Native Plant Sale

by Lorraine on October 16, 2008

The first two weekends of October, the Theodore Payne Foundation has their annual nursery sale and plant lovers from all over the Los Angeles area attend it, looking for plants for their gardens.  This native plant nursery has been in existence for many years and was founded by a gentleman named Theodore Payne!  Mr. Payne was born in England in 1872 and came to the United States in 1893 and southern California when he was a young man of 21.

Now of course, he needed employment and he was very fortunate to be hired to manage the gardens on the estate of Madame Modjeska’s ranch which was located in Santiago Canyon in Orange county.   It was during this period of time that he was introduced to the native plants in the area and he grew to love them deeply.

His story is lengthy and I won’t go into here but there is a is a biography of his life that can be purchased through the foundation and if you go to their website, there is a brief overview of his life.

Ultimately, he established a nursery at a later date to propagate and grow native plants and to educate the public about the beauty of the plants that surrounded them on the hillsides and within the canyons. Interestingly, even in the early parts of the 20th. century, long before the mad development that occured here after WWII, he was observing the  loss of habitat to development and was quite concerned and wanted to be sure that the various plant communities were saved and protected.  

He would certainly be shocked to see how southern CA has developed since that time and sadly how much of the native habitat has been destroyed and covered up in concrete or by homes and commercial structures.   But due to his foresight, we are fortunate to have his nursery and find plants for our own gardens and hopefully encourage other to do the same in their own yards.

In a rush to leave my house last Saturday, I forgot my camera, as I had planned to take some pictures of the staff and the nursery itself, but…oh well.   Hopefully at a later date, I can add some photos because it’s such a great place to visit.

Just pulling into their small parking area, hearing the crunch of the tires on the gravel, makes me feel good.   Then, you’re out of your car, walking up a slight incline along the gravel and into the nursery itself.

Everything smells so good and it’s just like the best place to be!   They were very busy last Saturday and I noted that they had already sold out a number of plants but there were still many others to chose from.

I picked up a few Margarita POP’s (Penstemon heterophyllus) the sole remaining Canary Frills Monkey Flower (Mumulus), 3 Allen Chickering (Salvia), one Canyon Prince (Leymus condensatus), a new Iris that is blue with purple stripes and is named “Susie Knapp”.  I also included in my stash,  quite a bit of wildflower seed that will cover up to 3,000 sq. ft. (Do you think that I have enough?) and some more bulbs.

I’m planning on spreading the seed in the backyard which is woefully unpresentable.   I’m probably going to do this late next month when (hopefully) we will have some rain.   For the time being, the plants that I purchased will sit happily in their one gallon containers for the same reason.   I just have to keep them watered.

I already have four Canyon Prince’s, but I just love these majestic grasses.   They have a beautiful gray long, stem that is like a sharp blade and then they send out shoots from the top of the plant that are easily 4-5′ tall.   On these shoots are seed stalks and overall, the plant is very striking.   I decided to buy another one   to place in a large, wooden wine barrel along with Salvia because I think it will make a great accent piece.

I think that the two different shades of gray and the contrast in foliage will be beautiful.  But there are additional plants that I still need and I’ll be looking for those sometime next month.

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