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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 25th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 16 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 16

Manzanita Nursery in Solvang specializes in native drought-resistant plants and trees


The small emerald leaves of the yerba buena plant smell like a cup of delicious mint tea. The aromatic shrub, which translates from Spanish to English as “good herb,” is one of hundreds of native plants for sale at Manzanita Nursery in Solvang.

Assistant manager Nick Giese showed off the nursery’s living wares—a colorful patchwork of succulents large and small, whirled lavender, brightly colored penstemon, soothing sage, and, of course, Manzanita trees—to the Sun on a recent afternoon tour.

The brainchild of Ron and Diane Griffin, Manzanita Nursery specializes in drought-resistant native plants and some Mediterranean varieties. These kinds of plants are becoming increasingly popular for both private and commercial landscaping now that California is facing one of the most severe droughts on record.

Manzanita Nursery offers a wide variety of California-grown plants from which to choose, including succulents and cacti.

Giese said most customers who step through the nursery’s gates know they want to create a yard that cuts down on water usage, but they’re not always sure what that will look like.

“I usually start with these questions: ‘What colors do you like?’ ‘How big do you want to go?’ and ‘Where do you want to plant it?’” he said. “I like to narrow it down and solve the puzzle.”

A large portion of the nursery’s plants are grown from seeds collected in the employees’ own backyards or at local beaches and open space.

“It helps promote genetic diversity rather than just cloning a clone of a clone,” said Giese, who is also involved in restoring native habitats for local landscaping companies and wilderness organizations.

For the yard, Giese suggested using at least 2 inches of mulch; he recommended nutrient-rich mulch from the county dump (“I’ve used it since I was a kid and I swear by it,” he said).

This spiky echium gem is called “Big Blue.”

Mulch, Giese explained, “mats down and prevents weeds from growing up from the ground, so the only weeds you get blow in on the top and are easier to pick because the roots are shallow.”

He also recommended using drip irrigation, but said it’s important to make sure that all of the plants on the line have the same water requirements so the system isn’t overtaxed.

Native plants, he said, are a great option for local yards because they’re hardier than most other plants and “you can beat them up a little bit.”

For example, unlike typical lawn grasses, which have a very shallow root system, the roots of native bunch grass can grow as long as six feet.

“That means they have the potential to tap into the groundwater, or at least whatever moisture is left in the ground,” Giese said. “I don’t even water some of the plants at my house.”

Nick Giese, assistant manager of Manzanita Nursery in Solvang, recently took the Sun on a tour of the nursery’s colorful, native-plant-packed grounds.

The nursery also carries two locally published books, Native Plants for the Garden and Reimagining the California Lawn, which offer a breadth of landscaping knowledge for homeowners looking to change things up.

“We know a lot of the people who took pictures for those books and even the authors,” Giese said.

Whether you call Lompoc’s cool climate and sandy soil home or live in the hotter, sunnier Santa Ynez Valley, Manzanita Nursery has something for everyone.

How to get there

Manzanita Nursery is located at 880 Chalkhill Road in Solvang. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays by appointment. For more information, call 688-9692.

Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at

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