Best Dates for Plant Nerds in the East Bay
GUEST POST BY KATY ATCHISON
Since we live in California, we have TWO prime planting seasons – Spring (duh) and the second right after the first rain in the Fall…which is now! This means that every nursery is booming with autumnal cuteness – and it’s the best time for you to ask out that cute plant nerd you know and adore.
The first Spring that my boyfriend and I were dating, I got a bee in my bonnet that I wanted to build an herb garden in my front yard. This obviously meant that I needed to become the world’s most successful gardener immediately, turn into a mega plant lady, and graduate from naturalist Obi Kaufmann’s fan girl to his new BFF. I figured planting a new herb garden would totally achieve this.
This also was probably the day I realized my boyfriend is the most patient person ever and game for any crazy adventure I drag him on. With a visit to Pottery and Beyond, Home Depot, and a couple local nurseries, we gathered all of what we needed and built the most adorable herb garden within the day. Since then, it has gone down in my memory as one of my favorite go-to day dates of ours. Visiting a nursery is cheaper than flowers, plus you learn something, make something, and often you’re one of just a handful of people in the space ,so it’s supes romantic.
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So here’s is my list of Best Dates for Plant Nerds in the East Bay:
Coffee & a Kouign Amann at Flowerland
1330 Solano Avenue in Albany, CA
Flowerland is adorable AF. Way back when we first built our herb garden, this is the nursery where we went for most of our needs. We grabbed a coffee at Highwire’s cute little coffee trailer and made our day date extra special by splitting a delicious sweet and savory Kouign Amann from Starter Bakery. Right next to the trailer you’ll find all of the herbs – so we devoured our pastry quickly so we’d have at least one hand to grab at the gorgeous plants. We spent some time talking about what herbs we like using when we cook together before settling on which would be ours. Nothing says romance like talking about future dates of cooking together while on a date. Swooning just thinking about it.
I affectionately call this place a “Plant Library. The plants are all bunched so close together and each has a lengthy and detailed write up about its origin, growing season, climate need + a photo just in case. Bonus, You get to wheel around a classic Radio Flyer wagon through the nursery with all of your goodies! Everyone looks adorable carting around a wagon filled with plants. So, get your date to Insta that cute outfit you curated for the day!
PRO TIP: If you are still hungry after your yummy sweet snack from Starter Bakery and have time for lunch, we like to get a couple tacos from La Crema nearby.
Off the California Path: Watershed Nursery
601 A Canal Blvd. in Richmond, CA
This is hands down the best place to show your date how eco-smart you are while expanding your knowledge of California. Recently, my boyfriend and I had a double date at Watershed in Point Richmond – a true hidden gem. We had heard that this nursery specialized in drought-friendly native California plants and since it’s prime time to plant things in our garden, I wanted to explore this amazing place. Watershed works with commercial landscapers and originally wasn’t open to the public. But as co-owner Diana has said in a recent article in The Richmond Standard, their mission is “Contributing to the enhancement of habitat value around the San Francisco Bay Area,” – which includes everyone! If that’s not enough to make you love Watershed, the owners are super passionate about educating the public about how to grow native species and building sustainable ecosystems within our own home gardens; it’s not unlike the staff to take time to walk you to exactly the type of plant they feel will enhance your garden or fits your needs. Unlike any nursery I’ve seen so far, Watershed’s organizing ability is on fleek. Each row of plants was expertly organized by how much water they need & each plant had information on where it grows within our beautiful state. I might be exaggerating a bit, but I walked away smarter just by being in this space. We all left feeling super inspired and excited to bring our California plants home.
PRO TIP: After Watershed, we headed to downtown Point Richmond for a bite to eat. But if you don’t want to venture too far and want to grab a beer, Ken, the resident expert on staff that day, mentioned going to East Brother Beer’s Tap Room around the corner from the nursery. Plus, I highly recommend walking down to Miller Knox Regional Shoreline to walk off lunch if you have time.
The Not-So-Secret Dry Garden
6556 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA
A Berkeley staple for 30+ years, The Dry Garden specializes in plants that are perfect for the East Bay climate – mainly drought resistant succulents. If you’ve driven down Shattuck, you may have seen it’s funky signage, a bright silly sun designed by local artist Mark Bulwinkle, as you passed by. What lies beyond the sign is a warm and cozy environment with the neighborhoody vibe you come to expect from your local nursery, and experts who have worked there for literal decades. More than once I’ve seen people bring in their dying plants from home to get a diagnosis from the experts on staff. Don’t be surprised if you hear them say “you might want to water your plants” or shrug and say “I’m aren’t sure what you did…but it’s dead.” That kind of realism is something I appreciate.
When my boyfriend moved into a place with a very tiny yard, we decided adding some succulents to his sunny patio would be perfect for his busy schedule. We headed over to The Dry Garden to explore the nursery together only to discover how much charm this place has. As we meandered around the grounds, we found more metal art by Bulwinkle sprinkled everywhere (even ceramic tiles for your home). Plus, we discovered a full succulent bar with pots, rocks and soil – all set up for you to complete your project.
By far, my favorite feature of this place is the greenhouse tucked into the back of the nursery. This is where the crew at the Dry Garden propagates their succulents before they are ready to be sold. I’m 100% certain you’ve seen this beautiful room in your Instagram feed as its corrugated ceiling creates a soft warm light perfect for selfies and photo opps.
PRO TIP: If it’s a warm day, check out more Bulwinkle art & grab a coffee at Jump N’ Java.
On My List for Future Day Dates:
Last weekend while I was at some rando event in the deep East Bay, I stumbled upon a new favorite nursery which I just can’t help but tell you all about even though I haven’t (yet) taken my boyfriend there on a date. In fact, there are a few more places I find to be really great because they have a slew of activities on their calendar and would be an amazing day date activity.
Catch Live Music at Orchard Nursery
4010 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549
OK – I know, I know… Lafayette!? It feels like it’s so damn far away. Surprisingly, Orchard Nursery is only 15 minutes from Oakland and lemme tell you, it’s the jam…literally. I adventured there solo last weekend and found myself listening to a local funk band for a while as they played in the center of the nursery. They also have a “plant of the week” program where they will put some of their plants 50% off. It’s a great place if you’re looking to build out your garden.
Learn from Experts at the Famous Annie’s Annuals and Perennials
740 Market Ave. in Richmond, CA.
Annie’s is an iconic East Bay nursery with virtually a SEA of plants to choose from. I went through the whole article without swearing, but to sum up Annie’s, they are BadAss! No list of East Bay nurseries is complete without this one. It can be kind of intimidating to go there if you don’t have a plan. But for a date, it’s fun to just go and walk through the nursery and vow to buy each other one plant each (good luck with that – I always leave with a car full). With free talks from plant and insect experts, you’re sure to find some fun things to do while you’re there.