“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” – Rumi

The Mother Garden – promoting biodiversity since 1974

The gardens here in Occidental have been a source of inspiration and training for thousands of gardeners, farmers and landscapers, first as the Farallones Institute (1974-1990), then as the Center for Seven Generations (1990-1993) and now as OAEC (1994-present). Over time, we have collected and evaluated thousands of varieties, chosen our favorites, planted them again and again, and shared them with others.  Sometime in the late ’80s we started calling the garden here The Mother Garden, referring both to her abundant fertility and to the fact that she was providing a wealth of seeds, plant material and wisdom to other gardens and gardeners and, quite literally, giving birth to daughter gardens. Most of the crops we sell at the nursery have been trialed in our gardens and savored in our kitchen – it is our delight to share these plants with you today!

About the Nursery

Our nursery is open every weekend through the warm gardening months April through October and features 100% CCOF Certified Organic plants that are suited to our bioregion. As a uniquely place-based nursery, all of our stock is propagated on-site, largely from seeds that we have saved or cuttings from ‘mother plants’ in our gardens.

In addition to our helpful and experienced nursery staff, OAEC offers tours of the demonstration gardens, a Wednesday garden volunteer day, Permaculture Design Certification and an internship program for those who wish to deepen their knowledge.

When you buy our plants, you are supporting the work of OAEC.  Learn more about the Mother Garden Biodiversity Program, the Kent Whealy memorial seed bank, upcoming free seed exchanges, and other ways to get involved.

Nursery Manager and Mother Garden Biodiversity Program Director, Doug Gosling (right), and Plant Propagation Specialist, Marley Pfeifer (left).

Why perennials?  

Our plant list includes a selection of hundreds of varieties with an emphasis on multifunction perennial plants appropriate for Permaculture Design. In recent years, we have shifted our focus away from annual heirloom vegetable starts (which are increasingly easy to find – yay!) and are now focusing on perennial food crops, hard-to-find culinary and medicinal herbs from around the world, and drought-tolerant, habitat-enhancing ornamentals.  

Why the shift? Switching to mostly perennials is the gardening equivalent of changing to low-flow shower heads or energy-saving appliances. Current scientific research and common sense gardening observations reveal ecological and climate benefits as well as the practicality of organic, perennials-based agriculture.

Perennials:

  • Give us food, fiber, dye, medicine, building materials and more
  • Are low maintenance compared to the labor that annuals require to replant each year
  • Are often hardier and more drought tolerant due their woodier stems and extensive root systems that continue deepening in search of water and nutrients year after year
  • Provide long-term habitat for birds, wildlife, pollinators including honey bees, and beneficial insects that prey upon pests
  • Moderate the garden microclimate by providing shade in the summer and insulation and wind protection in the winter.  They can also extend the growing season, widening our choices for year-round food and flowers.
  • Improve carbon sequestration with permanent root systems that encourage the growth of carbon-cycling soil microbes
  • Prevent soil erosion and depletion that frequently tilled soil is vulnerable to between annual crops 
  • Provide a backbone of beauty, productivity, diversity and design around which the gardener can amplify all of those functions seasonally with a diverse menu of annuals. This interplanting mimics the kinds of interdependent plant communities present in wild eco-systems.

Perennials need less fuss, less water, less fertilizer, less fossil fuel, and fewer trips to the chiropractor. The overall effect is a healthy, resilient garden with nature doing the work for us.

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© Occidental Arts & Ecology Center 2021