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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

The Best Plants For Your Family Vegetable Garden

Blaire Benson

When planning our garden, we take into account our families, seeking out plants that are hardy and non-toxic for our rambunctious pets and curious children. We believe gardening is a passion to share with the whole family. Here are a few low-maintenance (because sometimes making time is near impossible) garden-to-table plants we love for their exceptional taste!

  • There’s nothing like stepping out into the yard and popping a sun-warmed tomato off the vine, right into your mouth. Our cherry tomatoes are great for picking and we’ve got cages and trellises to keep them off the ground. 
  • If you have a drip system set up, we recommend cucumbers and summer squash. Although they require more consistent watering, the payoff is abundant. Cucumbers, one of nature’s top hydrating foods, is comprised of 96% water and will help you beat the heat this summer! And who can resist a squash’s versatility in the kitchen?
  • We love our quick growers. Radishes, for example, are only 21 days from seed to picking! Two of our favorites, the French Breakfast, an easy addition to a summer salad, and the Easter Egg, offer a blend of red, white, pink, purple and two-tone colors to your harvest.
  • Green beans are easy to grow and harvest, great for any new green thumb. Nothing beats escaping the heat in your own bean pole teepee hideaway. Plant green beans and watch as your kid’s new reading spot grows lush.

We recommend Master Nursery's Paydirt for vegetable gardens. A blend of 45% chicken manure and 55% mushroom compost and redwood sawdust is great for loosening clay soils and improving moisture retention. Come April 1, our tomatoes and peppers will be available. In mid-April, our summer squash, cucumbers, zucchinis and corn will be in stock! Stop in today and check out our selection of delectable edibles.

Happy gardening to you and your family! 

Catch The Queen: Safely and Naturally Trap Wasps, Hornets and Yellowjackets!

Blaire Benson

Worried about uninvited guests this summer? Act now to minimize the threat of yellowjackets all summer long. Yellowjacket colonies die completely each year, except for the queen. In the first warm days of spring, the queen comes out of dormancy and begins to feed and search for a next location for her new colony.

By trapping the queen now, you can prevent the founding of the entire colony, and therefore, minimize this pesky problem. To catch this window of opportunity, you need to place a trap before the queens have found their colonies. Even a few days can make a difference, so don’t delay!

The easiest and most effective way to ensure that you trap the queen is placing a RESCUE! W.H.Y. Trap within 20 feet of your outdoor activity area. This will safely and naturally trap the 'bad guys' (20 species of wasps, hornets and yellowjackets) through fall without harming the beneficial honeybees; the W.H.Y. Trap takes out all the guesswork.

We’re also fans of RESCUE! Disposable Yellowjacket Trap for picnics and camping trips. Featuring the same attractant but in a convenient disposable bag. You just add water. Take the time to hang up a trap today and enjoy your summer BBQ in peace!

Bring Some Zing to Your Palate!

Blaire Benson

With our Citrus Event just around the corner, this Saturday from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. to be exact, we are sharing a few culinary reasons we love growing citrus in our garden! 

Citrus plants give us shades of fiery oranges, bold yellows and glossy greens, yielding flavors that are sweet and sour, tart and tangy, fresh and sassy. Once you start to incorporate them into your cooking, you’ll want more and more!

Here are some uses that illustrate how chefs use citrus to bring a little zing to your palate:

  1. Adds flavor and texture to cuisine.
  2. Spanning a wide range of tastes and textures, citrus offers a simple way to spruce up almost any plate.
  3. Brings balance to dishes.
  4. Varying levels of sugar and acid allows citrus fruits to help balance flavors of all sorts. Sauces served with seafood are typical examples, but the same formula works with fowl, beef, vegetable and lamb dishes.
  5. Provides a healthy alternative.
  6. Citrus can pick up the slack for flavors in dishes when less healthful ingredients are eliminated.
  7. Cleanses the palate.
  8. With their pure, fresh taste, citrus juices act as palate cleansers.
  9. Promotes simplicity.
  10. Citrus brings enough color and flavor to allow a chef to use fewer ingredients to make entrees more straightforward.
  11. Pairs well with wines.
  12. In some preparations, citrus is a better complement to wine than other ingredients.
  13. Has a tenderizing effect on meat.
  14. Not only tenderizes the meat, but enhances flavor.

Along with our regular lemons, limes and oranges, here are some other fun citrus varieties to try:

  • Australian Finger Lime        
  • Moro
  • Blood Orange
  • Cara Cara Navel Orange        
  • Nagami Kumquat
  • Gold Nugget Mandarin Orange        
  • Pixie
  • Mandarin
  • Minneola Tangelo       
  • Tarocco Blood Orange

If you're ready to begin incorporating citrus into your cooking, try Mussels with Fennel, Blood Oranges and Pernod, a fresh and seasonal dish!


  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh blood orange juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 2 Tbsp Pernod1 tsp blood orange zest
  • Freshly ground pepper


Toast the fennel seeds in a heavy skillet until slightly browned.

When cool, crush or grind them. Using 1 Tbsp olive oil, cook the onion, shallot, garlic and fennel until the vegetables are softened. Add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, salt, orange juice and wine. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the mussels.

Cover and simmer until the mussels open, about 4 minutes. Discard uncooperative mussels that don’t open. Stir in the Pernod, orange zest and the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Season with a little freshly ground pepper.

This recipe is from the website of Kaiser Permanente, Food for Health, Recipes for Life.

Citrus Favorites

Blaire Benson

There are some new and unusual citruses now available at the nursery and we're excited to highlight a few for you. Speaking of citrus, don’t forget to join us for our Citrus Tasting on Saturday, March 18, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. and try before you buy! Our expert supplier, Generation Growers, will be on hand to answer your questions and help you decide the right citrus for your garden. Please RSVP on Facebook or Eventbrite!

Pink Variegated Eureka Lemon

Easily identified by its green and white leaves, you can’t miss the Pink Variegated Eureka Lemon. Sunset Magazine states, “If you plant only one citrus this year, make it this tree.” Commonly called Pink Lemonade, the tree is adorned with green fruit streaked with gold, maturing to a pale yellow when ripe. The light pink flesh is low-seeded and tangy. Another citrus perfect for a container or hedge, growing 12 to 15 feet tall.

Cara Cara Orange

Don’t let the run-of-the-mill orange rind fool you; inside, the distinct pink-orange flesh of the Cara Cara Orange boasts a remarkable flavor with hints of blackberry and rose. A cross between two navels found in Venezuela in the 70s at Hacienda da Cara Cara, the orange is less acidic, sweeter and a bit tangier than traditional navels. The half-hardy, dwarf evergreen grows 10 to 15 feet high, perfect for an accent, hedge or container.

Seedless Kishu Mandarin Orange

You’ve got to grow your own Seedless Kishu Mandarin Orange to taste. Not commercially available, the tiny, seedless fruit is no bigger than a golf ball, but one of the first to ripen in fall. This hardy, evergreen citrus is adorned with an abundance of rich, sweet and juicy fruit, which the tree will hold into the new year for leisurely harvest. It is perfect for containers or accent at 5 to 6 feet tall. 

Bearss Seedless Lime

The Bearss Seedless Lime is the most valuable lime in our western gardens. Originating around 1895 and named after nurseryman J.T. Bearss, this outstanding fruiting and ornamental dwarf can produce superbly flavored limes nearly all year long. The most bountiful harvest will be August to March, producing yellowish fruit once ripe. The Bearss makes for a perfect cocktail garnish with a fragrant, somewhat spicy aroma. Growing 8 to 10 feet tall, the citrus is perfect for an accent, entry or container.

For more information on citrus care, take a look at our Growing Citrus care sheet or come by and see us!

Employee Spotlight: Briana Ali

Blaire Benson

This week, we talked to Lazy K’s Briana Ali. If you follow Lazy K on Facebook or Instagram (and we hope you do), you’ve seen her handiwork. Next time you are browsing the Lazy K, be sure to say hello!

How long have you worked at the Lazy K?

I started at the Lazy K in September 2015.

What is your favorite part about working at the Lazy K?

I feel as if I have joined a family here at the Lazy K. Everyone from my coworkers to our regular customers make coming to work such a pleasure. 

What are some of your favorite memories in your time working here?

The Lazy K dinners are the best. Past employees host and attend every Lazy K dinner and it is a special time to reconnect. I wasn't kidding when I said working here is like one big family. It's awesome.

What is your favorite piece at the Lazy K right now?

We just started carrying Chico-based aromatherapy line, Unlock Home, and the happy scented candle is amazing. I am also obsessed with Vilagallo, a Spanish designer that has just arrived at the shop. Look out for their bohemian Chanel-esque coats. With a constant rotation of new handbags, I can’t even decide on a favorite. I am always wearing them around the store, asking everyone's opinion.

What can we look forward to this summer - any new and exciting pieces coming in?

We have our best selling Dolma tunics coming soon in brand new prints and colors, a perfect weight for the warmer months.

What do you do in your spare time - any hobbies?

I love to cook and go on walks with my family. I also love shopping, for myself and to find the perfect gift for someone, which makes my job at the Lazy K a dream come true.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I was an All-American volleyball player at UC Santa Cruz.


How-To: Growing Spectacular Dahlias

Blaire Benson

We have a variety of dahlia species available at Orchard, including dinner plate blooms, those with dark foliage and rare, multi-colored anemone dahlias. Below we share a few tips and tricks to grow spectacular dahlias in your garden.

Dahlias are gorgeous prolific bloomers, flowering from May to November here in the Bay Area. They grow best in six hours of sun a day; choose a location with morning sun and protection from the wind. Plant bulbs four to six inches deep and about two feet apart, placing the tubers flat with eyes facing up.

Dahlias are heavy feeders, so before planting, amend the soil with E. B. Stone Organic Composted Chicken Manure or Paydirt (which contains 45 percent composted chicken manure). Add a balanced fertilizer such as Master Start 5-20-10. Once buds form, boost the phosphorus content with Master Nursery Rose and Flower Food 5-10-5. Continue to feed once a month from June to September. 

A thorough watering after planting is sufficient until shoots begin to appear in two to three weeks; overwatering will cause the tubers to rot. During the growing season, water deeply every three to four days depending on the weather. After the downpour we’ve experienced the last few weeks, there will be an influx of slugs this spring. We highly recommend protecting young plants using Sluggo or Sluggo Plus. 

Encourage bushier plants and more flowers by clipping off the center stem’s tip after the dahlia has three sets of leaves. If you want to enjoy the largest flowers possible, allow only one central bud on each branch to develop by removing the smaller lateral buds. Especially for dinner plate dahlias, be sure to tie the center stem to a stake to ensure the blooms aren’t damaged and the leafy stalk can continue to grow upwards. To lessen the potential for disease, remove the bottom leaves to increase airflow.

For more information, come in and speak to our knowledgeable staff or visit the Dahlia Society of California.


Blaire Benson

We love conifers for bringing to the garden what seems like a limitless variety of color, texture, shape and size. Textures range from soft and feathery to dramatic and architectural, and include some that would even fit into a Dr. Seuss landscape. Our selection has expanded this year and found its new home next to fruit trees at the end of the parking lot. 

Luke, our resident conifer expert, has weighed in on a few of his favorites:

  • Our newest addition is the Juniperus con and the ‘Golden Pacific,’ as it's known, isn’t your typical juniper. With bright yellow green foliage and standing under 15 inches tall, this low maintenance and manageable plant is sure to be a focal point of your garden. Fairly drought tolerant once established, this conifer will take full sun and is hardy to most diseases and pests.
  • There is nothing quite like the Weeping Nootka Cypress or Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula,' known for its very unusual, graceful texture. This pyramidal evergreen will grow to be 60 feet tall, averaging between 15 and 20 feet in ten years, with its dark and delicate foliage making it a stately vertical accent.
  • One of my favorites is the picturesque Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca Brevifolia’). Boasting fine-textured, bluish-green foliage and persistent growing cones, this conifer serves as a great garden focal point. The low maintenance pine will grow up to 15 feet tall and will hold on to its cones for up to 5 years.
  • A shade lover, our Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan’) features soft textured, dense evergreen foliage. The new growth is a striking hue of pale yellow and can even appear white in shade. The cedar flourishes in morning sun and afternoon shade. 

The size and shape of most conifers can be easily controlled by annual pruning. With pines, new growth (candles) can be cut or removed to slow the general growth. Most conifers will tolerate low summer water once established. Water them about three times a week in hot weather for the first two to three years. During the cooler seasons, a deep watering is only needed once a week. Use an acid fertilizer such as Master Nursery Camellia, Azalea, Gardenia & Rhododendron Food or E. B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food in spring, mid and late summer.

If you're interested in our conifer selection, stop by and receive expert guidance from our knowledgeable staff. We're always happy to answer your questions!

Potato Growing Guide

Blaire Benson

Now is the time to get your seed potatoes in the ground to ensure a mid-summer harvest. We have a variety of tubers in stock for spring and will guide you through the growing process!

Tubers the size of a hen’s egg can be planted whole; larger potatoes should be cut into 'seeds,' meaning a small piece of potato with 2-3 'eyes.' Allow the tubers a day to 'heal over' before planting, but be sure to not allow them to dry out. A few of the tubers may have begun to sprout, this growth should remain on the tuber. If broken off, the emergence of the vines will be delayed and ultimately reduce the size of the potato.

When planting potatoes in our clay soil, you will have to amend the area to create light, loose and moisture-retentive soil ideal to tubers. To amend a 50 square foot area to an eight inch depth, mix the following in with your soil, plant and water thoroughly:

  • 10 cu. ft. of soil conditioner: Master Nursery Pay Dirt, Gold Rush or Bumper Crop
  • 5 lbs. FST Iron Sulphur or Garden Elements Soil Sulfur, used to acidify and break up clay
  • 10 lbs. Master Nursery Tomato-Vegetable or Flower Food or Garden Elements Organic All Purpose Fertilizer
  • 10 lbs. Gypsum

Plant in a shallow trench 6-8 inches deep with seed pieces 10-14 inches apart. With a rake, cover the seeds with roughly 3-4 inches of soil, be sure not to fill the trench completely. Depending on the temperature, sprouts should emerge in two weeks.

Once the stems measure roughly 8 inches high, you will need to hill the vines. Hilling, ridging up the soil around the base of the vine, is crucial when creating an environment for potatoes to thrive in. Mound the soil away from the sprouts, leaving about half the vine exposed. You will need to hill every 2 weeks for the first 6 weeks of growth, carefully adding only an inch or two of soil to the hill each week. Hilling is not an exact science, but adding too much soil will cover the leaves and reduce the yield, whereas adding too little will expose the potatoes to light, turning them green. 

For ease of gardening, we also carry potato bags in our shop. The bags can be placed on a porch or deck, no garden beds required! Utilizing the burlap bag will ensure that the plant isn’t overwatered or overheated.

The less water, the better for your potatoes. A light irrigation will keep the tubers less watery and in turn, produce better tasting potatoes. Note that potatoes are not drought resistant and will search out moisture when water is scarce.

Once the vines emerge and until blooming ends, we recommend foliar spraying every two weeks in the mornings when it is still cool. A fish emulsion and/or a liquid seaweed extract like GrowMore sprayed directly on the leaves will result in a higher yield and you can’t beat the ease of application! Once the vines are blooming, there is no need to fertilize; new vegetative growth has ceased and the tubers have begun to form. Additional fertilizing may affect the flavor of the potato.

After about 7 or 8 weeks you will see the earliest blossoms, signifying that the potatoes are ready! To check on whether the harvest is ready or not, you can “rob” a few tubers from the end of the row, avoiding injury to the roots and stressing the plant. If you wait patiently for the tops to die back naturally, your harvest will be more robust with a richer flavor. 

Choose from our many varieties and grow your own tubers, so they will be ready to be harvested this summer!

Employee Spotlight: Geoff Olmstead

Blaire Benson

Hi, Everyone. I'm Geoff Olmstead, the Nursery Manager at Orchard!

How long have you been working at Orchard Nursery & Florist?

16 years!

What is your favorite part about working here?

My favorite part about working at Orchard is the relationships I have built with both the staff and customers. The culture we have developed at Orchard Nursery makes it a fabulous place to work. I love to get staff and customers excited about change, be it in the workings of the nursery, or in the case of customers, in their gardens.

What are some of your favorite memories in your time working here?

Way back when, the nursery staff used to go out line dancing at a local pub. That was a great time!

What are some upcoming projects you are excited about?

This month, we rearranged the layout of the nursery to make more room for plant material. By changing the layout of the nursery, we have gained about 350 square feet of 1 gal retail space, and kept the 5 gal space the same, allowing us to buy more product in larger quantities while still being able to keep the diversity of material. 

What is your favorite season and why?

Like most nursery people, I would have to say spring! It's refreshing to see all the things that come into the nursery with beautiful blooms or colorful foliage after winter. I also love spring because it is a time of year we are extremely busy with customers. There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing someone's eyes light up when I help them pick out plants for their gardens, show them how to care for it, and make sure they walk out the door with everything they need to be successful in their endeavor.

What is your favorite flower or plant to work with and why?

What a question! There are so many! I would venture to say my favorite plant is Geranium 'Rozanne.' What a beautiful creature it is! In Concord, where I live, it is pretty much evergreen (except when I cut it back to allow for new growth) and it never stops blooming! I get color on the plants in my garden most of the year, with a little down time mid-December through mid-January. The beautiful lavender-blue blooms are about the size of a quarter and are so prolific they cover the entire plant. It grows extremely fast with deep watering needed only about every 5 days, so it's drought tolerant as well. You can't beat it for a colorful perennial!

What is your favorite vegetable to grow and cook with and why?

Peppers, hands down. They are super easy to grow, and where I live, they are still producing! I love jalapeños for a favorite spicy chicken dish I make and Shishito peppers just sautéed in oil. Peppers are fantastic veggies that I have never had any issues with - no mildews or other diseases to contend with, and no aphids or other insects have ever damaged any of my peppers. However, keeping our chickens away from them is another story!

What is something that people might not know about you?

There isn't much people don't know about me. I'm pretty much an open book as far as my life goes, but one thing people might not know is when I was in my mid 20s, I lived in an Ashram in India for four months. It was a great experience to see the cultural differences between the United States and a third world country. The experience also gave me greater perspective of myself and of the connection we all have to nature. 

Healthy Recipes For the New Year!

Blaire Benson

It’s that time of year – hopefully you had a restful and somewhat indulgent holiday season, but now it’s time to get back into your regular routine. You might be thinking about how to jumpstart your year with renewed energy and a focus on your health; well, we’re here to help! Below we share three unique and delicious recipes from Kaiser Permanente that are good for you and those you love!

First up, Smashed Cucumbers! This recipe is a quick and fun way to add a refreshing side dish to just about any meal.

Servings: 4

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


4 Persian cucumbers, or other small thin-skinned cucumbers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A few mint leaves, minced
1 sprig oregano, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Trim the ends of the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Next, cut crosswise or on a bias into 1-inch pieces. With seed-side down, gently smashed the cucumbers with the side of your knife or the heel of your clean hand. Leaving some of the seeds on the cutting board, transfer the cucumbers to a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and minced herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For those frigid January days when you crave warmth, we recommend this Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup!

Servings: 4


3 medium carrots, cut into ½ inch slices
2 tomatoes cut into wedges (or one 15 ounce can of no added salt tomatoes if tomatoes aren't in season locally)
1 yellow onion cut into 6-8 wedges
6 big cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (You can substitute eggplant if you’d like!)
1 bunch of kale, stacked, rolled up then thinly sliced
1 can cannellini beans, drained or 1 1/2 cups freshly cooked white beans
6 cups vegetable stock
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme or a palm full of fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking pan. Arrange the carrots and squash (or eggplant) on one end and the onions, garlic and tomato on the other. Roast until everything is slightly browned – about 30 minutes. Scoop the onions, tomatoes and garlic into a blender. Puree the vegetables briefly. Add the stock and mix briefly. Bring the stock with blended veggies to a simmer. Add the kale, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until the kale is tender - about 30 minutes. Add the carrots, squash (or eggplant) and white beans. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs if you used fresh thyme. Season to taste and serve hot.

And finally, for a healthy and easy way to start your day, try No-cook Overnight Oatmeal!


1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried chia seeds
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon honey, optional (or substitute any preferred sweetener)
1/4 cup diced mango (approx. half of a small mango)


In a half pint jar or container, add oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, almond extract and honey. Put lid on jar and shake until well combined. Add mangoes and stir with fork until mixed throughout. Return lid to jar and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. Eat chilled.