A Visit to Sierra Azul Nursery

 So far the garden touring season of 2018 has proven to be robust. It commenced with a road trip to Southern California in March, continued with  Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin  the 1st weekend in May, and I was barely back from that before I packed  again for a road trip to the Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay area for the first ever Garden Conservancy Open Garden Day in Santa Cruz. I decided to stay a couple extra days and add a nursery crawl to the agenda. At some point I will crank out some blog posts on both Fling and the CG Open Day in Santa Cruz, but this post will focus on the display gardens at Sierra Azul Nursery in Watsonville.

 Watsonville is an agricultural community in the corridor between Highway 101 and the Monterey Bay. It still has that California agricultural town vibe, but tract housing can be seen chipping away at the margins. In the meantime, strawberries, artichokes and cool season crops like broccoli and cauliflower thrive in this coastal fog belt.
 I did an early morning run from my base hotel in Monterey, arrived not to long after the nursery opened for the day at 9am , and headed straight to the 2 acre display gardens. This garden features sculpture from Northern California artists, and their website numbers the pieces at 100, by 40 artists.   I'm pretty ambiguous about garden art in general, but it really depends entirely on the piece and its' placement. If it helps support this garden , or any public garden and doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the plants I can roll with it. The objective behind the gardens here is to showcase plants in a garden setting to aid the customer in plant selection. Sierra Azul offers design services so the grounds are likely a tool to employ with potential clients. They also offer workshops and invite visitors to picnic on the grounds.







I have to say I was a bit dismayed when I entered the back portion of the garden to see that it was badly overgrown, many of the plants obscured by grasses that had won the competition for space. Mid -image you can see a bunny on the path, and I saw a few scurrying through this meadow -a perfect habitat for them to seek shelter. It made me feel better about the untended back 40.  Though this area looked somewhat scraggly and unkempt I could see that conditions improved as I got closer to the picnic area and the nursery itself.  No indictment intended on the part of ownership -it takes resources both human and financial to keep a 2 acre garden in top shape . Not to mention that the labor in this area is immigrant and we all know how that is going at the present. The college students aren't lining up to fill the void.
 


You can see the grasses trying to infer themselves into this stand of Aloes.



 The Agave is likely to win this bout.




 I took photos of several of the art pieces .



 I tended to like those that were somewhat organic looking , like these abstract bird figures perched on a branch.


This was decidedly startling  as you came around a bend.Though it may not be apparent from this image  it's quite large, maybe 6x4.








 Glass pieces are not quite 'the thing' here as they are in the PNW.


 In homage to the signature crop grown in this area, we have a trio of ceramic Artichokes at various stages of development.






 This one was sited poorly for photo purposes, but hopefully you can make out the steel branches leaves and fruit of the olive.


 I loved this simple birdbath, and it looked at home in this setting.



 I'm also a fan of these sewer-pipe planters of Echeveria agavoides.






 There is this nice picnic area close to the nursery and adjacent to the more manicured sections of the garden.

 Here is a closer look at the rose arbor which was in full glory on this May morning.




 How perfect is that ? No tags though, so I can't provide an ID. 


 I'm fairly confident this is Crepuscle, a Noisette from 1904 draped luxuriantly over the rear of the arbor.






  Sierra Azul specializes in Mediterranean/ summer dry region plants and in fact it is my recollection that they were significantly ahead of the curve in offering some of the South African and Australian plants that we now routinely see at many garden centers-such as Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Banksias and Proteas.There was a time when you aquired those either at a botanical garden plant sale, or at Sierra Azul. They have a nice selection of Salvias and Penstemons as well. The plants are well maintained , and of course I bought some, mostly Salvias. Thanks to the 3 day weekend they are all in the ground. Mostly.

 


Comments

  1. What wonderful display gardens, and I especially enjoyed seeing the art -- and that gorgeous birdbath.

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    Replies
    1. If that birdbath was for sale I would have seriously considered it-depending on the price of course. Why is it so hard to find non-schmaltzy birdbaths ? I was interested read in some literature that they only water those gardens every three weeks in summer.

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  2. Looks like a great place to spend some time (and maybe some money) I especially like the ceramic artichokes. Impressive that your new plants are mostly in the ground already!

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    Replies
    1. I spent some money, but not too much-they had a 2.50 sales table so some of my plants were very reasonable. I could see those artichokes in the Outlaw Garden !

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  3. My one and only trip to the SF Garden Show included purchases made from the Sierra Azul booth. I think shopping would be dangerous!

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    1. Those were the good old days of the garden show before it all went to hell ! Sierra Azul has not been in a few years. Nor has much of anyone else.

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  4. You have been busy! That noisette is fantastic. Kudos to any nursery fighting the good fight, trying to broaden interest (and balance sheets) and entice the general public into garden culture. I confess it's a mystery to me what the general public wants from gardens!

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    Replies
    1. Well Denise, I think the general public wants to sit in a garden and not work in a garden ! The return of the houseplant is an encouraging sign though.

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  5. "they are all in the ground. Mostly."

    Been there! Actually, am there right now. The area at the back of the garden where Penelope Hobhouse assures me Salvia azurea will create a misty effect that makes the garden look longer needs a bit of cleanup before anything can be planted. Because back of the garden...

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    1. Oh yes, the back. My nemesis is The Side. Home to trash toters and discarded objects. If Penelope says it , it must be true !

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  6. I can understand your ambivalence about garden art. It bothers me most when it's too cutesy and when too much is crammed together into a small space but many of the pieces you show are intriguing. My husband and I are driving to Grass Valley for a wedding later this year and now I'm wondering if I can get him to veer off the 5 for a jaunt up (or down) the 101.

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    Replies
    1. There were many pieces I didn't photograph, and I have to say they were pretty well spaced out. Yes to 101 ! As long as you have to come up here you might as well at least drive back though a nicer (and cooler) route home. I always do 101 now when I drive to Socal. I5 is just too mind numbing.

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  7. I like the rusty piece with the leaf-shape cut out of it, and the elegantly simple birdbath. Sorry I missed seeing that nursery when we were up in Santa Cruz.

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