HALF MOON BAY — Why would you drive a couple of hours out of your way to visit a nursery?
For starters you won’t find orchids at Home Depot, a robust collection of California nature plants at your local nursery or even carnivorous plants.
You will find specialty nurseries for each as well as much more including an aquaponics nursery as part of the Pastorino Farms collective of artisan nurseries located just two miles out of Half Moon Bay along Highway 92.
What drew me to Pastorino Farms was Cynthia’s desire to find a specific purplish succulent she had seen during a quick stop at 92 Succulents on a previous trip to the coast.
I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to be impressed. But once I pulled into the parking lot in front of a series of older greenhouses I was like a kid in anticipation outside of a candy store.
What waited was Half Moon Bay Lavender, 92 Succulents, Predator Plants, Ouroboros Farms (aquaponics), Half Moon Bay Orchids, Yerba Buena Nursery (California native plants and ferns), Teak in the Garden (outdoor custom furniture), a floral design, plus Pastorino Nursery – a more whimsical version of a standard nursery.
Before I get too carried away you need to be aware of what you buy to take home. The valley heat and humidity is a lot different than that along the coast. Obviously orchids aren’t outside plants, carnivorous plants can go either way, but plants like lavender are going to be stressed in the valley summer.
That said, the artisan nurseries at Pastorino Farms, are unlike anything you’ll see in this neck of the Central Valley.
First let’s start with my favorite - Yerba Buena Nursery. I have never come across so many native California plants in one place. The staff advises you to drop by every three months as the owner works to make sure the stock reflects what blooms every season in California. They have everything from California native grasses to every conceivable shrub. What will bring me back is the manzanita. They are evergreen shrubs and small trees that feature twisty red-barked branches that bloom in winter that produces berries in spring and summer. Bees and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers while the berries draw larger birds.
Why I love them is simple. They are the only thing on hikes that I can find on trails along the coast as well as high up in the Sierra besides California Golden Poppies. But unlike Poppies were the bloom periods are short and vary widely with the climate zone and elevation, manzanita are year-round and tend to bloom in close proximity of the calendar although those above the snow line are much later bloomers.
The other reason is manzanita is abundant in the rolling foothills outside of Lincoln where I grew up. My parents as well as three generations on my mother’s side are buried in a cemetery north of town aptly named Manzanita Cemetery. After my dad sold his share in Wyatt’s Hardware and went to work as superintendent of the Lincoln Cemetery District I tagged along on his Saturday rounds to the Lincoln, Sheridan and Manzanita cemeteries as a young kid. The cemetery which did not have grass was surrounded by manzanita and dotted with stately valley oaks as well as manzanita that had grown as high as 20 feet.
The manzanita was never watered in the summer. That’s why it is a great plant for a drought resistant yard while at the same time being well versed as a true four-season California native plant.
Virtually everything at Yerba Buena nursery is drought-tolerant because of that. And just like their artisan neighbors, they grow all of their plants.
They are constantly updated their offerings on their website (www.yerbabuenanursery.com) and suggest you browse it before visiting to get an idea of what you might like. They are open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed Sundays and Mondays.
To be honest, simply walking through the various artisan nurseries is worth the trip.
When it comes to succulents, 92 Succulents won’t disappoint. They even have a potting bench for you to use.
They are open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Teak in the Garden is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. only on Saturdays and Sundays. The gentleman who builds the garden furniture is the one manning the venue. Teak in the Garden can be reached by calling (650) 726-7160.
Ouroboros Farms is one of the largest commercial aquatic farms in the nation. It is a system of growing plants in the water that has been used to cultivate aquatic organisms. Basically aquaponics farming combines aquaculture or the system of growing fish with hydroponics that is a system of growing plants without soil.
They sell fresh aquaponics produce on site as well as supply a number of Bay Area restaurants. They also offer public and private tours and classes as delineated on their website.
The location on Highway 92 is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Predatory Plants is a must see. It is owned by Joshua Brown who has been fascinated by carnivorous plants since one was part of his seventh grader science project. A human biology major from Stanford, he was part of a Silicon Valley startup who decided he was ready to turn his hobby into a business and share his passion for carnivorous plants with the world.
For information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (650) 720-5195.
Half Moon Bay Lavender is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as is Half Moon Bay Orchids. Both are more than reasonably priced and offer a wealth of information about their specialties as well as a wide variety of offerings to purchase.
Pastorino Nursery is open year round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; it offers a coastal twist on a unique standard nursery with a number of whimsical touches to entertain kids.
Obviously if you are in the hunt to buy and you want to make a day of it, first you can either hit one of the low key state beaches near Half Moon Bay and then enjoy lunch at a wide variety of dining options that include some typical fast food options in town if that’s your gig or a number of interesting boutique restaurant offerings.
The drive to Half Moon Bay is pretty straightforward. Take Interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass, get on Highway 92 and cross the San Mateo Bridge ($6 toll) and keep on Highway 92 until you reach Half Moon Bay.
The collection of artisan nurseries are just two miles before you get to Half Moon Bay on the left side of the highway in the 12000 block.