Spring celebration in North Richmond
on April 13, 2011
Hundreds of people from the Bay Area and as far away as Seattle flocked to a sprawling North Richmond nursery last weekend to celebrate its annual Spring party.
The two-day event was hosted by Annie’s Annuals & Perennials nursery, which has been in North Richmond for nearly two decades. The nursery specializes in rare and unusual plants, including cottage garden heirlooms and hard-to-find California native wildflowers.
“I come here a lot,” said Melanie DeGiovani, local customer. “They have the biggest selection of flowers, the most widely diverse flowers. They are healthy, the last, they grow well.”
Apart from the chance to peruse and buy plants, visitors could take part in contests and free raffles, enjoy snacks and chat with other garden aficionados. As is tradition at the yearly party, there was music, dancing, and of course, the Cookoo Mookoo Costume Contest, which had the garden full of nymphs, wizards and other fairytale creatures.
Kids particularly enjoyed playing with Little Willow, a miniature donkey, and a bulldog dressed up as hot-dog, and face-painting courtesy of Budderball the Clown.
For adults, an outdoor lecture by noted author and plant expert Amy Stewart, was a big draw. Stewart, author of “Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities!”, told a crowd of more than 70 listeners about plant health and safety.
Elayne Takemoto, marketing director for the nursery, said the Spring Party event has grown every year, and draws from a diverse base of customers and enthusiasts.
“We get people from all over the country,” Talemoto said. “Our Internet presence and Facebook page helps us develop relationships with people from Seattle, and all the way down the West Coast.”
Still, despite the constant growth, the sprawling nursery remains something of a hidden gem in North Richmond.
“There are a lot of people who still don’t know we’re here,” Takemoto said.
Takemoto said the nursery has managed to flourish over the last decade by focusing on customers, diversifying its business and expanding its profile through community engagement.
The nursery went from being predominately a wholesaler to an operation that has expanded to retail, mail order and other services. At the same time, the business is a major player in local programs and philanthropy, including donating labor and materials to the Urban Tilth gardening program and nearby Verde Elementary School.
Nursery owner and namesake Annie Hayes said she hopes her Spring Event, which brings so many people in from outside Richmond, will help improve the city’s image, which has in the past been marred by news reports focused on crime and poverty.
“A lot of people watch the news and they are often scared of Richmond,” Hayes said. “The party brings them to the place they would never come and they go: ‘Oh wow, Richmond isn’t scary!’”
Hayes’ point was underscored by the weekend’s turnout, which drew more than 300 people – many with small children – into the North Richmond neighborhood to enjoy a day of festivities.
Hayes and others said the crowd was even larger on Saturday, meaning the North Richmond nursery’s festive gathering of food, games, education and everything botanical may have drawn nearly 1,000 people.
“The event has just been a complete success,” Takemoto said.
To view a photo gallery of this event, click here
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