The Real Value In Buying Locally Grown Plants

Healdsburg Nursery educates as well as informs with their plant identification tags

By Michael Skurtun, Healdsburg Nursery

In today’s economy it seems that every dollar becomes harder to hang on to or to spend efficiently. I find myself thinking through and weighing some of the most seemingly simple and inexpensive purchases.

What I hope to learn in the process is not to jump at price without thoroughly examining the product. To me, this is where real value is determined. I don’t want to be caught in that cliché of being “penny wise and dollar foolish.”

This especially applies to buying plants because they are living entities. Starting with a healthy plant, regardless of its size, is one of the keys to successful gardening. Although not all varieties are locally available, buying plants that were propagated or grown in Sonoma County from a very young age is a good way to get started.

For the most part, locally grown plants are acclimated to our climate. As a result they generally do well here and are in sync with our seasons.

Buying too soon…

A classic example of purchasing plants by price is going to a “Big Box” center that sells nursery stock. It’s early March and we are experiencing a classic Sonoma County “false spring”. The sun is out, it’s 60+ degrees and we have a touch of cabin fever so we go out to look at plants. It feels like gardening season has arrived and we’re anxious to get started. The “Big Box” Center has a Bougainvillea in full bloom. There are perennials, annuals and even vegetable starts that look ready to plant so we spend a nice chunk of that ever-so-valuable dollar, load our vehicle and head home in anticipation.

Little do we know that these fresh looking, beautiful plants have recently arrived from a completely different climate that is much milder than ours, most likely somewhere in Southern California, and have only been out of the greenhouse for a matter of days.

Sooner or later we get back to our normal weather pattern. It starts to rain again, temperatures dip and guess what happens to those fresh, beautiful looking plants from out of our area?

Empire Nursery on Santa Rosa grows much of their stock on-site

Unfortunately, they either die or suffer so much that they never fully recover. Yes, the “Big Box” has a policy to replace your dead plants, but they can’t replace your time and labor, and they can’t make up for your disappointment. To make matters worse, ahead lies considerably more work in removing and disposing of these fatalities just to get back to your original starting point.

Foreign invaders…

Another and even greater issue is that of pest control. In the State of California, virtually every County, including Sonoma, (you and I, the tax payers), spend millions of dollars annually in attempting to control the interstate transportation of pests such as the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter and the Light Brown Apple Moth. These pests pose a serious threat to Sonoma County’s number-one industry, agriculture.

Buckeye Nursery in Petaluma specializes in California Natives

Both of these pests, as well as numerous others, have been introduced to Sonoma County from other regions of the State. The most common form of transportation is via nursery stock. All plants that are to be transported outside of their region of origin are inspected upon leaving and upon arrival in Sonoma County. As outstanding a job as our County inspectors do, pests in one form or another continue to slip through the cracks and land here safely.

And it’s not just insects. Diseases also travel on plants from molds and fungus on leaves and in potting soil. Once you import these into your yard, you’ve introduced the potential of putting your existing plants and future new introductions at risk as well.


The local advantage…

Not all plants can be obtained that were locally grown, but the next best thing is to buy from local nurseries that grow at least a potion of their own stock and buy the vast majority of remaining nursery stock from within Sonoma County. Plants that are raised and grown locally are naturally adapted to our weather patterns, and any pests or diseases they may carry are more readily controlled with minimal use of pesticides. This protects our environment and allows you to nurture your plants with minimum or no chemicals.  Locally grown plants also don’t have to travel far from growers to nurseries, so they don’t suffer from shock, drastically different light conditions or temperature variations.

R-Trees in Santa Rosa specializes in trees and shrubbery

Keeping your hard-earned money within our home community also helps in every way, and you may be getting tired of hearing it, but it’s worth repeating. Taking care of our home from the environment to the economy is part of maintaining what we all treasure…Sonoma County.

Finding local resources….

The Nursery Tour & Gardener’s Resource Guide provided in the center of this publication is a valuable tool to help you achieve the multiple goals of protecting our environment, getting plants in season and adapted to our climate, as well as supporting our local economy.  From plant resources to landscape materials and landscapers/gardeners, it’s easy for you to garden with Sonoma County resources.


Michael Skurtun has been a Licensed Landscape Contractor in Sonoma County since 1974. He specialized in custom residential landscapes including design, plant installation as well as all phases of “hardscaping”. After almost 25 years of landscaping, Michael opened Healdsburg Nursery in 1991. He sometimes misses the variety of the many different facets of landscaping but continues to enjoy working with customers, and of course plants. Because Healdsburg Nursery offers a free landscape consultation service with the understanding that the clients will purchase the plants from his nursery, Michael continues to stay active in the landscaping field.

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