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Floorcraft Garden Center / Flora Grubb Gardens

Resources for your urban refuge San Francisco

In a city shrouded in fog for most of the year, rare sunny days bring San Franciscans outdoors in droves. Kicking back in your yard or on a back porch is a great way to escape the heat and noise of the dirty city streets. And though lounging in a backyard is lovely, being faced with tall weeds or a sad barren porch may drive you back inside onto your couch. Fortunately for San Franciscans, Floorcraft Garden Center and Guerrero Street Gardens have the tools, plants and experienced staff with the know-how to get your outside oasis ready for your enjoyment. Whether you are a seasoned green thumb, or a hopeless plant murderer, these two garden centers have everything to get you started.

For over 30 years, the family run Floorcraft Garden Center has made its home at the bottom of Bernal Hill on Bayshore Boulevard. Floorcraft is known for its wide selection of high-quality plants at low prices. Their inventory is rotated weekly, with a fresh stock of foliage on Friday, right before the weekend gardeners show up. Floorcraft has everything that you could possibly need to start your project, from shovels, to soil, to seeds and more.

Floorcraft Garden Center is run by friendly and knowledgeable long-time employees like manger Hazel McDonald, who can help you find what you need and answer your gardening questions. Also, if your plants are plagued by diseases or insects, you can bring in a clipping of your plant and their staff can diagnose your dilemma and suggest safe and organic solutions to remedy the situation.

You can pick up a little red wagon at the entrance and roll it throughout the center as you pick your purchases. Large stacks of bagged peat moss, potting soil, manure and more flank the left side of the space as you walk in. Sections for annuals and perennials, ground cover, shade plants, vegetables and herbs are clearly marked for you to easily spot what you need. As you stroll through their large selection of greenery, you'll find San Francisco favorites such as rich rose-red bougainvilleas in one gallon pots for $10.99-$12.99, and fragrant lemon trees in five gallon pots for $28.99. If you want to take a gamble with your gardening talents, the bargain basement section has plants for sale that may be a little past their prime, but are 50% off their original prices.

Not to be missed before you head inside is the section of Annie's Annuals, with each variety of plant accompanied by a colorful picture and story about its history. This collection of unusual plant varieties is rotated often and includes California natives, old-fashioned plants with colorful pasts tied to wars, marriages, exploration, trade, etc., and heirloom plants such as the popular birdseed poppy, which can come in an assortment of eye-popping reds, pinks and purples for $2.99 for a four inch pot.

Park your wagon near the steps to the checkout center where the staff will write up your orders before you walk in to pay. Before you go, peruse the array of hanging indoor plants, redwood planters, clay pots, tools and seeds. Don't forget to buy a must-have for San Francisco gardeners, Sluggo Slug and Snail Bait, costing from $7.99 for small can to $23.99 for a large can, which will stop these slowly marauding hordes from destroying your garden without harming your pets or wildlife.

For the slightly more exotic, take a trip over to Flora Grubb Gardens, located at 1634 Jerrold Ave. You'll be inspired as you wander the meandering paths, surrounded by organic vegetable starters, California native grasses, and a collection of cactus, interspersed with Moroccan mosaic tables, Vietnamese pottery, and hand-forged iron trellises.

Flora Grubb Gardens is run with the simple philosophy of selling the right plant for the right place -- they do not sell any plants that will not work in San Francisco.

According to owner Flora Grubb, most walk-in customers come in with specific requests, often looking for plants that can withstand problems common to our city, such as yards with too much shade from neighboring buildings and too much sun or wind. For these problems, Flora suggests plants from countries with similar climate conditions such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. For example, the sweetly scented bright yellow snowy river wattle acacia from Australia for $36.00 can thrive in a windy and sunny yard.

Inexperienced gardeners often worry about when and how much to water. Succulents are good for beginners because they do not need a lot of attention, such as the Pig's Ear, with flat gray-green leaves and clusters of orange bell shaped flowers when in bloom for only $3.00.

For city dwellers that aren't lucky enough to have a sizeable yard or find themselves moving often, container planting is a good option. You can pot lavenders, such as the beardtongue, which hummingbirds love, or the more common lacy lavender ($8.00 for either variety), in large containers to brighten up a small outdoor area. To maximize limited spaces, Flora recommends vertical plants such as the hardy bamboo, which can range in price from $12.00 to $450.00.

Flora Grubb Gardens also provides consulting and maintenance services for those who are ready to take the next step in garden design.

Whichever location you choose to visit, don't hesitate to consult the staff. They'll be able to assess your growing environment and suggest plants, tips and techniques so you can grow a more beautiful and healthy garden that you can relax in as a break away from the frenzied pace of life in the city.