For many gardeners, spring causes a mad rush to nurseries; plants fly off shelves in a binge of blooms and foliage, driven by the barren dormancy of winter months. One of my favorite places to imbibe in this frenzy is the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery, which hosts four sales in the spring. Besides choosing from a wide selection of plants, you can also visit the Arboretum or the Honey Bee Haven Garden for free.
The first sale is held in early March and is for Arboretum members only, but you can join at the door and get $10 off your purchase, plus the 10% discount members receive with every purchase. Sales held on April 11, 25, and May 16 are open to the public (no membership required). The nursery is located at 1046 Garrod Drive in Davis, California.
As fun as it is to grab every plant that tickles your fancy, having a plan of attack (and your own shopping cart) will be a great advantage. The plant sale inventory is available now on the Arboretum’s blog (see below). For those of you interested in the conservation of water and wildlife, the Arboretum has developed several plant lists, based on years of research, to guide your choices:
1. Arboretum All-Stars: Their original compilation of 100 plants with low or moderate water requirements, ease of care, year-yound interest, reliability in our climate, and resistance to most pests and disease. There is a searchable database at the Arboretum’s website (see below).
2. The New Front Yard: a list of over 40 species, mostly California natives, with wildlife value. The idea is to replace lawn with plants that will increase your garden’s ability to provide nectar, pollen, berries, seeds, and habitat. Most are drought-tolerant and easy to maintain. This list is available at the Arboretum’s website (see below).
3. 35 Low-Water Plants You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of: Yes, it’s a long title, but a great list! There is a strong mix of natives and exotics; most are low or very low-water use, requiring irrigation 2 times a month or less. Many of these beautiful plants are still uncommon in most retail nurseries. This list can be found at the Arboretum’s blog page (see below).
After the plant sale, you can tour the Arboretum. Considered the main source of horticultural information for the Central Valley, the Arboretum serves as a teaching and research institution for the university. The Arboretum contains over 22,000 plants, divided into 17 collections. Even if you don’t visit the entire Arboretum, the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden is just around the corner from the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, and contains low-water, Valley-wise plants for sun and shade. The Arboretum continues northeast from there, along the banks of the Putah Creek canal, ending (or beginning, depending on where you start!) with the new Native Plant GATEway Garden, which is planted with species native to the Putah Creek region.
On your way home you might make a jaunt across Highway 113 to the Häagen-Dazs Honey-Bee Haven, located adjacent to the Harry H. Laidlaw, Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road in Davis. Installed in 2009, this garden is filled with myriad plants to attract pollinators, particularly native bees. Species include shrubs, trees, groundcovers, vegetables, herbaceous perennials, and more. Admission is free, and open to the public 7 days a week from dawn until dusk.
The best plant selection can be had early in the day, so if you want to visit the Arboretum or the Honey Bee Haven, shop first and tour the gardens second. Come prepared with your own list of plants to buy and sites to see to make the best use of your time. Happy shopping, and happy gardening!
Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Garden
UC Davis Arboretum: Plant Sales
UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Blog