The Experts’ Favorite Nurseries

We asked eight East Bay landscapers and horticultural professionals to choose the nurseries they like the best.

The East Bay is a gardener’s dream. The winters are short and mild, spring starts early, and the microclimates are many and varied. Unlike the East Coast or Midwest, or even large parts of the South, gardeners here can grow things nearly all year long. Which leaves only one question: where to get the plants?

We asked eight experts, landscape architects, designers, and gardeners throughout the East Bay for their opinions on the East Bay’s best nurseries. There was a lot of overlap in everyone’s favorites, but here are eleven of the best nurseries from Antioch to Fremont.

Alden Lane Garden Village

980 Alden Lane, Livermore, 925-447-0280.

Recommended by Adrienne Wegner, Livermore landscape designer.

Several of our experts liked Alden Lane. Wegner described it as a wonderful place in a park-like setting under oak trees with a great selection of plants and helpful staff. The store features a notable selection of heirloom and organic vegetables. Wegner also praised the recently updated and remodeled facility and the nursery’s civic-minded owner. She said the nursery holds a number of functions for children and the community, and the owner gives away a small gift to visitors who bring in canned food for donation to low-income households.

Berkeley Horticulture Nursery

1310 McGee Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-4704.

East Bay Nursery

2332 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-6490.

Regan Nursery

4268 Decoto Rd., Fremont, 510-797-3222.

Recommended by Alameda landscape architect Steve Evans, who works with his wife, Katherine.

Evans named a number of nurseries, but said Berkeley Horticulture and East Bay are the two best nurseries in the East Bay “bar none.” Why? Berkeley Horticulture is for people who have an exceptional interest in plants, he explained. It carries lots of common plants, but “at the same time they’re not afraid to push the envelope” by bringing in more unusual plants. While Evans said it’s easy to find common plants like bamboo in most nurseries, Berkeley Horticulture goes above and beyond the expected by including dwarf and giant varieties of different plants. East Bay Nursery is also on the same plane, he said, but carries more of the standard plants Berkeley Horticulture doesn’t always have. “They have all of the regular stuff, plus the diverse things,” he said. The nursery breaks up its plants by zone, and has very knowledgeable staff, he added. Evans also had high marks for Fremont’s Regan Nursery. “They’ve got more roses than anybody,” he said, along with a good selection of Japanese maple and shade stock.

The Dry Garden

6556 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-547-3564.

Recommended by Suzanne Arca, Oakland design build contractor, who teaches at Merritt College and UC Berkeley Extension.

Along with some of the aforementioned nurseries, Arca likes the Dry Garden, which she said “has really cool stuff.” She pops in when she’s looking for a specific grass or succulent, noting of the owner, “He has succulents and grasses that you don’t see anywhere.”

Evergreen Nursery and Garden Supply

350 San Leandro Blvd., San Leandro, 510-632-1522.

Recommended by Jim Hemmann, San Leandro landscape architect.

Hemmann likes this San Leandro nursery’s quality and attention to selecting plants suitable for our Mediterranean-like climate. “They have plants which are generally considered to be pretty hardy,” he said, along with native and drought-resistant varieties.

Magic Gardens Nursery

729 Heinz Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-2351.

(Friday and Saturday sales at Richmond facility at 2121 San Joaquin St.)

Recommended by Marcia Vallier, Richmond landscape architect, principal, Vallier Design Associates.

Vallier likes Magic Gardens for its friendly, helpful staff. “They take whatever time you need, they’ll walk you through and walk you around,” she said. The staff is great both for less-knowledgeable novice gardeners and for professionals, she said. She also praised the variety of plants and unusual plants — such as kangaroo paws — this nursery carries, and the selection of small garden trees and grasses.

McDonnell Nursery

196 Moraga Way, Orinda, 925-254-3713.

Orchard Nursery and Florist

4010 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, 925-284-4474.

Recommended by Patrice Hanlon, garden director at the Gardens at Heather Farms in Concord.

The independently owned Orchard is a good pick for its beautiful demonstration gardens and knowledgeable staff, Hanlon said. She likes McDonnell, where she teaches a workshop on composting, for its openness to pest control beyond chemicals. Both nurseries carry a good selection of specialty plants and have knowledgeable staff with a very low turnover rate, she said. “The people in these nurseries are committed to being nurserymen or nurserywomen. You get a different knowledge base from people working in those nurseries.” Both of these have a good selection of plants that do well in the East Bay’s many microclimates, and in Contra Costa County’s hot summers, she said. Gardeners in Contra Costa have a variety of soils and temperatures to work with, and these nurseries know how to help them deal with that, she said.

Morgan’s Home and Garden Center

2555 E. 18th St., Antioch, 925-755-7600.

Recommended by Jeannie Horak, Antioch landscape designer and owner of Concepts for the Garden.

Horak recommends Morgan’s to her clients. She likes the nursery’s innovative layout: waterfalls, a paved path, and demonstration gardens. The demonstrations are colorful and full of texture, she said. Horak praised this nursery’s knowledgeable staff and described them as, “as helpful as can be. They show you plant combinations so that you can get the look you see in Sunset magazine or the other garden books.” The nursery also offers unusual plants and many hard-to-find plants, along with large slabs of decorative rock: “You definitely won’t walk out of there without anything,” Horak said. “You will have something in your hand.”

Yabusaki’s Dwight Way Nursery

1001 Dwight Way, Berkeley, 510-845-6261.

Recommended by Sarah Gronquist, Berkeley landscape designer at Charles McCulloch and Associates.

Gronquist recommends Dwight Way Nursery for its good selection of bonsai plants and conifers. “They’re not as big as the other ones everybody loves, but they’re nice and have a few unusual things,” she said of the nursery. For instance, the last time she was there she wound up purchasing a weeping blue atlas cedar: “It was a nice specimen at a good price.”

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