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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

Our Recommended Citrus Care

jennifer carroll

It's a great time to plant citrus and with so many varieties in stock this week, it won't be hard to find a delectable variety to add to your garden! Check out a few of our favorite citruses here.

Plant your citrus in a warm, sunny exposed spot that's protected from the wind. Use a mixture of your soil and Master Nursery's Gold Rush when planting into the ground. For containers, we recommend using Master's Planting Mix. Upon planting, feed your citrus Master Nursery’s Citrus Food 12-8-4 or E.B. Stone Organics Citrus & Fruit Tree Food 7-3-3, both available in our shop. 

We also recommend feeding your citrus Master Nursery’s Iron Plus regularly to prevent leaf chlorosis. Leaf chlorosis is easily identifiable as leaves will begin to yellow with dark green veins, a sign of an iron deficiency. Citrus are heavy iron feeders and in order to maintain healthy leaves, you’ll want to supplement their feeding. For immediate results, apply liquid Master's Chelated Iron Plus. Remember that organic fertilizers do not include iron, so you will need to maintain a regular supplement of iron to keep your citrus healthy!

Citrus trees like deep, infrequent watering so they stay on the dry side of moist! Watering frequency will vary with temperature and maturity but watering deeply once a week should be sufficient for a plant in the ground. Container plants may need watering twice a week but it is important to allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings.

Little or no pruning is necessary on citrus, however, the occasional erratic branch can be cut way back. Citrus round out naturally into a shapely shrub or tree—to expedite this pinch off the tips of new growth. For special or restorative pruning wait until Spring. 

Come winter, be aware of frost. Although susceptibility varies by variety and maturity, (for example, limes are the most susceptible to frost damage) in general, established plants can withstand short exposure to freezing temperatures with no damage. However, severe or prolonged frost will damage most varieties. Be sure to bookmark our Winter Care For Citrus post for our steps to prevent against frost. 

For more information, check out our general Citrus Care Sheet or stop in today!

Bromeliads 101

jennifer carroll

Bromeliads bring a sense of the tropics into your home year round. With a wide variety of texture and color, they create stunning focal points among common foliage-heavy houseplants. And with low-maintenance watering and care, they’re a perfect plant for budding green thumbs!

Plant your Bromeliad in a mixture of bark and peat moss, both are available in our shop and florist. Most are epiphytes and in the nature, don’t require soil for nutrients and moisture. It’s important to not allow the roots to become compacted, once your Bromeliad outgrows its pot, be sure to repot it. Like most houseplants, pick a spot with bright, indirect light. Mist these humidity lovers weekly and you’ll be rewarded with healthy, green leaves.

Water them from the top, pouring into the “cup” at the base of its leaves. They store their moisture there, so ensure that water is always present in its cup. For small Bromeliads that means roughly an inch, for larger plants maintain a few inches.

A spent bloom and at right, pups begin to leaf out.  

A spent bloom and at right, pups begin to leaf out.  

Don’t be alarmed when your Bromeliad bloom begins to wilt. Prune off the wilted flower and you'll notice its offsets, or pups beginning to pop up. Note that this is not a time to necessarily re-pot. Once a pup becomes ½ and in some cases ⅔ of the size of the parent, you can detach. With or without roots present, don’t hesitate to put it into the soil, it will root.

We recommend fertilizing once a month in the growing period and every 2-3 months during fall and winter. We recommend applying Grow More Bromeliad Food 17-8-22 or Epiphyte's Delight, both available in the florist! 

A Great Way To Use All Those Zucchinis!

jennifer carroll

Randall's homegrown goodness - Golden Zebra and Magda zucchinis!

Randall's homegrown goodness - Golden Zebra and Magda zucchinis!

It's time to put all those garden grown Zucchinis to good use and this Shaved Zucchini and Arugula Salad with Olives is just the ticket! 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 1-2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 pound arugula, washed and dried
  • 4 sprigs basil, leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup olives, pits removed
  • 1/4 pound Pecorino Romano

PREPARATION

Preheat grill to medium-high or an oven to 420 degrees. Place bread slices in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and kosher salt. Grill bread until slightly charred on both sides or toast in oven until golden brown. Rub garlic clove on each slice of bread after toasted and set aside.

Meanwhile, thinly slice zucchini using a mandolin, vegetable peeler or sharp knife and place in a bowl. Toss with lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add arugula and toss to combine. Add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and 3/4 of the remaining olive oil. Gently toss and taste- add more lemon juice or salt if needed. Add torn basil leaves and olives. Toss gently one last time.

To serve: Place a mound of zucchini and arugula mixture on top of each piece of crostini. Shave Pecorino Romano on top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

This recipe is from CUESA, The Center For Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture. 

Serves 4-6

Crazy For Conifers

jennifer carroll

'Golden Ghost' Japanese Red Pine

'Golden Ghost' Japanese Red Pine

Looking for a focal point that will lend year-round shade? Conifers are a must! If you’ve shopped our conifer section (located next to trees at the end of the parking lot) then you’ve met Luke, our resident expert. Overflowing with new arrivals in limitless varieties, we talked to Luke about what we shouldn't miss when browsing these beautiful evergreens. 

Looking for the unusual? Luke recommends checking out the ‘Golden Ghost’ Japanese Red Pine. Flaunting needles with green and yellow rings that seem to shimmer in the sun, this hardy Eastern Pine grows 8-12” a year, reaching roughly 10’ in 10 years. It’s decorative red-orange stems are a rarity in gardens and collections, you’ll notice its golden spring growth paling to near white through this season.

'Daub's Frosted' and 'Mother Lode' Juniper

'Daub's Frosted' and 'Mother Lode' Juniper

The infamous ‘Tam’ has given junipers everywhere a bad name. But we’re confident our collection of low-growing and manageable junipers will change that. For drought-tolerant and deer resistant edging and borders, ‘Daub’s Frosted’ is a low-growing, 3-4’ tall and wide juniper that lends a tri-color touch of yellow, lime-green and blue-green to your garden.

Looking for more of a “ground hugger”? Reaching only 6” high, ‘Mother Lode’ Juniper is perfect for cascading down a slope with bright golden-yellow foliage from spring to summer and rich burgundy undertones in winter. 

Joe’s Bess’ Bristlecone Pine and ‘Smaragd’ Thuja

Joe’s Bess’ Bristlecone Pine and ‘Smaragd’ Thuja

The Bristlecone Pine, found in our White Mountains is arguably the oldest thing on the planet, about 5,000 years old. Our ‘Joe’s Bess’ Bristlecone Pine is of the dwarf variety growing 6’ high and 4’ wide. It’s a great focal point or accent for your rock garden, container or even a large Bonsai specimen. The dense clusters of two-toned needles point upwards, creating a dense, consistent shape. It’s hard to not be in awe, plant this and it could be growing for the next 5,000 years!

The ‘Smaragd’ Thuja is a no-brainer for creating privacy in your garden. Known for its neatness and healthy green color in winter, plant in sun or light shade and trim as needed to maintain desired shape.

‘Mariesii’ Cypress and 'Knaptonensis' Japanese Cedar

‘Mariesii’ Cypress and 'Knaptonensis' Japanese Cedar

For a dappled corner of your garden, ‘Mariesii’ Cypress is perfect as an accent, growing 4’ high and 3’ wide. Its super fine, lacy foliage is speckled, creating a frosted look that changes color depending on sun exposure. Watch the foliage grow rich in gold tones with full sun and a creamy white in shade.

The 'Knaptonensis' Japanese Cedar calls for shade, shade and more shade! The two-tone light green and white foliage gives this conifer eye-catching texture. A slow grower at 3-4” a year, it has a very dense, broad pyramidal form that makes it the perfect small-scale gardening cedar.

Still not satisfied? Read on for more of Luke's Limitless Conifers!

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!

INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)

  • 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

FROZEN YOGURT PREPARATION

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.

PEACHES AND ASSEMBLY

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.

CULTURE

'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.

FERTILIZATION

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.

WATERING

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'

INSECTS

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

GROWING IN CONTAINERS

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.