Saturday brought a plethora of once-a-year plant sales to South County. Gilroy Rotary and Goldsmith Seeds sponsored their annual post-pack trial plant sale, and the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation in San Martin hosted its annual plant sale.
Because I was looking for trees and shrubs, and because the foundation is five minutes from my home in Morgan Hill, I opted to shop its sale. And I am glad that I did – my back yard now sports a rare tree I purchased from the foundation, and at a bargain basement price, no less.
The foundation is located at 15185 Murphy Road in San Martin. Late Saturday morning, I drove the few minutes from south Morgan Hill to north San Martin with high hopes of finding an appropriate tree for a full-sun spot in my back yard.
I wandered around the sale aimlessly for a few minutes, finally commandeered a little red wagon and discovered to my penny-pinching heart’s delight a group of plants tagged at half price.
One of those plants, an oddly shaped tree about five feet tall, sporting divided, light green leaves, caught my eye. The canopy of the tree was skewed to one side, and I immediately thought it was perfect for the spot in my back yard crying out for a tree.
Unfortunately, this lone tree was lacking the helpful signs – with information on sunlight requirements, ultimate height, soil conditions, etc., – that were near most of the other plants at the foundation’s sale. The only information I had on the plant was handwritten on a plastic tag, which read “pistacia chinesis ‘Keith Davey.'”
After an inquiry, I was pointed toward two master gardeners who would be able to tell me all about the plant, I was assured. One of them, Barrie Coate, was surprised to learn that the plant was offered for sale at all. With wide eyes, he told me that as far as he knew, the pistachio tree in my little red wagon was the only one for sale in all of Northern California.
He went on to tell me that the reason the plant is so rare is that it is grafted, and that just 5 percent of grafted pistachios survive, noting that nurseries can’t turn a profit on plants with a 95 percent failure rate.
I offered to leave the rare specimen there, but he told me that if the plant was put out for sale, that I should buy it. He said he would buy it himself if he had a spot for it.
Mr. Coate predicted that the tree would grow to 30 or 35 feet and feature beautiful crimson fall foliage.
The other master gardener, who overheard our conversation, told me the tree was named after Keith Davey, a founder of Davey Tree Company. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find any mention of a Keith Davey on the company’s Web site.
Since purchasing the tree, I’ve looked it up in my gardener’s bible, “Sunset Western Garden Book,” and learned that it is a fairly adaptable tree, taking aridity or irrigation, and in deep soils, no summer watering at all.
So, Mr. Coate, the rare pistachio tree – freed from its five-gallon plastic pot for the bargain price of $13.50 – is settled happily, so far, in my back yard. It is lovely there, if I do say so myself.
If you missed searching for a treasure of your own at the foundation’s spring plant sale, don’t worry. The foundation also sells its wares on the first Friday of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call them at 779-3303 for more details.