For years, Angela Pratt had dreamed of having her own urban nursery, an oasis in the city where like-minded gardeners could come together and immerse themselves in Sacramento horticulture.
They could talk about the latest edibles and ornamentals, refine skills, meet new friends – and take home some really cool plants.
“That’s what I always wanted; it’s a longtime dream of mine,” Pratt said. “I turned 50 in July and decided if I’m ever going to do it, I’d better do it now.”
The result is the Plant Foundry, Sacramento’s newest destination nursery. Located in a former gas station/tire shop on Broadway, the new nursery/garden store is the first to serve its Oak Park neighborhood in recent memory.
“This site was used for different automotive things over the years,” Pratt said. “It feels funky and retro, but I’m used to that.”
Celebrating its holiday grand opening last week, the nursery’s 12,000-square-foot site is part of the Broadway Triangle complex under development by Ron Vrilakas. The Triangle’s main buildings are across the street. Now filled with seven varieties of Christmas trees as well as hundreds of growing plants, the nursery sits like a little park between two neighborhood draws: Old Soul Coffee at Forty Acres and Oak Park Brewery.
“I love this neighborhood,” she said. “Its transformation is really exciting.”
Pratt is a familiar face to many local gardeners. She worked part-time at Talini’s Nursery in East Sacramento while also working at the downtown Sacramento library. While library benefits were good, she longed to be surrounded by plants all day long. So for two years, she methodically researched what it would take to make her nursery dream grow.
For her project, she scouted midtown and other neighborhoods when a friend suggested Oak Park.
“It was very frustrating, looking for a place that had a mix of indoor and outdoor space plus parking,” she said. “There’s not many places like that in midtown, but this site has everything – and lots of free (street) parking. Plus it’s really close to downtown, midtown, Land Park, Curtis Park, East Sac and Tahoe Park.”
The Plant Foundry could fill a gap for Sacramento gardeners, who have seen area full-service nurseries gravitate to the suburbs. The 2012 closure of Capital Nursery on Freeport Boulevard left no centrally located source for live plants, supplies and expert advice.
“Urban agriculture now is huge, especially in Oak Park,” she said. “People still have space to garden in this neighborhood. They’re interested in growing food and a lot more.”
Pratt envisions the Plant Foundry as more than a place to pick up seeds and transplants, but as an inspirational source for newbie as well as longtime gardeners.
To glean ideas for her own place, Pratt, a self-described “nursery hopper,” visited several destination nurseries scattered throughout California and Oregon. All had places for folks to relax.
At the Plant Foundry, colorful French bistro tables and chairs invite visitors to sit amid the flora, perhaps enjoy a cup of coffee from next door. Free Wi-Fi and possible food vendors are coming soon.
For suppliers, Pratt sought out several of her personal favorites. For example, Plant Foundry opens with dozens of hard-to-find perennials from Annie’s Annuals.
“I’m an Annie’s fanatic,” Pratt said. “We have several really cool plants from Annie’s – such as her tree dahlias, Mexican milkweed and heirloom sweet peas – with more on the way.”
A cook as well as gardener, Pratt stocked several unusual “really fun edible plants” such as red-stemmed yu choy sum (a Chinese flowering cabbage, great for stir-fry) and Australian finger limes (nicknamed “citrus caviar”).
She brought in rare Asian vegetables and herbs from Sweetwater Organics; eye-catching succulents from Monterey Bay Nursery and Geffray’s Garden; dwarf citrus from Four Winds Nursery; blueberries and bare-root fruit trees from Dave Wilson Nursery; Arboretum All-Star drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials; and organic seeds from Peaceful Valley. Pratt also stocked certified organic fertilizers, soils and amendments.
“Everything’s organic because – why not?” she said. “I also tried to stock mostly drought-tolerant plants. I’m trying to walk the walk. As long as we’re in this drought, I won’t be selling Japanese maples and hydrangeas.”
In addition, the Plant Foundry’s garden store is packed with hand-crafted pottery, garden-inspired jewelry, botanical books and gift ideas.
As her nursery grows, Pratt plans to host gardening classes for all ages plus garden crafts for kids.
“I’m already seeing young couples with their children stop by and look around,” she said. “This is the kind of place that makes me happy, and I hope it makes other people happy, too.”
The Plant Foundry
What: Urban nursery and garden store
Where: 3500 Broadway, Sacramento
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Mondays and holidays.
Details: 916-917-5787, www.plantfoundry.com