Natives galore for your yard

Los Osos Valley Nursery specializes in stocking natives — from both California and South Africa —that do well on the Central Coast

rajuretic@sbcglobal.netMay 15, 2013 

The grounds at Los Osos Valley Nursery are stocked with plenty of natives of all sorts, along with other types of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and edibles.


    WATER WISELY Overwatering is a common problem. To avoid it, invest in an inexpensive moisture meter. Water deeply and less frequently, especially if you are using drip irrigation or sprinklers, or if you have sandy or rocky soil. If you have a yellowing plant, don’t assume it is thirsty. Ask a knowledgeable nursery professional before you pour on the water.

    PROBLEMS WITH PERLITE Avoid buying plants grown in potting soil with more than 30 percent perlite. The material can be hazardous when inhaled. Also, plants grown in this amount of perlite were typically raised in greenhouses with techniques meant to speed growth. Often, they will not do well when transferred into normal growing conditions.

    ANTS ON YOUR PLANTS Keep an eye out for ants on your plants, which usually means you have scale, mealybugs or aphids. Surefire or Volck Oil are Merkle’s favorite ways for getting rid of these pests.

Hope Merkle of Los Osos Valley Nursery touts the many virtues of native plants — but not the natives you might expect.

“So many people come in wanting California natives because they are drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, but South African and Australian natives often do better than our own,” she said. “They are usually prettier, flower more and are hardier.”

Merkle, who manages Los Osos Valley Nursery for her parents, owners Lee and Tish Linsley, has stocked the grounds with plenty of natives of all types, along with other types of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and edibles.

Among their South African plants are the flowering shrub, Leucadendron; Leucospermum, commonly known as pincushion flower; and Protea, with its impressive blooms.

“We carry a lot of Protea because they’re deer-resistant, drought-resistant and absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “It’s useful as a screen or cut flower and has a very tropical look.”

Among the nursery’s Australian natives are the aromatic, flowering shrub Chamelaucium; Grevillea with its brilliant blooms; the blue bell-flowered Sollya; Leptospermum, or teatree; and Banksia with its large, flowering spikes. It carries Boronia, whose pink or purple blooms have traditionally been used as a cut flower. Just recently, it has become popular as a drought-tolerant yard plant.

Among other water-saving plants at the nursery are over 500 varieties of succulents, cacti, bromeliads, and tillandsias (air plants). One of Merkle’s personal favorites is Epiphyllum, or orchid cacti.

“It breaks out in these giant cactus flowers that last for one to two days, but the colors are absolutely incredible — bright, iridescent colors. It’s an epiphenomenon,” quipped Merkle.

Los Osos Valley Nursery specializes in sustainable planting methods. It cares for its plants almost exclusively with chemical-free fertilizers and pest control. When new plants come in, they are inoculated with beneficial bacterial to help them grow better, even after they are taken home and planted.

The nursery is now selling its special blend of organic compost tea that includes kelp, alfalfa, cottonseed, humic acid, four manures, mushroom compost, earthworm castings and 19 beneficial fungi and bacteria. Merkle claims the tea makes plants resistant to sucking insects and diseases, and improves overall health.

“If you have a plant you don’t think is going to make it, come and get some tea and check it out,” she said. “Everything we add to the tea has a special purpose in allowing the plant to grow better naturally.”

Los Osos Valley Nursery offers weekend workshops on a variety of topics including vegetable gardening, creating living walls, and even how to build a raised garden bed out of a discarded wood pallet. Check out its Facebook page for dates and times.

The nursery is located at 301 Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos, 528-5300.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service