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Join us in Paradise – Kate’s Frey’s Open Garden!

8 Jun

Don’t miss a fantastic opportunity to visit an incredible garden! Our beloved friend, the fabulous and outrageously talented designer Kate Frey and her master builder husband, Ben, will open their vibrant and life-filled garden in Hopland (inland Mendocino County on Hwy 101) for a workshop and tour on June 17.  The event is in conjunction with The American Garden School, Kate’s (and business partner Christa Mone’s) new garden school. Read on for details and stunning photos of Kate and Ben’s inspiring gardens below!

By Kate Frey
Special Contributor

Profusely planted (and all organic), full of colorful flowers, bees, bird song, and rustic structures created from wood Ben has resuscitated, our garden has many places to explore as well as seating areas to take in the profuse beauty and delicious fragrances. Visitors call it an instant sanctuary and sometimes refuse to leave. It is a garden of life with colorful plantings that support a world of insects and birds as well as delighting our eyes and senses. There are many floral borders, a vegetable garden, unique rustic structures, a hermit’s hut, chicken palace (with the cutest chickens ever), bar, wood library, Swiss Chalet house, and whimsical massive wood columns. Surprises abound! 

Two workshops (9:30-10:45 and 11:00-12:15, see bottom of page) will cover garden design, developing healthy soils, efficient irrigation systems, plant care, and some great plant varieties. The garden is open for touring 10:30 until 2:00. We will be available to answer questions. Bring your lunch! 

What is a garden and what is it for? The answer announces itself again and again when I go into my garden, into what was just a bare, flat rectangular acre under an often-blasting sun. Now, dueling hummingbirds, the quiet melodies of goldfinches, iridescent bluebirds, courting titmice in the arbor, battling tanagers, velvet upholstered bumblebees, and Osmia bees in the Phacelias greet a garden stroll. The perfume of daphne, osmanthus, akebia, roses, coffeeberry, buckeye, honeysuckle, and mock orange follow one through the seasons and is everywhere.  Plants and flowers drape and embrace rustic structures. In the vegetable garden, brilliant chards and deep blue kales beckon in the cool mornings, and a rainbow of tomatoes decorate the hot afternoons. Everywhere is sensation, scent and life. Nature has woken up and it resides in our garden, marching forth until the frosts of November render a quiet landscape.

 I used to judge the merit, interest and beauty of a garden by the structure of the design and the composition of form. Now my goal is to create healthy, dynamic gardens that create a moving and inspirational experience for all who visit: gardens that act on our senses with the layered forms of plants, flower color, scent, and that are filled with life. 

The wildlife that visits the plants and flowers is an integral part of the beauty and vitality, a tangible aspect of it that can’t be separated from concepts of design. Pollinators are a main focus of our home garden and much of it is planted for their needs. A profusion of flowering plants offer pollen and nectar resources over a long growing season.  Pollinator gardens are necessarily flower filled gardens, delighting us while supporting bees, but also beneficial insects, butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds that fed their nestlings insects.

 Our garden is densely planted, and the plants form an impressionistic froth of form and color. Foliage intermingles and provides a profusion of ever-changing bloom.

The east side of our house, a protected space from the hot sun and full of plants that need afternoon shade. 
A green Victorian door and Millie the garden dog guard the vegetable garden and the Hermit’s Hut, and is surrounded by a haze of bronze fennel, perennial sunflowers, old-fashioned roses, crimson Salvias, mauve Teucriums, Oreganos, California Fuchsia, and the orange Kniphofia ‘Yellow Cheer”.
Vegetable gardens should be surrounded and guarded by flowers. Ours in May.
 Ben’s famous hermit’s hut.
 The arbor in summer.
The garden in September with Louie and Millie the garden dogs expecting some excitement amidst the resident hummingbirds and finches.

Please come and visit us June 17, 2017!

Session 1: 9:30- 10:45 Workshop: RSVP on website

Session 2: 11:00-12:15 Workshop: RSVP on website

10:30-2:00 Open Garden: RSVP on website 

Make it a day!

Additionally, The Garden Conservancy is having a Garden Open Day in Mendocino County on June 17th, and there are a number of unique and bucolic gardens to visit 50-55 minutes away in Anderson Valley.  The GC event is completely separate from ours, so please buy tickets on their website or at individual gardens on the tour:

Succulent Container Madness!

9 Dec

You can shove succulents in anything!

Hi all!  Megan here to show you some fun gifty ideas with succulents. I’ll shove a succulent in almost anything, whether it be a grill that nobody’s used for years, or an old wagon I picked up for five bucks at a garage sale.  The possibilities are endless! First off,  I want you to know that in many cases these are not permanent plantings (this is especially true for terrariums). Several months or even years down the road, depending on how quickly the succulents you plant grow, it’s extremely likely that your creations will benefit from a little fluff. I redo the wagon & the grill once or twice a year. Think of your succulents like sculptural elements & have fun. It’s not like you’re deciding where to plant a tree that you’ll have to live with for many a year.

Succulent Roos

The ultimate key to succulent happiness in the great outdoors (sorry folks in freezing locations) is drainage. Non-draining containers + rain = rotty mush. Pick up a ceramic bit & you can drill through almost anything so that the water can flow. These kangaroos came from Goodwill & after a quick meeting with the drill they drain perfectly. When it comes to drilling holes, higher quality ceramic items tend to be more challenging to drill through & glass is the trickiest, but it’s all possible if you’re willing to take the risk of a stray break here & there. Load up on inexpensive containers at your local thrift store. I’m a big proponent of succulent potting mix  to achieve ultimate drainage.  To create the roos above all I did was drill holes in their booties, fill with cacti/succulent mix & stick cuttings.  Easy, peasy. These cuties would work inside in a bright location, too!

Graptopetalum paraguayense paradise

One of my all time favorite succulents for containers are the creamy pinkish blue rosettes of Graptopetalum paraguayense. Gardening in almost pure sand, two blocks from Ocean Beach in nearly frost free San Francisco means lots & lots of succulents are happy campers in my backyard. Okay, it’s succulent heaven, but before moving to California I actually grew a wide array of succulents in my living room closet with lights. Taking cuttings is easy. Just snip, snip & you’re done. If you’re a rule follower, snip your cuttings at least a day in advance so the cuts have time to dry out & heal over, preventing bacteria, etc … I normally don’t do this due to patience issues & things seem to turn out fine.

Oscularia deltoides & Satureja douglasii

Another one of my favorite succulents for cutting is Oscularia deltoides. It seems to benefit from a little haircut now & then anyways. Here it is escaping the border with a San Francisco native that smells like heaven, Satureja douglasii.

Aeonium simsii

Aeoniums seem to put up with indoor action fairly well & Aeonium simsii is one of the highest rated of the bunch for indoor happiness. Love the eyelashes on the leaf margins.

Succulent Assortment

Over the past few years of putting together succulent containers & terrariums, I’ve found that often times less is more. I used to shove ten different succulents in an itty bitty container & let them battle it out. The results were often scraggy & sad.  I tend to go for lower growers that form a dense mat, or splashy bigger rosettes.

Vintage Succulent Containers

A couple holes in the bottoms, some dirt, plants & they’re ready to go! Since these were taken as cuttings they have no roots, which means they have nothing to take up water with. Don’t fret, the water stored in the leaves will hold them over until they pop out new roots from the stems jammed in dirt. No fancy rooting hormones needed! I  don’t even water containers composed of cutting based succulents for the first two weeks or so, to let them root out a bit. A sunny to part sunny spot is all they need. Indoors, they like a bright window.

Graptopetalum paraguayense Dino-land

Terrariums are all the rage these days, but I’ll tell you upfront – they’re a little trickier to keep happy. The key to keeping a container with no drainage is water control. Overwatering is a sure fire way to rot the roots out & keep a fungus gnat family happy, but if you’re using glass it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on how much moisture is making it to the bottom of the container. I like to use a spray bottle. I’ll spray a bunch then wait a couple minutes to see how deep the water seeps in and spray more if needed.

Ornament Fun

Many hardcore succulent folks think it’s cruel & unusual punishment to put plants that like free draining soil & low humidity in glass, but I’ve had numerous successes with succulents in non-draining situations. They’re very forgiving. Planting wise, it’s easy. I like to use pretty rocks or gravel on the bottom for a wee bit of drainage space, plus it looks cool. Some folks add a sprinkle of horticultural charcoal in for good measure before adding the succulent potting mix in. I don’t. The next step is getting the plants in there. I like using rocks as a topdressing not only because they’re pretty, but they help keep the plants where you want them. If your container is small, it’s handy to have a pair of chopsticks for nudging stuff around.

Succulent Swan

Wishlist alert! I couldn’t resist showing ya’ll this adorable little newbie Echeveria amoena. It’s still a baby here at the nursery, but it will be available down the road. I absolutely LOVE this plant.  It’s adorable with or without blooms & loves life in containerville. I’ve got plenty more ramblings about stuffing succulents in things on my garden blog Far Out Flora & am happy to answer any questions you may have, just post a comment.

Terrarium Fun Links: Going Glass Globe Crazy, Want to Win Succulents? (old contest), Totally Terrariums, Glass Jar Terrariums, Gardening in Glass

Succulent Container Links: Rearranging Rocks, Cranking Out Containers, Succulent Gardens Containers, Succulent Pots, Cool Creative Containers

Bestill our Hearts – Kate Frey at the Nursery!

30 Mar

NEWSFLASH!! The incredible Kate Frey is coming to speak at the nursery for our AMAZING SPRING PARTY on Saturday, April 9 at 11 am! Kate will be giving a presentation on “How to Create a Pollinator Paradise in your own Garden.” As pollinators the world over are struggling, we think this is an extremely important talk – you must come!

Once there was a princess in Cretan Greek mythology who was changed into a bee after she learned how to collect honey. Her name was Melissa.

Bee Goddess, Q. Cassetti, Trumansburg, New York, 2010, Mixed Media

Last year, Kate invited all of us at Annie’s to visit the thrilling “Melissa Garden” she created in Healdsburg, CA for “bee-stewards” Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger. The Melissa Garden was created as a bee sanctuary extraordinaire where hives are treated as living beings. The bees are raised in innovative hives under natural conditions and provided with an exuberant garden brimming with year-round nectary flowers. I don’t think anyone else has created a garden quite like this anywhere in the world. I highly encourage you to check out this enchanting world Kate has created. The garden is open once a month to the public. Do visit it yourself and be inspired as much as we were! (Or, if you live far away, you can watch the SLIDESHOW from our visit last July).

The Melissa Garden, Healdsburg, CA

I first met Kate in the mid-1990’s when I visited the organic gardens she designed at Fetzer Winery in Hopland. It was, simply, the most awesome garden I had ever seen. Awestruck and delighted, I felt giddy. The air was alive with butterflies and bees zooming around and each plant was a glorious, perfect specimen.

Kate and her garden was the goddess Melissa come to life!

Gorgeous black compost blanketed the ground – grapeseed compost from the winery, one of Kate’s fantastic secrets for extraordinary plant growth! I was an instant convert and started using it my own gardens with awesome success. We began offering it at the nursery and it now has a devoted following – all thanks to Kate!

I see Kate as a goddess, I really do. Not only that, she looks like a princess.

Princess Kate meets The Queen

Kate's Gold Medal Garden at The Chelsea Flower Show

Over the years, Kate has sprinkled her magic around the world. She has twice won the gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and met the Queen! In 2009 she created a sustainable garden in the World Garden Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan. Her latest adventure is creating a sustainable and organic food garden in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Kate Frey!

Kate and Annie at the nursery

This is really a great opportunity to meet our wonderful Kate in person. Plus she’ll be sharing her favorite varieties to create your own Melissa Garden! How can you resist!

Visit Kate and her husband Ben’s BLOG to see more of their incredible gardens!

Poop, Glorious Poop

3 Nov
The happy cows of Point Reyes
The Happy Cows of Pt. Reyes. Don’t they look smug.
A couple weeks ago, we took a much needed field trip up north to Point Reyes to visit the hilarious and cheesy Point Reyes Compost Company. Did we say cheesy? Yes. And we meant cheesy. Because in addition to high quality, super classy poop, the family also makes cheese. Aaaaahmazing cheese. The compost is awesome, too, and of course we carry it, because it is both quality and hilarity mixed into one fine bag of crap. (Their tagline? “Our products are mostly crap.”) 

Doubly Doody & pretty pumpkins
The Point Reyes Compost Company is married to the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Literally! Teddy, big man on poop campus, and our hilarious guide for the day’s tour, is the son in law of Bob, who’s the big cheese of the family. Allow yourself a little bit of mental gymnastics to appreciate both things simultaneously. Fabulous compost and insanely good cheese, all from the same herd of well cared for and pampered cows. We think it’s a fine recipe for sustainability.
Teddy giving us the inside tour
Teddy giving us the inside tour.
The milking barn
The Milking Barn. Can you tell how clean this place is? In case you can’t, I’ll just tell you: it’s super clean.
So when the company invited us up to peruse the grounds and meet the cows AND try their various cheeses, of course we said YES PLEASE! Have you had their blue cheese? It’s more than a little amazing. I have to say, we ate our share during our visit. Blue Cheese hangover? Not so pretty, but so worth it.
Macaroni & Cheeeeeese
Macaroni & Cheeeeeese. With bacon.
This small company has taken steps to close the loop of waste in inventive but common sense ways, from input to output. The cows are maintained on a diet largely consisting of materials that are the (edible!) byproduct of other consumer industries, and on the other end, the post-cow waste is lovingly handled in small batches to ensure that the crap that you take home is High. Quality. Crap. Plus, who doesn’t love any company that has a methane digester on the property that can, at peak, provide 85% of the power required to keep everything running?
moo food
A sampling of the bovine diet.


poo pile
This is 2 days worth! Holy crap!

We came away from the day with the warm impression that this family really cares about the impact they are making on the environment (and on beautiful Point Reyes!), the care they take with their cows (their cow’s health care program is largely based on preventative services – big YAY!) and about creating an efficient and primarily closed system where the waste produced goes to good use – in our home gardens and yours! We also went home with a taste for their blue cheese that may sour us on any other ever again. Sigh. Life is so hard.

bebe cow!
Bebe Cow!


Red winged black birds!
Red Winged Blackbirds. Droves of them – so pretty and so noisy.


While we were distracted by the CHEESE, a baby cow escaped from the baby cow village and
started “maintaining” the landscape.

Point Reyes is perrrrty
If I were a cow, I’d be pretty stoked to hang out here.
Baby cow cottages
Baby cow cottages. Don’t worry, they have room to move around.
This is what they use to turn the compost. Serious stuff!
Hot shit!
It’s important to make sure your poo is well cooked
to destroy harmful pathogens!