A Visit To Tree Of Life Nursery

Above:  that must be the tree they're talking about.

The previous post was about a local fire station going native-plant;  Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano is where the fire station's plants originated.  
Although there is a retail store and a small demonstration garden with examples of native plants, the largest portion of the business is wholesale, supplying native plants throughout California and some other portions of the West Coast.  Plant prices are on the low side. 
California poppy, Eschscholzia californica

Lots of shoppers on a Saturday morning in spring.  Cupressus arizonica var montana 'San Pedro Martir' is the blue conifer.
The nursery grounds contain native plants and many trees so old they are from a time when San Juan Capistrano was a mere stagecoach stop between San Diego and Los Angeles.
The retail shop has cliff swallows nesting in the eaves.  Baby birds await their parents, who we saw flying around the nursery grounds catching insects for their chicks.  It takes thousands of trips to mud puddles by the parents to build the dried mud nests.

The buildings are old and of various origins, some dating to the era when the land was a vast cattle ranch.  This little building houses planters and botanical posters. 
There is a short trail through native plants.  Visitors are warned to watch for rattlesnakes. 
Support your local native pollinators!
I took a photo of the instructions for building a bee post.  Sounds easy.
Aren't the Agaves on those pillars great?  I'd like to replace the lights on our driveway pillars with potted Agaves like this. 
This is what California looked like before 35 million Homo sapiens invaded. 
Ceanothus, again
Gorgeous huge Agave, not sure which.  It was quite toothy. 
An Opuntia even bigger than the Agave:
Fremontodendron  It's cautionary to see how large most California native shrubs can become by looking at the specimens around the nursery grounds.  Most gardens have the space for only a few. 

This is the driveway to the nursery.  It's easy to miss.  Nice big fat Agave parryi truncata there on the right. 
Most of the growing houses are shade houses.  Only the propagation house is a more climate-controlled building with the humidity required for rooting cuttings and sprouting seeds.  
The tall tree is Sequoia cellutoweris:
Big gorgeous mature Arctostaphylos. 
A few native Iris are to be found in the dappled shade of big oaks. 
Genus Californica?
Posts in the employee lunch room are a cache for woodpeckers storing acorns. 
Another lovely little Iris
The grounds are so serene to wander, and then you get to buy plants!
Got:  Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman', long-desired Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths', Salvia 'Winnifred Gilman', and a free Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, a CA native wildflower--they were giving them away as a bonus since the wildflower season is nearly over.  The little plant may be able to bloom just enough to reseed in our garden.

I've been interested in 'Austin Griffiths' since seeing it on the Portland Blogger's Fling.  I planted it in this area here, but I think I need to move it--maybe not enough sun.  Sometimes you have to put a plant in the wrong place in order to figure out where the right place is. 
 Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' on the left, Saliva 'Winnifred Gilman' on the right, Layia platyglossa below them.  Prices as I said are very good, the Ceanothus and Salvia were $8 or $9, 'Austin' in the five gallon size only $24, and the Layia was free. 
 Ceanothus went there, in the back gully.  It will be tall enough to get sufficient (full) sun.  

The roses I removed last year from that spot didn't get enough sun, and the Hydrangea there I removed the year before last got too much sun.  Neither the roses nor the Hydrangea got enough water.  So the Ceanothus might work there.  Or maybe not.   I was planning on pruning it into a tree-like shape, if I can figure out how.  Since it grows 15-20' tall it would be visible from the koi pond area.  It will get good drainage...yes I guess it might work there...  


  1. Love those Californian poppies. Miraculously some have survived the wet winter here and I'll sow more. They give a great wash of colour.

    1. I love those poppies too. The genus Papaver doesn't work in my area, as the spring is always too hot--they shrivel almost instantly.

  2. What a nice place. Fremontodendron is one of those plants I really want, and if I ever find a nice one, I'm making room for it. I hope your Ceanothus enjoys it's new spot!

    1. It was really nice to get out into wild-ish territory, it's a nice place. I only hope I can shape the Ceanothus into a manageable shape for the space. We'll see.

  3. We made solitary bee 'houses' a few years ago after we watched one drill into a rafter tail on the garage roof. The holes are various sizes to accommodate several different species of bees and wasps and have been popular.

  4. Hi Hoover. Syed here, from India. It's been a while. I had lost the bookmark to your beautiful site, and it took a bit of guessing, starting from Taste of Heaven. I think of you whenever I look at my Iceberg climbers. You are definitely the Iceberg Lady, and so I hope you will be able to tell me if all Iceberg climbers are so stingy with flowers, or is it just the varieties that have made it over to India? Totally unlike the ordinary Iceberg. Very short flowering season, and not nearly enough flowers. I thought maybe the branches shouldn't be pruned at all, but that didn't help. And the problem is there in subtropical Delhi as well as temperate Kashmir. Any ideas?

    1. Outside of Southern California, 'Iceberg' is generally considered a pretty poor rose due to a lack of any resistance to black spot fungal disease.

      The only thought I can offer would be: is it really 'Iceberg'?

      Rose performance is very climate-dependent. What shines in Southern California may be unlikely to perform well in India's climate which is much different (both Delhi and Kashmir).

    2. Thanks for your response. Does the iceberg climber in California flower more or less like the shrub? Because the shrub, despite susceptibility to black spot and thrips, does give you recurring masses of white like nothing else, in both Delhi and Kashmir. But my supposed iceberg climber does not. So, yes, is this climber really iceberg. If the real iceberg climber is worth planting, I'll ask a friend to bring me one from abroad.

    3. I got what was labelled as the climbing version a couple of years ago; it was in a pot in a location with reflected heat and it did not do much; now I've put it in the ground, and time will tell how it does. As far as I know the climbing version is as good as the shrub version, but I have no direct experience.

      My 'Iceberg' on the front of the house that performs so well is in fact the shrub version; I simply stopped pruning it at one point because it was blocked by other roses and I could not reach it. It slowly grew its way up the wrought-iron decorative panel behind it, and became what it is now, a climber.

      So, that prompts another idea; why not try the same thing? Let a good-performing shrub Iceberg go without pruning, and arrange it on a support as the canes grow longer and longer. Just snap off the flowers at the abscission layer and nothing else.

      That may bring you success!

  5. That looks like a fun day trip! I enjoyed the view of the cliff sparrows and was amused by the woodpecker-decorated post in the lunch room.

    I think the Ceanothus is a good bet for that spot. 'Ray Hartman' looks to have a good deep blue flower, unlike either the noID hedge forms I inherited or the C arboreus I planted at the bottom of my slope last year - I'm tempted to change mine out before it gets big.

    1. It was nice, like a trip to the Central Coast, but without the long drive and overnight stay.

      I thought if I got another Ceanothus it had to have flowers of that incredible blue. I have a little ground cover Ceanothus gloriosus 'Hearts Desire' but alas it's not a prolific bloomer, though the flowers are blue (It is also small, happy, and no-care). The variegated one I got, 'Lemon Ice', has pale true-blue flowers, but it is also a stingy bloomer.

  6. Such an interesting place to wander, those baby swallows are so cute. Great photos dear Hoover, so many lovely plants to admire and to buy :), I love the colour of the Ceanothus.
    I enjoyed your previous post about the gardens surrounding the fire station. The hospital is undergoing many renovations and the new car park gardens have been planted out with many kinds of grasses and rushes. My cell phone camera does not work but I will try to get some photos to post.
    xoxoxo ♡

    1. I tried not to buy too many. The garden is filling up again. It is good that the hospital has some garden areas--it must be a good small distraction and comfort.

  7. I like your idea of trying the ceanothus as a tree. Very interesting idea as they tend to get woody here and then give up the ghost. Maybe if it doesn't have so much life to support as a shrub, it would be happier. Hmmm. I have my succulent garden planted now and am just waiting for it to fill in…You told me to have fun planning it and I did! A few pics on my blog. Thanks again for all the inspiring photos in each and every post!
    Thanks again for the inspiring photos each and every post.

    1. Glad you like the photos, thanks! Also glad you are having fun with your garden--it's such a wonderful activity for body, mind, and soul.

  8. Love TOLN! Haven't been in awhile, now I am inspired. Have you visited Las Pilitas? Another natives only nursery down the way in Escondido, or you can buy online. Have you seen the tree forms of Ray Hartman planted as street trees in SF??? I want one, maybe a few! Can't wait to see your manzanita thrive, they do like heat. Lovely photos as usual. Thank you!

    1. We enjoyed our visit. It was a beautiful day and the plants were great. I have seen pictures of tree-form Ray Hartman--trying to figure out how to do it to mine!

      I've been to Las Pilitas, but it's been a few years. Nice place also.


Post a Comment

Always interested in your thoughts.

Any comments containing a link to a commercial site with the intent to promote that site will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding on this matter.

Popular Posts