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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

Employee Spotlight: Allison Ferry

jennifer carroll

Meet Allison, our houseplant buyer and designer! Find her designing exquisite terrariums, tillandsia assortments and vertical gardens from her lush workspace in the florist. If you’ve got a question about your houseplant, she’s your gal! This week we talked to her about what she’s up to, her favorite plants and summer indoor plant care!

What’s your favorite part about working at Orchard Nursery & Florist?

Designing and being creative is the best part about my job. It's fun to come into work and create something unique with all of our beautiful plants! 

What is your favorite season?

Fall is so much fun at Orchard! The Harvest Festival is in full swing and we all collaborate to create an amazing atmosphere for our customers.

What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies?

I’m a singer. I enjoy hiking, yoga and painting. And I love my cat, Kaboodle.

What do people not know about you?

I once played Sandy in the musical Grease senior year of high school. I also know how to shear a sheep!

What is your favorite indoor plant?

Allison with our chandelier Staghorn Fern. 

Allison with our chandelier Staghorn Fern. 

I do love Staghorn Ferns. They easily adapt to different environments and in the wild, grow on the tree tops! We carry them in assorted sizes that hang on your wall, creating a stunning focal point. And even one much like a chandelier! 

What are some of your recommendations for houseplant care in summer?

It’s important to take notice of the sort of lighting your houseplant is receiving in summer. The lighting and heat is vastly different than in our winter and milder months of the year. If you are noticing crunchy tips or bleached spots, move your plant to a shielded or shady corner of your home for the next few months.

How much should we be watering houseplants?

You should be watering much more often in the summer months. Depending on your sun exposure, that could mean twice as much! This is true not only for houseplants but succulents and cacti as well. Be sure to check the soil and find a watering schedule that’s appropriate for the plant. Indoor plants crave humidity so because we live in a dry environment, it’s important to keep them hydrated. I love our elegant spray bottles that make misting a breeze. The spray bottles are also useful when dusting leaves. Keeping leaves dust-free not only increases the sunlight they absorb but can help deter pests.

Espoma Organic Fertilizer

Espoma Organic Fertilizer

How often should indoor plants be fertilized?

We are now in what we call the “growing season” meaning it's the time to be fertilizing! Your houseplant is using all their energy to push out new leafy growth and feeding them helps them through that process. Although it varies on the plant (between orchids, African violets, cacti and houseplants in general) most plants want to be fed every or every other watering.

You’ll want to continue fertilizing regularly until late September, early October when the growing seasons ends. During the colder months, fertilizing every month is sufficient. I recommend using Espoma Organic Plant Food available for a range of specific houseplants. The liquid concentrate contain natural proteins and beneficial microbes that promote growth and greening. Easy to use, just apply a few drops when watering.

What’s in store for the next few months?

We are going to be carrying more Cymbidiums! Also known as Boat Orchids, they boast beautiful, long-lasting flowers that bloom through Fall. A low-maintenance and hardy orchid, they can outside thrive on your patio. 

Anything we should be marking our calendars for?

Be sure to look out for my succulent pumpkin decorating class in September! If you are interested in booking a terrarium or kokedama class for a group of eight or more, get in touch with me! 

Next time you’re at the nursery, make sure to stop by the floral department and say hi!

Grower Spotlight: Flatland Flower Farm

jennifer carroll

For over 14 years we have been working with Flatland Flower Farm to deliver their organic heirloom and specialty plants right to your garden!

The farm in bloom! 

The farm in bloom! 

After years of small scale farming in their Berkeley backyard, Dan and his wife Joanne purchased a Sebastopol apple orchard in 1999. Since then, they’ve converted the land to organic, erected three greenhouses and now grow edible, native and rare plants.

With several new apple varieties, Dan and Joanne now sell their apple products under the name Little Apple Treats. The farm brings plants to the market during spring and summer and apples in autumn. Throughout the year we receive their organically-grown tomatoes, squash, peppers and beans, offering a selection of unusual and hard to find varieties.

Speaking of unique, this week we have a fresh shipment of 8 new varieties of Flatland Flower Farm's basil that will be sure to complement your summer cookouts! Here's a preview of a few varieties you can't miss: 

‘Bolloso Napoletano’ - A large-leafed variety from Naples. Deep green leaves and strong flavor make it great in sandwiches. We're dreaming of a tomato and basil grilled cheese sandwich!

'Mammoth' - Lettuce-leaf basil, and that's no joke! This basil's leaves are huge and perfect to use as a wrap boasting excellent flavor. 

‘Osmin’ - You’ll be sure not to glance over this variety! The darkest of the purple basils with small leaves like Fino Verde and pink flowers. Great Italian basil taste for soups, fish and meat.

‘Persian’ - A basil with a bite! Also known as Anise Basil, it is heavy on the licorice flavor. Decorative as well as delicious, we’re betting it’s great on a salad!

'Thai Red' - Rich green leaves pack a strong clove flavor, a great addition for Asian cuisine. Its bold red stems give this variety its name. 

Apple cider vinegar - perfect for cocktails! 

Apple cider vinegar - perfect for cocktails! 

Whether it’s in your dinner, dessert or drink, basil is an easy addition to your summer plating. We love this foolproof Basil Pesto recipe from Randall, our Bedding Department Manager, perfect for just about everything!

Be on the lookout in late August for Flatland's stock of winter vegetables that will be available at our nursery! In the meantime, stop by and visit the Flatlands Flower Farm booth at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmer's Market and say hello to Dan! Randall recommends sampling their fresh apple cider vinegar and picking up a few of their apple cider caramels!

"When's The Best Time To Pick My Veggies?"

jennifer carroll

Here’s the list, we are breaking down our summer veggies and giving you tips on what to look out for when the harvesting time is right! If you’re headed out on vacation, tell your housesitter or neighbors to enjoy it. One of the most common mistakes made by new gardeners is harvesting their crops at the wrong time. Remember, don’t pick it early!

  • Beans: There’s a satisfying snap when you break a snap bean in two. Pick before you can see the seeds bulging and be vigilant, they will toughen quickly. Healthy plants will often rebloom and produce a second or even third flush of fruit. We love blanching and freezing our harvest, ensuring we have garden fresh snap beans all season long! Pick Lima Beans when well filled, but not over-mature.
  • Cantaloupe: The rind color should change to beige and the fruit should “slip” easily from the stem. You may be able to tell from it’s delectably sweet aroma.
  • Corn: Begin picking after the silks brown. When pricked, the kernels should exude a milky substance.
  • Cucumbers:  Timing and length varies between cucumber varieties, but fruit should be firm and smooth. Harvest early, over-ripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy. The more you harvest, the more fruit your plant will produce. Remove the fruit with a knife or clippers, the vines are brittle and can be damaged easily.
  • Eggplant: Fruits should be firm and shiny. Note that slightly immature eggplants taste better. Be sure to use a knife or clippers to remove from the plant.
  • Okra: Harvest frequently and err on the immature side as the pods become woody and tough as they age. Remove old pods to keep the plant producing. Okra has some small spines so be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves for protection!
  • Peppers: Sweet and bell peppers should be full size but still green, firm and crisp in texture. Look for shiny green to slightly red chile peppers before picking. Dry dry fruit should be allowed to turn completely red and dry on the plant.
  • Pumpkins: Cut from the vine once the pumpkins have turned the expected color (We love that quintessential orange!) and vine begin to decline.
  • Summer Squash: Check daily, especially with the heat. Pick summer squash young, the skin should be tender enough to poke your fingernail through.
  • Tomatoes: Harvest when they are fully colored and slightly soft to the touch for the best taste. Gently twist and pull from the vine. If your plant looks like it may be over-producing, harvest some as they start to ripen and allow them to fully ripen indoors. Looking for fried green tomatoes? Harvest as they reach full size or just as they first color change begins.
  • Watermelons: The white spot on the bottom of the melon should change to yellow when ripe. Some say they can hear a change in the sound made when the melon is thumped with a finger. 

Did we miss one? Reach out to us on our Facebook page and let us help you ensure a bountiful harvest this season!

Lemon Verbena-Infused Delights

jennifer carroll

Photograph by Roland Bello 

Photograph by Roland Bello 

We love fragrant lemon verbena for its versatility in the kitchen. With summer in full swing, there are countless recipes to invigorate your plate with this garden fresh herb! Try out Bon Appétit’s Frozen Yogurt with Poached Peaches for a light and creamy dessert. Don’t have an ice cream maker? No worries, substitute ice cream with store-bought frozen yogurt or even Greek yogurt!


  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • ½ cup honey

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 4 large ripe peaches (about 2 lb.)

  • 6 fresh lemon verbena leaves

  • 1½ cups Cocchi Aperitivo Americano (Italian aperitif wine)

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup chopped unsalted, raw pistachios


Whisk cream, yogurt, milk, honey, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer frozen yogurt to an airtight container or a shallow baking pan; cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Frozen yogurt can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen.


Using the tip of a paring knife, score an X in the bottom of each peach. Cook in a large pot of boiling water just until skins begin to peel back where cut, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let cool. Carefully peel peaches, reserving skins.

Bring lemon verbena, Cocchi Americano, sugar, reserved peach skins, and 1½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture has thickened slightly and looks syrupy, 10–12 minutes.

Add peaches, cover saucepan, reduce heat, and gently poach fruit until the tip of a paring knife easily slides through flesh, 12–15 minutes. (Very ripe fruit will take less time to cook.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer peaches to a plate and let cool. Cut into wedges.

Meanwhile, return poaching liquid to a boil and cook until reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool, then discard solids.

Scoop frozen yogurt into small glasses or bowls and serve topped with peaches, some reduced poaching syrup, and pistachios.

DO AHEAD: Peaches can be poached 3 days ahead. Cover and chill in poaching liquid. Bring peaches to room temperature and reduce poaching liquid just before using.

Don't stop there! A quick addition of a Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup can infuse your whipped cream, crêpe, sorbet or yogurt with refreshing flavor. Not to mention a thirst-quenching cup of iced tea, spritzer or summer cocktail! Stop in and shop our fresh selection of Lemon Verbena today! 

Bougainvillea 101

Kathy Rondini

'California Gold' Bougainvillea 

'California Gold' Bougainvillea 

Displaying prolific blooms in an array of colors, Bougainvillea is easily spotted all around the Bay Area. A member of the four o’clock family, it’s characterized by its tropical colored paper-like bracts. Growing into a shrub or trailing vine dependent on pruning, it makes a great fence cover, trellis climber or hedge. They can be a little fussy when transplanting but are well worth the effort! Here are our tips for a healthy and blooming bougie!

In 1768 when Admiral Louis de Bougainvillea began his long journey to the Pacific Ocean and discovered the vine that now bears his name, it was the botanical highlight of the voyage.

Through the ensuring years, this Brazilian beauty has assumed its rightful place as one of the most popular, spectacular and beautiful tropical plants. The modern day hybrids of Bougainvillea spectabilis (B. Brasiliensis) and B. glabra are among the most beautiful of flowering vines.


'Royal Purple' Bougainvillea

'Royal Purple' Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea can be grown in the Bay Area however, because they are semi-topical there are some guidelines prospective bougainvillea buyers should be aware of:

Where frost is expected, vines should be given a protected, warm wall or the warmest spot in the garden. If you can get your bougainvillea through the first couple of winters it will become established and more able to take some frost damage and still recover.

Bougainvillea roots don’t knit the soil together into a firm rootball in the container and are highly sensitive to disturbances. Transplanting, rough handling or knocking the rootball around can fatally injure the plant. To minimize disturbance when planting, cut out the bottom of the container and slit the sides from an inch below the top of the can to the bottom. After you have planted the vine, carefully pull the container up and out of the soil then water your bougainvillea in, with confidence.

Supply sturdy support such as a trellis, stake or arbor and keep long shoots tied up so they won’t whip in the wind or shred leaves against the sharp thorns along the stems. Protect from high winds.


These vines are heavy feeders and respond best to almost constant feeding with ½ strength water soluble fertilizer, e.g. Master Nursery Bud & Bloom 10-52-8. If you prefer a granular fertilizer, Master Nursery Rose & Flower 5-10-5 would be a good choice. With plentiful sunlight and constant feeding, these plants will bloom almost 10 months of the year.


These plants flower best under stress. Keep the plant slightly on the dry side, and allow the plant to become root bound.

Another stunning shot of  'California Gold'

Another stunning shot of  'California Gold'


Bougainvilleas are almost totally insect free. The occasional aphid can be hosed off with water.


Plants do best in large (18-24”) clay containers if grown outdoors (clay containers tend to stay drier, thus stressing the plant) or in large hanging baskets. The 10” basket is the commercial standard, but plants will do much better in 12” hanging baskets. Place the containers in full sun, or in a place where they will receive at least ½ day of full sun.

If your Bougainvillea is not blooming, it probably if not receiving enough sun or fertilizer. These plants thrive in the topics in areas of low rainfall and intense sun and heat. Any well-drained potting soil mix is suitable for growing Bougainvillea, we recommend Master Nursery Potting Mix. To each “5 gallon size” pot add ¼ cup of Osmocote slow release fertilizer. For 10-12” hanging baskets use 2 tablespoons.

Click here for the printer-friendly copy of our Bougainvillea care sheet.   


The Fragrant Flowers You Crave

Blaire Benson

The beauty of flowers is undeniable, but at times we forget that they provide amazing scents to enjoy, too. Below are a few of our favorite flowers that go the extra mile by providing delicious fragrances!

  • Angelwing Jasmine, an evergreen or semi-evergreen vine or shrub, provides a soft, slightly sweet soap-like fragrance. They also delight the eye with snow-white, pinwheel shaped flowers.
  • Roses are the classic fragrant flower and for good reason. We have a large inventory of roses available, including miniature varieties. Our current favorites are Pope John Paul II with strong citrus and rose fragrance and New Zealand with strong honeysuckle fragrance.
  • ‘Prince Rupert’ or ‘Mabel Gray’ Geraniums will provide a delectable lemon scent! Beware that they don’t tolerate poor drainage and need full sun.
  • Angel’s trumpet is a wood shrub and comes in a variety of colors. It gets its name from the unique shape of its blooms. Most varieties are fragrant, but ‘Charles Grimaldi’ is the best.
  • Star Magnolia provides a slight sweet scent with a hint of citrus. This Japanese-native is a small tree or large shrub that functions well as a focal tree and comes in a variety of colors.

No matter your scent preference, we can help you find the plant that will make you want to sit outside and breathe deeply all day long.

A Seasonal Summer Salad For Your Plate

Blaire Benson

Photo credit: Cari Courtright Photography.

Summer is the perfect time to experiment with new salad recipes. So many amazing vegetables and fruits are in season and pair well for a refreshing and healthy side dish. Try this watermelon, cucumber and tomato salad, and let us know what you think next time you're in the nursery! 

Watermelon, Cucumber and Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad


Serves 8

  • ½ small yellow or red seedless watermelon, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cucumbers, peeled (if skin is thick or bitter) and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pint heirloom green, black or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 to 2 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • ½  to ¾ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder


  1. In a large serving bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
  2. Chop the lime zest into ¼-inch pieces and add to the salad. Add the lime juice and lemon juice and toss. Add the salt and chili powder and toss again.
  3. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Source: Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans, The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook

This recipe was demonstrated for CUESA’s Market to Table program on July 7, 2012.

Flower Forecast

Blaire Benson

Wedding season is here and a brides’ bouquet is one of the most telling focal points of a wedding, speaking not only to her style, but also her personality. There are thoughtful, new trends and creative takes on bouquets this year that are sure to inspire all the newly engaged brides-to-be.

All photo credits: Cari Courtright Photography.

All photo credits: Cari Courtright Photography.

Trend #1: Greenery

Greenery, a mainstay in 2016, has moved strongly into the new year. Whether a bride prefers upright or cascading bouquets, there are many hues of green to choose from. Amaranthus drapes beautifully to create a lovely cascading bouquet, which compliments Bohemian aesthetics that are popular this year. A cascading bouquet full of simple, yet lush greenery speaks to brides who are drawn to minimalism. Modern takes on cascading bouquets include casual, loose and even asymmetrical designs. Bells of Ireland add height to bouquets, while mini hydrangeas add fullness to any style. Depending on the shades of green included in a bouquet, greenery can be used as an accent color or as a neutral base that will accentuate other flowers.

Trend #2: Texture

Adding unusual elements such as pods, succulents, air plants and edibles is also on trend, as they create beautiful and varying texture within bouquets. Pods, including poppy pods and brown or green lotus pods, add unusual texture and depth to bouquets thanks to their organic shape. Xeric tillandsias, an air plant variety, have a silvery sheen and fuzzy texture, perfect for a more neutral palette, while mesic tillandsias have a smoother texture and are greener in color.

Incorporating herbs is another creative way to add texture, and can also add deeper significance to the bouquets. Many herbs have associated meanings; for example, rosemary is associated with loyalty and fidelity, basil with love and goodwill. No matter how you incorporate texture, it is sure to transform simple bouquets into unique and visually exciting pieces.

Trend #3 – Neutral Colors

Neutral colors are classic, sophisticated and stand the test of time. Looking back at wedding pictures in years to come, neutral palettes won’t look dated. Bouquets inspired by vintage glamour and monochromatic neutrals provide beautiful examples of current takes on this trend.

The sophistication of a neutral color palette lends itself perfectly to tighter, more formal bouquets. Add silver foliage to white flowers, a trend borrowed from gray’s current popularity in fashion and décor, to modernize the bouquet. Tillandsias can offer a more whimsical aesthetic for brides who are less formal.


Trend #4 - Seasonal Blooms

Flowers always look their best when used during their peak season. The romantic blooms of peonies and dahlias are so popular that some brides choose their wedding date according to the availability of these flowers. Tropical flowers have a longer blooming season, so varieties like protea are often available and add an elegant sophistication to any style bouquet. For upcoming spring weddings, we recommend garden roses and peonies. Dahlias are in peak season for summer weddings, and fall weddings can take advantage of the timely blooms of scabiosa and celosia.

The Must-Have Secret Ingredient For Your Summer Drinks

Blaire Benson

Summer is a time for cocktails, lemonade, iced tea and anything sparkling. To take your summer favorites to the next level, incorporate rosemary, mint or tarragon freshly picked from the garden into your own herb simple syrup using the simple recipe below. It's sure to be a refreshing addition the whole family can enjoy!

Herb Simple Syrup, makes about 1 cup


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed fresh herb leaves (amount needed may vary according to the strength of the herb and your taste)


  1. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat.
  2. Add the leaves to the syrup and cover, steeping for about 30 minutes as the mixture cools. Timing may vary depending on the herb; a strong herb like rosemary should be removed sooner. Taste as you go.
  3. Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve or through several layers of cheesecloth. Pour into a jar or bottle and label.
  4. The syrup is best when fresh but keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Recipe from CUESA.

Incorporating Edible Flowers Into Your Culinary Creations

Blaire Benson

Edible flowers may be used culinarily in a variety of ways. They make colorful, striking garnishes for drinks as well as food, for everything from salads to soups and desserts.

We love Sunset’s Eat-Your-Garden-Salad, as it inspires us to take a second look at our blooming beauties and add them to our plate. Nasturtium petals are a classic addition for a bit of peppery and mustardy flavor, but we love the idea of throwing in a few pansy petals for unexpected coloring.

We also love this Squash Blossom Pesto Pizza, incorporating one of our favorite edible flowers and delicious roasted tomatoes. (Psst! Missed Randall’s Simple Basil Recipe? Be sure to stop in to pick up our fresh basil to incorporate in your summer cooking today!)

Perfect for a summer party, decorate your water pitcher or ice cubes with peony, rose, pansy, nasturtium, violet and geranium petals for an unexpected pop of color in your chilled summer drinks. Don’t forget the dessert! Adorn your summer sweets with dandelions, fuchsia, gladiola, gardenia, hibiscus, lavender, primrose, jasmine and more to add unexpected beauty to your tasty delights! A sprinkle of flower petals over a cake is an easy way to add charm to a simple dessert.

Once you start growing your flowers to be eaten, it is best to grow them as organically as you can. Looking for a particular flavor? Edible flowers can pack a punch of sweet, peppery or tangy flavor. With so many options (listed below), you’ll be sure to find the perfect garnish for your summer cooking!

  • Bachelor Buttons: varies from sweet to spicy, with clove flavor
  • Basil: lemon and mint flavors
  • Borage: cucumber flavor*
  • Calendula: spicy, tangy, peppery*
  • Carnations: spicy, peppery, clover-like flavor and aroma
  • Chive: onion flavor
  • Citrus: sweet and highly scented, use frugally
  • Day Lilies: slightly sweet like lettuce or melon
  • Dianthus: clove-like flavor*
  • Fuchsia: tangy flavor
  • Hibiscus: famously used in teas, tart cranberry flavor
  • Jasmine: sweet and super fragrant, use in teas
  • Lavender: floral, add to sweet and savory dishes
  • Marigolds: spicy to piquant, bitter
  • Mint: minty intensity varies among varieties
  • Mums: slightly piquant to very bitter*
  • Nasturtiums: peppery* 
  • Pansies: varies from sweet to tart flavor
  • Rosemary: pine-like flavor
  • Roses: sweet flavor
  • Stocks: from spicy to sweet flavor*
  • Squash: sweet flavor
  • Thyme: lemon flavor
  • Violas: from mild wintergreen flavor to bland*

*Flowers you can have for the cool season (September - March)