also known as lemonade berry, the fruit can be part of a delicious drink. However, our garden is a little out of its natural habitat. If it fails, then I should have planted a similar inland species known as Rhus ovata. Both are native to Southern California, so this is an experiment in "regional migration."

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