I’ve been on the mailing list for Annie’s Annuals for years. Her catalogs would faithfully arrive and I’d thumb through them. I get a LOT of catalogs. But Annie’s for some reason always lured me away from whatever I was doing at the moment and into her unique style of selling me on everything she had to offer. For a long time, I never even knew where she was based. I’d just peruse the pages, admiring her perky look and cute smile. Oh yeah, and the plants looked great too.
Truth be told, I never ordered anything from her. But I always liked seeing what she had and felt that if I ever did sit down long enough to actually design my garden, I’d be sure to get many of my plants from her.
Fast forward to 2010. Associate Producer, Theresa Loe and I are planning out our episode lineup for season one. Our brainstorming session quickly revealed a number of star-studded ideas: the White House victory garden, The Rodale Institute, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Phipps Conservatory, Monticello…Annie’s Annuals.
Annie’s Annuals??? I couldn’t help reveal my look of confusion when Theresa offered her enthusiastic suggestion. “You obviously feel strongly about this one”; I remarked inquisitively. “OH YES”; she exclaimed. So rather than try to recount her sales pitch to me, I’ll let Theresa pick up the story from here…
Hold on Joe! I will take it from here. Let ME tell the story! Listen folks, this is how it went down.
Joe was on the fence about Annie’s, but I’ve been a devoted mail order customer for years. In fact, one year I even rented a mobile home and packed up members of my family to make a 400-mile pilgrimage to Annie’s! I wanted to see it in person and fill the big luggage compartments of the mobile home with plants. And fill them we did – tray after tray of plants! We attended their yearly spring party (games, lectures, prizes) and Annie Hayes herself couldn’t believe that we drove all the way from Los Angeles just to see her place in person. It took us two days to drive home, with numerous stops along the way to water our “cargo”, but it was worth it. THAT is how wonderful this place is.
So this is what I said to Joe to convince him:
“Listen Joe, nurseries like this one are a dying breed. We need to support them and show our viewers what they have to offer! What is that exactly? Well…
1) Annie’s is dedicated to saving heirloom plants from extinction. They go out of their way to track down seed, propagate those plants and share them with the world. They feel that they are helping to preserve genetic diversity.
2) They grow almost everything from seed when most nurseries use plugs. By doing this, they are able to offer plants that no other nursery can offer.
3) They trial 1000’s of plants from all over the world to find the most unusual and cool species out there. Many of these plants have never been grown in the trade (EVER!).
4) They sell their plants in the “green state” which means that they are NOT in bloom when we buy them. This way, the performance is at home – not in the pot sitting on the nursery shelf.
5) They never spray their plants with growth hormones (which many mainstream growers do to promote shelf life). Because of this, the plants really take off the minute you put them in the ground.
6) The plants are grown outside, exposed to all the elements, which means they are tough as nails. No sissy greenhouse plants here!
7) Annie’s gives back to the community. When plants outgrow their 4” pots, they don’t transplant them to larger pots. Instead, they give them to local schools and youth organizations in the area. Many children have been introduced to the joys of gardening because of Annie’s.
8)They are GREEN. Annie’s uses biodegradable plant tags and 100% biodegradable packing and shipping material. They separate their nursery waste and send green material out to be composted (they don’t have room to compost on site). Old potting soil that is still viable is donated or given away rather than thrown out.
So, you see Joe? If Annie’s Annuals and Perennials doesn’t fit the GGW mold of a “person, place or organization that gives back to the earth through gardening and eco-friendly practices” – Well, then – I don’t know who does!!!
(Whew! Hold on a minute while I catch my breath…”)
So as you can see, did I really have a choice? With such a whole-hearted endorsement, I knew we’d be paying Annie a visit. And it was everything Theresa said it would be and more. In spite of the incredibly cold, wet and windy day, it was nothing but sunshine when you’re around petite Annie and her peeps. Everyone there shares her contagious enthusiasm for plants. And I loved her carefree, happy-go-lucky attitude. Where many guests who are about to be featured on national television might be hiding out somewhere warm and dry, primping to perfection, Annie was doing what she does best; digging in the dirt and tending to her thousands of plants, all in mere four-inch pots. This was our kind of gardener! Replete with smudges of dirt on her cheek and floppy sweater cap, Annie and I talked shop while the cameras listened in.
Our day ended even better than it started. With a large contingency of social media gurus residing nearby, we toasted the wrap with a tweet up which included plenty of chips, salsa, margaritas, beer and lots of laughter. The work hard, play hard mantra is obviously alive and well at Annie’s and we were thrilled to be there to help tell their wonderful story.
Joe’s Note: There’s another part of Annie’s you should know about that makes her story even richer. But In order to give it the appropriate recognition, I’ve written another entry that appears as a separate post “Annie’s Annuals-Sowing More than Just Seeds.