Drought Tolerant Plants For North Valley

This list is meant to assist you in choosing the right plants for a water-wise landscape and garden. Many of plants listed below have flowers that will attract bees, beneficial insects, and hummingbirds to your yard. Take note that this is not a complete list of all drought tolerant plants, but a comprehensive list of drought-tolerant (once established) plants that do well in our area.

Drought Tolerant Perennials for the Sun

Achillea (Yarrow)

Achillea 'Moonshine'

Achillea ‘Moonshine’

Agastache (Anise Hyssop)

Allium spp.

Armeria (Common Thrift)

Coreopsis (Tickseed)

Dianella spp.

Echinacea (Coneflower)



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In Regards to Fall Planting

I’ve always used the rule of thumb that you want to plant things that don’t like the cold in the spring, and others that don’t like the heat in the fall. With the little bit of rain we received last week, and ground has softened a bit so now is the best time for planting Japanese maples and conifers, as well as many other shrubs and trees.
I know we’ve highlighted Japanese Maples in the past, but our stock will be larger and more exciting than it has ever been. Sun tolerant varieties, dwarf shrub types, and elegant cascading selections. The extremely weeping variety Ryusen has green leaves and a prostrate habit that is suited for the edge of containers or cascading over walls. I’ve even seen it used in hanging baskets! Mikawa Yatsubusa is one of the most eye catching varieties you will ever see. With larger green leaves and short internodes on branches that sweep upward, this is one of the most distinguishable maples out there. I know some people may be frustrated with their maples right now due to leaf scorch. The combination of high heat and low humidity make the leaves of the Japanese Maple burn very commonly in the north valley summers. Smaller varieties can be kept in a pot so you can move them into more protection if they show stress. And for sure, larger varieties that will receive more sun stand the best chance when planted in the fall. acer2
We also have a great selection of conifers now at the nursery. We’ve carried conifers from Iseli nursery now for five years and through a lot of trial and error, we have found many varieties that do well in the north state. Without a doubt, placement and soil conditions are very important with all conifers. If you love conifers but have had poor luck, try the varieties of cedar, juniper and cephlotaxus, which seem to be the least finicky of our selection. All other varieties do need special care when planting (use a mix of native soil, compost, and small cinder rock for best results), and extra attention to planting placement. Follow these guidelines (along with a consistent watering schedule), and once the conifer is planted and will become quite low maintenance. Iseli nursery takes incredible pride in hand selecting their parent stocks for nearly forty years and most of their selections are dwarf and slow growing with great natural form without having to prune extensively. While many of the other plants we sell are but a few months old when they are sellable, Iseli conifers are rarely less than five years old, as can be as old as twenty years old for some of the larger specimens. And yes, they are some of the more expensive plants we carry because of this. If you are interested in planting conifers in your yard, feel free to ask a lot of questions to us, for it is everyones best interest here that you have success with all of our plants:)

By the way, we also have a great new selection of camellias, azaleas, and other shrubs that can also be planted now too!
~Chris Hunter, Nursery Owner

A Message from Co-Owner, Chris Hunter

Back in the early 1990’s, I was but a young lad doing grunt work at Hubbard’s West Side Gardens in Chico for the trusted old time garden guru, Herb Hubbard. One of my memories (though not the fondest) was the hundreds and hundreds of roses we would receive bare root every year which we would pot up, organize and sell like hot cakes in the spring. After months of working with roses we would all have battle scars all over our arms from working with the thorny beasts. Now Mr. Hubbard, being the hands on owner that he was, would be right there with us for those long days of potting, and like the rest of us, he could be covered in bandaids at the end of the day. However, what was interesting was that Mr. Hubbard, over the course of 60 years of working with roses, had developed a skin condition that would cause him swell up with dark purple welts at every place he had been pricked. Apparently, after so many years of being punctured by rose thorns, his body had been afflicted with Sporotrichosis, also known as rose pickers disease, and every year he would become more and more scarred and mangled by it. Chrisbus

Now I bring this up because once Courtney and I stepped into the owners shoes and realized that we might be doing this for a long time,we began to think about our exposure to plants and chemicals used in our industry and how they would effect us in the long run, and you might have noticed we’ve never been ones to have a huge selection of roses. I have, however developed nasty rashes that get worse with age from handling different conifers and euphorbias, but my primary concern going forward would be my exposure to the different chemicals that are already on plants when handling them all day.
Though the days of using DDT are thankfully long in the past, the use of new chemicals in our industry may to be at an all time high. The box store mentality of creating product as quick as possible for high turnover leads to growers using amazing amounts of chemicals to create faster growing frankenplants that are irresistible to the consumers eye. Unlike food in this country, there are no regulations on growing the plants we all so love. The use of powerful fertilizers, systemic insecticides, fungicides, and growth regulators are so common in this industry that customers seem to think plants are sick or of poor quality if they aren’t produced that way. While our industry has the facade of being green and beautifying the environment, we are in fact doing immense harm by contaminating our precious water and poisoning the beneficial organisms that indirectly feed us. And It’s all around us, and we are not adored in lab jackets and hazmat suits, yet we are tactilely absorbed in dirt, leaves and flowers all day.
That is why we do our best to not only educate our customers of such things, but it is also why are shifting more and more of our business into growing more natural plants safe for you and us to handle and love for years to come. We use mostly reused pots, fertilize sparingly using mostly organic fertilizer, and never use unnatural pesticides or fungicides or growth regulators on the plants that we grow here. Sometimes our plants will not be completely full or in full bloom, but rest assured, they are good plants that grow well in our temperamental neck of the woods. And you have our word, that these plants will in fact be good for the birds, the bees and all the other beings that are so important to all of us.

August2012 015

What is With the Mushroom?

Magnolia Gift and GardenIf a curiously spotted dome of tangerine orange and golden yellow rising over the wall of the nursery has recently arrested your eye as you approached East Avenue on Mariposa, then let us put your mind at rest. No, the Mothership hasn’t landed. The giant metal mushroom that has arrived on our grounds is a piece of California history. Nursery co-owner Chris Hunter is an avid fan of American Pickers; a discriminating customer well-known to Northstate antique dealers. Artifacts of bygone eras as diverse as wooden spring harrows, suspending hanging plants, or massive parlor doors, setting off lush tropicals in our gift shop, are sprinkled around Magnolia. Additionally, the young (or young at heart) are sure to discover the two brightly colored ladybug cars in our retail display area. After a decade and a remarkable chain of events, these cheery arthropods are about to be reunited with their siblings.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

It all started a few years ago, when Chris saw the iconic bugs appear in a Craigslist advertisement. He contacted the seller, and discovered that they were original cars from a ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, dating back to the 1960’s. Shipped to Paradise to be repainted by a local craftsman, the set, originally numbering six ladybugs and—you guessed it—a giant mushroom, was never paid for or collected. Rather an unwieldy collection to store, the artist attempted to liquidate the ride at a garage sale. Unable to find a buyer for the entire family, he separated the pieces, selling two of the cars to Chris’ contact, who was in turn listing them eight years later.

The yellow and orange beetles found a ready home at the nursery, where children love to hunt for them among the winding paths lined with plants on every visit. But in 2010, a customer recognized the distinctive ladybugs. Coincidentally, her family had purchased the rest of the set at the garage sale. Over the winter, the fate of the siblings was discussed, Chris arranged to buy the remaining pieces. This spring, the original Boardwalk ride will be once again be complete, here on our grounds. Whether it will ever be restored to a functioning merry-go-round is still debatable, but it is certain that this piece of regional history will provide a charmingly original landmark in North Chico for customers of all ages to enjoy. And Chris will continue combing road shows, warehouses, barns and classifieds for strange and unusual antiquities…

Magnolia Gift and Garden

Bee the Change

February 26, 2011
To our customers:

Effective March 1, 2011, Magnolia Gift & Garden will no longer carry Bayer yard care products. Over the past decade, international research has accumulated extensive data to suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to honeybees. Many Bayer formulations contain the systemic chemical Imidacloprid, which falls under this pesticide category. While it has primarily been observed to cause functional handicaps in pollinators, such as impaired navigational ability, reduced foraging activity and disorientation, other insecticides in this group have been directly associated with the death of juvenile bees, ultimately leading to deterioration of the colony. Honeybees have a vital role in agricultural production as well as the biodiversity of native ecosystems, and their continued population decline worldwide has inflicted serious economic loss and environmental damage.

Hemerocallis - Magnolia Gift and Garden

While this information has certainly been a factor in our decision to discontinue the Bayer product line, the primary impetus for this change is that there are simply better alternatives. A landscape must be viewed holistically, and like natural ecological systems, the health or decline of each individual component affects the sum of the parts. Since the nursery was founded in 2008, Magnolia has advocated a systematic approach to plant nutrition, pest and disease control with minimal environmental impact known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This philosophy emphasizes preventative measures, including sanitation and a maintenance schedule which maximizes the vigor and immune function of plants while minimizing risks of infection. Biological controls or concentrates of botanical extracts are applied remedially. As a last resort, precise dosages of selective synthetic products may be utilized to bring a severe infestation back under the threshold of natural management; we will still offer some selective herbicides which do not contain neonicotinoids.

Hellebores - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Preying Mantis - Magnolia Gift and Garden

We do not view this change as a reduction of services to our customers. Rather, we have progressively expanded our inventory of organic fertilizers, soils, and natural pest and disease control measures to continue to meet the needs of the Northstate community. The products we stock are carefully chosen and tested in-house before they appear on our shelves, and we back that with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Agroecological research continues to demonstrate the efficacy of IPM. While a holistic approach may not provide the rapid gratification of a chemical application, it pays dividends over the long-term without the environmental costs of synthetics, such as pest resistance, salt buildup and toxic leaching into the surrounding landscape or groundwater. Our knowledgeable staff are always eager to help you work toward comprehensive landscape health through a combination of sound horticultural practices and proper application of naturally-derived products.

Here’s to a healthier planet,

Magnolia Gift & Garden

Why Quality Pays Off

If you ever visit Magnolia, and find co-owner Chris Hunter in a somewhat petulant mood, don’t take it personally. It just means the north wind has been blowing. Sited as we are on the outskirts of Chico, the nursery frequently takes the brunt of the incoming weather, and in particular, the monotonous weeks of driving wind that often attend Spring and Summer in the Northstate. But despite the fact that our grounds are not enclosed like most franchise garden centers, our plants are far less susceptible to ill-humors than their human caretakers under these harsh conditions. Why this exceptional resilience? Well, that stems from the way we do business.
Hydrangea - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Magnolia Garden Nursery Chico-11

When you pick up a vibrant, healthy plant at Magnolia, know that it was a long line of research and cooperation that delivered it to you. The process begins with selecting wholesale vendors who uphold the highest standards of plant propagation, care, and quality control. Specifically, we choose to support growers who use rich soils, high in organic material, nutrients and beneficial biota; growers who refuse to sell diseased, undernourished or undersized plants, or those which have not yet developed a mature root system. In exchange, we actually pay for our orders up-front. Commercial garden stores are able to undercut privatized competition by contracting with wholesalers that agree to not receive compensation until the item sells. This pressures the grower to sacrifice quality for volume, in order to offset the high loss to income ratio. It also is a disincentive to the retailer to reject inferior stock; if it dies before it is purchased, they lose nothing, allowing them to maintain an artificially low overhead. We choose to develop a personal, mutually-beneficial relationship with our growers instead, and to pass the advantage of access to high quality products on to our patrons.

The next step is to carefully select the cultivars of plants grown by these vendors which will thrive in our Mediterranean climate, and still be hardy to the frosts of winter. Our employees spend hours pouring over availability lists, looking for standout traits like disease resistance, drought tolerance, wind resilience or fruit quality before placing an order. Even the ordering process itself requires a great deal of forethought. When sourcing from vendors located in coastal areas, we make sure that the plants will arrive in plenty of time to acclimate to our more arid zone before the heat of summer arrives. This presents not only a logistic challenge, but it has cost us sales on more than one occasion. For instance, when a customer requests a specimen that is only available from a wholesaler in the Bay Area in July, we will be forced to defer that order until Autumn because we take our responsibility to serve the customer by providing the best product possible seriously. Once the plants do arrive on our grounds, we place them in a display zone in the nursery that mimics their appropriate growing conditions in a landscape, so that you receive a specimen that is vigorous and holistically-adapted to flourish in your yard.

Because of the diligent care that goes into the plants in our inventory, from shoot to mature specimen, we have no reservations about encouraging customers to plant throughout Summer, provided that a few sound horticultural practices are adhered to. Your new landscape addition should never be placed in a location where it will receive greater sun exposure than it was on our grounds. While many species are able to acclimate to marginal exposures over time, hold off on experimentation until the Fall. Soil preparation, while always important, is absolutely critical to setting your plant up for success during the warm season. Humus-rich blends, such as our Greenall Soil Booster or E.B.Stone Organic Rose Grow Planting Mix, will retain nutrients, hold moisture, and encourage healthy drainage and aeration. To suppress weed competition, keep the root zone cooler and minimize evaporative water loss on the surface, mulching around the base of your new plant is essential. Our favorite product for this is Greenall Fir Mulch; light and non-splintery, it will also break down slowly to enrich the soil. Lastly, automatic irrigation appropriate to the installation is key to ensuring that your landscape investment pays off.

Now that’s why quality pays off.


Hit the Bottle

Already a top-shelf destination for gorgeous imported pottery, Magnolia has been expanding its selection of container trimmings. Bottles—decorative mulches made from 100% recycled, tumbled bottle glass, that is.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

An eye-catching display on the nursery grounds featuring a river of azure and turquoise glass winding through a xeriscape of sedum was such a favorite with customers last year that our modest offering of colors and sizes was outstripped by demand. The nursery soon made full-fledged foray into decorative mulches, and now offers 15 different recycled glass options, 12 kinds of gravel and rock, and several unique choices of glazed pottery shards to add resilient, year-around color to any container garden or planting bed. Large glass nuggets also make striking filler for patio fire bowls, while finer mulches accent many of the fountain basins on the nursery grounds. Sustainable and beautiful, recycled glass provides extremely durable weed suppression and water retention, but has enough heft to reduce shifting or erosion by wind and water.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

A Magnolia exclusive, glazed pottery shards make a statement in containers and xeriscapes. Every lot is unique; you may choose from the intricate blue vines and brilliant blooms of a traditional Mexican fragment, or pieces of a drip-finished pot in rich caramel and umber. And if originality is your cup of tea, then you’ll find whimsical fodder for your creative instincts at our container-finishing station. A host of vintage action figures covering genres from Cowboys-and-Indians to Star Wars keep company with the ever-increasing variety of nostalgic treasures that capture nursery co-owner Chris Hunter’s imagination—a smile-inducing touch to any container garden.

Whatever your landscape style, whether you cultivate a sweeping estate or a cozy urban patio, we have what you need to finish your containers in style. So go ahead…hit the bottle.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

Magnolia Gift and Garden

A Touch of the Orient

Among the loveliest landscape specimens in old-town Chico, the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatumcvs.) has become an iconic Oriental accent. With slow, hardy growth and lacy foliage, this diverse species ranges from stooped, gnarled pondside specimens to upright trees perfectly scaled to the urban backyard. Long-lived, these are also invaluable in containers and shaded corners, requiring little pruning and providing brilliant Fall color (green varieties) as well as a striking architectural element in the winter garden. While most of the cultivars available need some shelter from the summer sun in the North Valley, there are several new varieties which tolerate longer exposure.

Emperor One Japanese Maple - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Since its inception, Magnolia has offered an extensive and unusual selection of Japanese Maples. One major division may be made between the many varieties that come through the nursery in a year. Laceleaf-type maples generally exhibit the distinctive mounding, trailing form as they age, and remain fairly small. These are especially well-suited to landscape mounds, rock gardens, water features and patios, where their weeping habit can be unhampered. The finely-cut leaves in shades of red, purple or green are quite sensitive to wind-burn or sun-burn, and the plant should be provided full afternoon shade during the growing season. Prune seldom and selectively—the natural grace of these trees is accentuated by their tiered branches as they mature. Provided well-drained soil rich in organic matter, the laceleaf-type maples require little fertilizer.

The other group of Japanese Maples are the broadleaf-type. These are generally upright, with strong, straight branching patterns, and develop rugged, wizened trunks as they age. These are preferred for small shade trees, not only for their accommodating growth habit, but also because they are considerably hardier to wind and sun stresses. Filtered to full afternoon shade is still recommended during the growing season, but two new cultivars have shown increased resilience under sun exposure. “Emporer One” is a full, vigorous red-leaved variety which has demonstrated the greatest tolerance of the maples with colored foliage.

Though traditionally associated with Oriental gardens, the plethora of modern cultivars has extended the Japanese Maple’s appeal to other landscape styles. Whether you keep a natural woodland garden, or a neatly manicured border of Gardenias and Hostas, these trees add enduring beauty, distinct structural elements and lovely texture to the yard or patio. During the whole month of May, a wide selection of five-gallon Japanese Maples will be on special, so don’t miss this opportunity to bring home a touch of the Orient.

Ace palmatum 'Garnet' Japanese Maples - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Splash of Color from Down Under

One of the winter highlights here at Magnolia is the flowering of our very graceful, very under-rated grevillea shrubs. Originally hailing from Australia, there are over 250 species and varieties of this versatile plant. They vary in size, color and texture, but can be counted on to have slender leaves or needles, and to flower profusely in colorful clusters. The zones they thrive in depend on which species you plant, but the ones we carry are hardy to this area.

Grevillea - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Grevillea is a many faceted shrub with sought after attributes that can be hard to find all in one plant. First, they are drought tolerant. That is, once their roots are developed after a couple of years, they don’t require very much water. In fact, they don’t appreciate summer irrigation. Second, they are evergreen, keeping their leaves year round, with needles ranging in color from deep forest green to a soft grey. Third, they can be planted in a plethora of locations. Full sun is this tough shrubs favorite setting, causing it to cloak itself in brightly colored flowers which come in varying shades of peachy pink to bright fuschia to ruby red. A little shade will not dampen its spirits either. Fourth, because of the cheerful eye-catching, nectar filled flowers, which often appear for two months in winter, hummingbirds flock to these friendly shrubs.

For any tough spot to fill, a grevillea may be the plant that has all the answers. Their root systems will thrive in poor soils, and they can be cold hardy enough to be planted up the Pacific North West, and heat loving enough to go down into the deserts of Southern California. They are from Australia after all!

The only problems the grevilleas tend to have are when they receive too much love. They are the ideal low maintenance shrub, requiring only light applications of low- phosphorous fertilizer, if any. To keep them as cold hardy as possible, harden them off by not watering them in the summer time.

Here’s a peek at the varieties we have brightening up our nursery:

Lava Flow Grevillea
G. juniperina ‘Lava Cascade’– This compact shorty reaches 1-2 feet tall and spreads 6-10 feet wide. Deep green needle like leaves are not as sharp as some forms. Great frost tolerant ground cover shrub, dangling coral red flowers in the fall through spring. Will establish a large area quickly, and choke out competing weeds.

Penola Grevillea
G. lavandulacea ‘Penola’– Dense habit with half-inch gray leaves. Grows 5 feet tall and 8 or more feet wide, with rose red flowers through the spring. The gray foliage makes a great compliment to deep green conifers.

G. ‘Noellii’– Arching form 4-6 feet tall and wide, with glossy 1 inch needles. Spring blooming with pink and white flower clusters. Will thrive in full sun, with little to moderate water.

G. rosmarinifolia ‘Scarlet Sprite’– A fast compact mounding plant 4-5 feet tall and 8 feet wide, with dark green, fine textured needles 1 inch long. Large clusters of spidery rose pink flowers appear heavily in winter and spring. Frost hardy, full sun, light to moderate water.


G. ‘Noellii’– Arching form 4-6 feet tall and wide, with glossy 1 inch needles. Spring blooming with pink and white flower clusters. Will thrive in full sun, with little to moderate water.

G. rosmarinifolia ‘Scarlet Sprite’
– A fast compact mounding plant 4-5 feet tall and 8 feet wide, with dark green, fine textured needles 1 inch long. Large clusters of spidery rose pink flowers appear heavily in winter and spring. Frost hardy, full sun, light to moderate water.

Japanese Pagoda accompanied by Grevillea - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Monocot Madness: Grasses to Know and Love

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Whether spilling from an urn or bordering a stone walk, fringing a shaded pond or covering a sunny hillside, there are few plants in the garden that impart the sense of grace or the fluid motion of ornamental grasses. Their fine, linear structure makes an effective foil to coarser-leaved shrubs or perennials, and adds three-season visual interest. Striking in a mass planting, eye-catching as a specimen, these cultivated monocots are surprisingly low maintenance. Offering growth habits and colors aplenty, handling exposures from full sun to full shade, and tolerating a range of irrigation regimes, there is undoubtedly a long-leafed beauty prepared to infuse your yard with dynamic texture.

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Black Mondo Grass - Magnolia Gift and Garden
A Magnolia favorite, Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) is one of the unsung wonders of the Northern California garden. The sun-shunning foliage lives up to its name, maturing to a deep black, highlighted by lime-colored new growth. This clumping evergreen will reach some 12” high and wide, and is reliably cold-hardy. Diminutive pale pink flowers, followed by striking black berries, emerge in early summer. Provide regular water during the warm seasons.

chondropetalum tectorum

The Cape Rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) forms a dense clump of reed-like stems about 4-5’ high and wide. The strongly vertical growth bears branched leaflets at the joints, lending a prehistoric air to this shade-dweller. Especially striking in aquatic settings, this false rush nonetheless requires very little water once it is established.

Fubuki Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra FUBUKI ‘Briform’) is a descriptive moniker—the first word translates “snow storm,” which is easily envisioned when admiring the white-striped foliage of this cascading shade perennial. Come fall, the creamy bands color up to a soft pink. More compact than the species, Fubuki will spread to roughly 16”, and not quite as tall. Ensure that this one has moist, well-drained soil for superb performance.

Heat- and drought-tolerant, Orange Sedge (Carex testacea ‘Orange Sedge’) is one of the best choices for a tough and nearly maintenance-free mass planting. New growth emerges a golden-green, turning orange in Autumn, and a toffee color over the winter. Mow this one before spring to rejuvenate the growth, or just let the new shoots infiltrate the bronzy clump, which will reach roughly 2’. In time, it creates soft hassocks of threadlike leaves that curl down to the ground.

Red Fountain Grass
Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) remains one of the loveliest perennial grasses, with tan and purple plumes swaying above rich red foliage in a 5’ clump. Once established, it demands little water. Though this graceful specimen does occasionally succumb to winter-cold in the North Valley, it is worth the risk. A green-leaved cultivar—‘Ruppelii’—is also available, displaying straw-colored seed plumes brushed with a deep rose.


Valued for its round, pincushion form, Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrihon sempervirens) is semi-evergreen in our region. The steel-blue clump will reach some 2-3’ at maturity, and prominently displays golden plumes over the erect foliage in spring. Moderate water over summer will keep this one looking great. It should not be overlooked as a container subject; the bold texture and silvery tones make an architectural statement in any setting.

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