Now, spring and summertime is when most folks who have a penchant for gardening do their planting. Even if you have a not-so-green thumb, it never hurts to try and grow a tomato plant or two - it's a can't miss in our part of the country.
For many of us these days, getting plants means heading to the local Home Depot to grab whatever plantings they happen to be pushing. Now, there's nothing wrong with buying plants at Home Depot - they're perfectly fine and I go there quite often. But there are lots of plants that do well in San Diego besides marigolds and petunias. That's when a trip to your local nursery is in order.
Heading to your local neighborhood nursery and garden center is an eye-opening experience if you haven't been to one lately. These are the places to go to when you want to find that uncommon plant, or even just that unique herb for your herb garden. Best of all, the employees at these nurseries are extremely helpful and know their stuff. If you have questions, these nurseries are the places to go.
Here are a few of what I've found to be the best nurseries in San Diego County. It is not definitive - just places where I frequent or have found to have an interesting selection of plants and supplies.
Walter Andersen Nursery
In my mind, Walter Andersen Nursery is the top of the manure heap, so to speak. And that's a compliment. Located in the Midway District near the Sports Arena, Walter Andersen has been in business over 70 years, a venerable institution. A fine, extensive selection of plants, you're bound to find what you're looking for. And if you can't, their extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff can help you find it. Check out their selection of tropical plants and flowers. They also have a location in Poway.
Mission Hills Nursery
My second favorite nursery...a very close second. This cozy nursery is the epitome of the old-style neighborhood nursery - and its San Diego's oldest (since 1910). Located in Mission Hills, one of San Diego's most beautiful old neighborhoods, Mission Hills Nursery is a great place to just look at plants. Or as they say, where the "unusual is the usual." When you're done, stroll through the stately neighborhood. My guess is they've supplied the plants for the majority of the manicured yards in the neighborhood.
Simpson's Garden Town Nursery
If you need to keep the hubby occupied while you search for plants, then Simpson's Garden Town Nursery is the place to go. This sprawling nursery in Jamul is unique because along with acres of plants and garden supplies, it houses an impressive array of classic cars in the Auto Barns on the property. Not sure whether the attraction is the plant selection or the hot rods, but Simpson's makes gardening a fun outing.
If you love tuberous begonias, then Weidner's Gardens is the place to go. They also have other popular flowers inlcuding fuschias, hydrangeas and impatiens, but begonias are their specialty. Take a walk through their greenhouses and just take in all the colors.
Not exactly your neighborhood nursery, Evergreen Nursery (four locations) is San Diego's largest wholesale nursery open to the public. If you need a full-grown palm tree, or dozens of shrubs, Evergreen is the place to go. Just drive your vehicle right on the lot and down the rows to pick up your plants.
Grangetto's Farm and Garden Supply
Not exactly a nursery, Grangetto's Farm and Garden Supply (4 locations) is a good place if you need to pick up gardening supplies. Whether it's tools, fertilizers, or irrigation supplies, Grangetto's is the place to go for knowledgeable advice, especially if you are a serious grower and farmer.
Armstrong Garden Centers
If any old-timers remember the local Nurseryland chain, then the Armstrong Garden Centers will probably seem familiar, since that's what they once were formerly. The great thing about Armstrong Garden Center locations is that their grounds nice and compact, with nice plant choices and varieties and never overwhelming, like nurseries can sometimes get. And the nursery staff is always very friendly. There are seven locations in San Diego County (Morena, Mission Valley, El Cajon, Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside).
Summers Past Farms
This herbal garden and nursery was suggested by a reader who was trying to remember where it was from a previous visit. Located off I-8 past El Cajon in Flinn Springs, this garden features workshops, classes and other country-oriented gardening specialties.
This nursery, located in Lemon Grove, has a large selection of roses and trees along with its large selection of bedding plants. Hunter's is a family owned nursery, has been at its Lemon Grove/Spring Valley location forever, and has a real knowledgeable staff. 3110 Sweetwater Rd, Lemon Grove CA 91945, (619) 463-9341
Village Nurseries caters to landscape contractors, retailers and wholesalers, but the general public is welcome to its growing grounds, which sell a wide variety of plants. It's a good place to find a variety of trees, ornamental grasses, as well as some not-so-common bedding plants. 4343 Carmel Valley Rd, San Diego, 92130, (858) 481-1140. Other locations in Escondido and Pauma Valley.