Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Greening San Jose for Over 35 Years

I apologize for my unplanned absence from the blogosphere, this post is long-overdue. I actually took these pics and started writing this article on February 6th. Unfortunately, before I could complete it my computer contracted the mother of all viruses and it's taken me three weeks and a complete re-formatting of my hard drive to get back to it. I know some of you out there can empathize with that. Anyhow, here it is and I hope you will agree that it was worth the wait.

I admit to being a relatively new gardener. It's no secret. The odd part is that I've been working in the landscape & nursery supply business for more than 20 years and it took me this long to get interested in anything more than my meager front lawn. My history with plants was nearly perfect. Up until a little over a year ago, I had managed to kill just about every plant I ever owned. I'm not one to give up easily and it seems that the nurseries in my area are happy to keep supplying me with victims. 

Strangely enough, I started having success growing vegetables in containers (5-gallon buckets mostly). I even have a nice winter crop going right now. Success breeds enthusiasm and my next adventure involves starting my spring/summer garden from seeds. Wish them luck. Being a newbie, there was no drawer full of seeds in the garage. I would have to buy them. Since the company I work for supplies soil to nurseries, it seemed only appropriate to support someone who supports me.

This quest led me to Central Wholesale Nursery in the heart of San Jose. I used to deliver here when I was a truck driver and have been talking to Betty when she orders soil, for more than 15 years. My newly enlightened gardener  perspective couldn't believe I hadn't been back here sooner. I was having that whole kid-in-a-candy-store kind of experience. I know, I was only here for seeds, but the place was too cool not to have a look around. Join me, won't you?

I timed my visit perfectly between rain showers. Everything was clean & colorful. CWN sits on a triangle shaped lot with major streets on two sides and a bunch of new condos on the third. This part of town is seeing a lot of redevelopment right now and I'm sure the developers have knocked on the door. For very good reason, the nursery that has been here since 1974 persists. Serving gardeners, designers and landscapers around the valley in ways the big-box stores can't touch.

The variety of stock made me wish I could conjure up a more substantial project. So many different colors and textures. And this is the middle of winter!

They had just about every type of ground cover you could want. They offer to order sod for those who just have to have it, but the emphasis is clearly on more attractive & responsible alternatives.

This crazy looking asparagus fern & the cool colorful pot had me hooked. It was difficult to leave without it, but the boss (read wife) would give me heck if I went that far off the list today.

They had a nice selection of water features. The way the ribbon of water twists in mid air had me really liking this one. Hmmmm, maybe I could make room in the raised planter in my back yard. I do have visions of turning my small planting space into a kitchen garden and personal oasis. And no oasis is complete without water, right?

Sorry, I'm not enough of a plant geek to remember the names of everything and I didn't write them down, but they were too cool to be left out.

 They have lots of cool statuary, including this Silicon Valley icon, Buddha with a laptop.

And more cool colorful pots. Know anyone who is into frogs?

Of course they have all the usual racks full of color and vegetable starts too.

They really maximize the small amount of indoor space they have.

Time for one more spin around the nursery before they lock the gate and I have to spend the night here.

Can't believe I walked right past these! A whole row of Phormium cookianum, "Black Adder". One of the killer dark foliage plants developed by our friend Pat FitzGerald of FitzGerald Nurseries and MyPlant in Kilkenny, Ireland (sorry for the lame pic. For some strange reason I only took this shot with my phone.). Click here to see more of Pat's wonderful plants.

Just HAD to have Black Adder to go with my Ceanothus Tuxedo, another dark-leaved FitzGerald Nurseries creation.

That's it for this trip, hope you enjoyed it. If you are in the Willow Glen area, stop in, have a look around and talk with some of the great people who work at Central Wholesale Nursery. You'll be glad you did. Oh, and yes, I did leave with a healthy collection of vegetable seeds. Stay tuned for future posts to see how they do.


  1. You know what happens now don't ya? You become a nursery junkie and you can't wait for another hit. Then you have to have bigger and bigger hits. Then you end up actually flying to other cities for a hit and it goes on and on until you have to buy more land....
    Fun to see this post AND your Black Adder comedy picture! Funny!

  2. LOVE it, Matt! And good for YOU for buckling up Black Adder - he gets SO out of hand on car rides!!

    And I'm so glad to see you've been bitten by the gardening bug...you're officially 'one of us'!! (I'm sure you're scared, now....)