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Australian Native Plants Nursery

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For just a two-hour drive up the coast, we ended up covering a lot of continents on Tuesday, botanically speaking, of course. Australia and especially South Africa were well represented.
This was a much-anticipated trip to Jo O’Connell’s Australian Native Plants Nursery in Ventura County, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it flabbergasted. Local nurseries are getting fairly good selections now of some of the Mediterranean plants she carries, especially the South African shrubs like leucadendron, but you have to make the trip to Jo’s nursery to experience that peculiar, out-of-body sensation familiar to plant-mad people when surrounded by unfamiliar, intensely desirable plants. Like the gentian-blue Lechenaultia biloba. And so many kinds of banksia, grevillea, leucospermum and protea that never make it to our local nurseries.

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Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’
A one-gallon rode back home with us. I’ll keep this potential 12-footer in a container. To maintain the texture and silvery-blue color to the juvenile leaves, do as the florists do and cut it back hard every few years.

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Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’

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Xanthorrhoea.

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South African bulb Scadoxus natalensis

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I didn’t grab the name, but possibly Banksia cuneata


This nursery is one of my favorite kind, a grower that allows visitors to peek into propagation houses, ask questions, and drive off with new-found treasures. I limited myself this trip just to the eucalyptus and a brachysema, now known as Gastrolobium sericeum ‘Black Form,’ with flowers as dark as a Zwartkop aeonium. I’ll leave the corgi at home next time to make more room for plants.

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Gastrolobium sericeum ‘Black Form’


Check the website for the most convenient days to visit and always call ahead so you won’t miss the opportunity to meet Jo, who is as nice as she is knowledgeable. Even though she was busy with the spring tasks of moving tender plants out from under covers, she always kindly hovered nearby to answer any questions. (Are all Australians this friendly and approachable?) Tucked in tight against the hillside, temps in her particular microclimate dip down into the teens, and many of these plants can’t be grown safely unprotected through winter at the nursery. I asked if there were any local gardens where I could see some of these plants grown, and Jo said there was a garden she had been supplying plants to for 20 years, the Taft garden, a few miles away. I’ll get some photos up on the Taft hopefully over the weekend.

9 comments to Australian Native Plants Nursery

  • I must go there now!!! Or at least the next time we’re in the LA area visiting the brother in law and fam. Thanks for the tip, and eagerly awaiting the Taft photos…

  • O my, sounds like a must-visit. No yellow Leucospermums, by any chance?

  • David Feix

    Jo’s contribution at the Taft garden is phenomenal, that garden blew me when I saw it back in the late 90’s. Is the garden again open to the public? I picked up that same Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ today for a client’s garden, along with a Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’. It’s been tough to find Leucadendrons in larger sizes this winter, I guess that freeze back in early December set back availability here in northern California.

  • I’m already in love with that ‘Peaches & Cream’ Grevillea!

  • Denise

    Loree, yes, you must! And so must I again!
    Hoov, you have a memory like an elephant! I’ve already settled for an orange one, ‘Sunrise.’
    David, I was looking for just the opposite, smaller sizes, and Jo tends to carry the larger landscaping sizes. I did find out a bit about the Taft. Keep reading!
    Kris, I know, simply gawgeous.

  • Marg Walters

    Having known Jo for thirty-five years (we live next door to her lovely family near the Blue Mountains outside Sydney), I can say with some authority that she is always friendly and approachable. She has a passion for plants, gardening and the natural world.

  • Denise

    Marg, and that all comes through even in just a short visit with Jo.

  • ks

    Oh my Denise, I have reference called Botanica that I bought many years ago; it’s about the weight of a couple of cinder blocks and 1000 plus pages. Each alphabet letter begins with a full page photo of one of the plants in that section, with no plant name offered. The ‘s’ plant is the Scadoxus you have depicted above. I have been trying to find the name of this plant for at least 10 years. There was an audible gasp as I scrolled down this post. There it was ! The plant in the “s” photo !

  • Denise

    Kathy, I’m so glad the visit to Jo’s nursery helped midwife the birth of scadoxus for you! And S shall forever more be for scadoxus.