What I’m Doing in the Garden

29 Mar

People are always asking me when they come in the nursery what I’m doing in the garden right now. They want just a few simple new plant combinations that they can try at home.

Here at the nursery, the goal for me is to get everything to be in full bloom for our SPRING PARTY on April 14 & 15. Each year, I try to do something new so that when people come in, it’s fresh and exciting. It’s thrilling and creative for me and folks are always happy and inspired to see something new. Plus, it’s fun!

This is the first demonstration bed you see when you enter the nursery. I want it to feel romantic, Springy and welcoming as visitors walk through the front gates.

center bed newly planted

Filling in the space around established Cephalaria gigantea, “Giant Scabious” – which won’t bloom until Summer – are exuberant Spring favorites Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes”, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ and Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearls’. FYI: the white speckles covering the soil is Sluggo, my favorite non-toxic snail bait. NOTICE THE AMOUNT of Sluggo I’m using here. It’s been raining for the last three weeks straight – and that means its super snacky time for resident slugs and snails. I’ll re-apply it every five days while it’s raining to make sure my baby plants are safe.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s an example of this combo with Orlaya grandiflora stepping in for Agrostemma ‘Ocean Pearls’. Pretty!

Super popular in the garden last year was Ixia ‘Buttercup‘. This year I’m trying it with purple flowered California native Phacelia minor in hopes that the pairing of bright purple and yellow will look exciting together. Will they bloom at the same time? Let’s see what happens! (In case you’re wondering about the orange stuff on the soil surface, I’ve added a light layer of lava rock. Because we top-dress with compost several times during the year, we add the lava rock once a year to maintain optimum drainage).

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Ixia hybrid 'Buttercup' close-up

Ixia, meet Phacelia.

Phacelia minor

Phacelia, meet Ixia.


It’s a month before the Spring Party and here I am adding in the quickest to grow and bloom annual – Malcolmia maritima. I looove Malcolmia with “Baby Blue Eyes” and just about any Dianthus. Last month, I planted the Delphinium and Papaver. The Dianthus are from last year – they remain my favorite long-lived, long blooming, old-fashioned, fragrant, perennial stand-bys for the edge of the garden.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s a peek at at how sweet and wonderfully SPRINGY this combo looks.

Last year I was enamored with this new two-toned peachy-ruby Calendula, ‘Bronzed Beauty.’ So this year, I planted it near the entryway.

Photo courtesy the lovely Floradora Gardens.

Here, I’m just adding bright gentian blue Ajuga genevensis in the foreground and Delphinium ‘Bellamosum’ in the back. Bouncy white English daisies (Bellis perennis) will fill in any emtpy spaces. For foliar interest, there are a few grasses plus harmoniously peachy Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and ruby-ribbed Rumex sanguineus.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

So there you go! With just a few well-chosen Spring bloomers, you can make great combinations that will delight your eye and make you and your garden feel so totally successful!

21 Responses to “What I’m Doing in the Garden”

  1. Morgan Plant March 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Perfect. I am visiting San Francisco and am renting a car to come visit on Saturday. Hope to find lots of stuff to ship back to Pennsylvania. We have had an extremely warm spring and are over-advanced two to three weeks.

  2. Laura Alders March 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Funny you should be addessing this issue of what great ideas you have for things that boom at the same time, I was thinking the other day if you had a table at the nursery where there is an offering put togther by you that is a no brainer. You simply pick up some of whatever you have on the table and it is an instant sale for you and a great easy way for us to shop and experiment with your famous Annies Garden Look. Just a thought!
    It could be the ” Annie’s Booming Combination Table of the week”.

    • anniesannuals March 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

      Hi Laura – thanks for the feedback and the great idea!

  3. Barbara March 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Please tell me what the plant in the lower right hand corner of your photo called Nemophila Papaver is (I have it around my yard but cannot figure out what it is)

  4. Carol March 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Oh, Annie – Thank you Thank you Thank you! You make the world such a better place! Carry on! …and with your help, I’ll keep at it, too. Carol from Santa Rosa.

    • anniesannuals March 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Thanks for tuning in Carol! We flower floozies must stick together!

  5. Liz March 31, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    Hi Annie,
    I bought about 90 plants from you a few weeks ago and planted them all right before the big storms started! They are all doing great, except the delphiniums, the phacelia, and 2 out of 5 of the nemophila – they look like they all got chomped or something happened to them. Are those varieties particularly prone to slugs? I don’t want to use bait – my yard is too big and I don’t like the idea of killing the little buggers – I’m putting out coffee grounds and egg shells around the plants instead. Thoughts about that? Thanks so much for your wonderful website and nursery! I wish I discovered it years ago! I will keep coming back!

    • anniesannuals April 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Liz – snails and slugs can smell Delphiniums and Nemophilas from a mile away. I’m sure there are alternative ways to keep the little buggers from eating your plants, let us know what works the best for you!

      • Liz April 2, 2012 at 4:55 am #

        I just went out with a flashlight and found 2 snails on one already-munched Nemophila! I also found 4 others close to other plants they had been munching and one on an Eschscholzia, which surprised me. So, those ones shouldn’t be back (I put them in the green bin, by the road, far from the new plants). I’m going to try perlite rings and dogfood traps and a few more flashlight forays. I’ll let you know how it goes! Thanks for the reply – no wonder my Delphiniums didn’t make it last year.

      • Stacy~Creativemuse April 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

        The egg shells and copper wont work. I’ve watched them and snails climb right over. The problem is you aren’t CREATING them in your yard they just COME to your yard either by neighbor or in your plants one Cottage Gardner told me to shake out all the foreign dirt that comes from the nursery and then plant in your own soil. As they travel in the nursery soil. I have put out BEER in pie tins but grosses me out. I want FOOD to grow in my garden too so I do put out the non toxic snail/slug bait that Annie uses. There are others too that are other animal safe and bio degradable.

      • Liz April 3, 2012 at 4:59 am #

        Update on the slugs: Do NOT try the dogfood bait trick. Some critter (maybe my dog?) trampled my baby plant while trying to get the hidden dog food. So far, going out and picking the snails at night seems to be working the best.

  6. Marlin Heintzelman March 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Annie. I must commend you on the fabulous packing you did on the plants I ordered. Needless to say the plants arrived in great shape. Marlin Heintzelman .gardenterror@hotmail.com

  7. Stacy~Creativemuse April 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Annie these are great photos loving them! Fyi My mom just told me that the lupines are toxic to my chickens. So I planted them in the front yard. I received my box of plants from you I wanted to add to my butterfly milkweed feast and you rang the dinner bell! A Year ago My sweet neighbor gave me a plant with Monarch eggs on it and some Caterpillars and we are the talk of the garden. They love our yard and I wanted yours to be another flavor for them. Do you have any other nursery plants for other varieties? and what NATIVE for California would you suggest for their butterfly counterparts? My baby blue eyes is already blooming and i had that in a previous order back mid Feb!! Yeah!

  8. Russel Ray Photos April 23, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Just stopping by because a WordPress friend sent me to your web site in search of the name of a really weird and beautiful plant that I found growing in San Diego today. Your web site shows it as a “Tower of Jewels (Echium wildpretii).” So thank you!

  9. Leanne Haney April 26, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    When is too late to plant these plants, especially those cute baby blue eyes and your poppies and snapdragons, i don’t have time until end of May, so I am not sure if that is too late or not.

    • anniesannuals May 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Hi Leanne: Here in coastal CA, the poppies and hardy annuals like “Baby Blue Eyes” are best planted either in the Fall or earliest Spring – depending on where you live. They like to grow in the cool season and put on their show in April and May. We can only offer them for sale October through March, as the weather permits. You can find out more info about when to plant hardy annuals in our VIDEO series. Hope that helps!

  10. Russel Ray Photos May 12, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    Hope all is well, Annie, since we haven’t seen you at WordPress recently.

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