Crawling through Chico’s local plant nurseries

The annual Local Nursery Crawl offered much to the community, despite stormy weather


A mural at Magnolia Gift and Garden encouraging plants to “grow.” Photo taken Feb. 25 by Heather Taylor.

Promotional material for Chico’s ninth annual Local Nursery Crawl stated the event would take place “rain or shine.” Falling on Feb. 24-25, participating nurseries and shoppers saw stormy conditions, bursts of sunshine, and even some rare snowfall. 

Despite inclement weather, most of the local shops opened and welcomed crowds of people looking for plants and garden supplies or advice, which was offered with a friendly smile.

The nursery crawl began in 2014, and was inspired by other Chico events for small businesses. Event organizer and owner of participating nursery Magnolia Gift and Garden, Courtney Paulson Hunter said, “We were thrilled that so many local nurseries were willing to give this idea a go! And that first year was a success and it has grown in attendance and local nurseries ever since.” 

For this year’s crawl, 12 local nurseries from Chico and the surrounding area participated. The Local Nursery Crawl website advertised, “Each nursery has a different focus and passion to help you design your dream garden or landscapes.” While many of the nurseries had some plants in common, each had items which set them apart, or specific services to provide to the community. 

Customers on the crawl printed their own flyer with the addresses of the stores and received a stamp or sticker at each nursery they visited. After visiting at least six of the nurseries on the list, participants were entered into a drawing to receive a $25 gift certificate. 

A chalkboard placard sign reading "Fair Street Nursery: We are Open. You need plants!"
Fair Street Nursery stated “You need plants!” Crawl participants agreed. Photo taken Feb. 25 by Heather Taylor.

Many shops offered special discounts or programs for the event. Harvests and Habitats had grafting tools and materials on-site for those interested in trying their hand at a new skill. They also served homemade tea and nettle soup, which were a welcome source of warmth on a cold weekend. 

Other nurseries like Geffray’s Garden, Garden Gleanings and Little Red Hen’s Plant Nursery had sales on many of their plants. Fair Street Nursery debuted their new gift shop, complete with a “succulent bar.”

Most of the nursery owners who planned on participating were able to do so, though storms kept some of the rural locations from opening. Deja Vu Gardens Galore Nursery of Paradise, Spring Fever and The Rock Garden Nursery all suffered closures because of weather conditions.

While there were many benefits for attendees, the buisness owners said they saw positive reasons to participate as well. 

“The nursery crawl is always a fun early-spring opportunity to get the spring fever started. It’s a day to discover and rediscover the varied garden centers in the area,” The Plant Barn owner Denise Kelly said.

Those discovering The Plant Barn, Chico’s oldest local nursery, found a large selection of outdoor plants and houseplants. From outside, the nursery looks small, with the focal point being the almost 100-year-old barn that houses the gift shop. Inside, customers can browse a sprawling two acres of plants and about 14,000 square feet of greenhouses. 

“We lay out our merchandise in such a way that it feels as though you are wandering in a secret garden of sorts,” Kelly said. “We let the trees grow wild and plant up containers all over the property, including our dear old vintage truck.” 

A large, outdoor wooden structure decorated with hanging lights and surrounded by plants and gravel pathways.
The Plant Barn’s “Secret Garden” approach to product layout. Photo taken Feb. 25 by Heather Taylor.

While an employee said they did not see many people the day prior, on Saturday, Feb. 25, The Plant Barn was filled with nursery crawl participants, ranging from young families to seniors, and even the occasional pet. A rare set of customers who were not aware of the crawl were quickly provided with an information sheet and seemed excited to change their plans for the day to go to some of the other nurseries on the list. 

Another busy nursery with plenty of room for the crawl crowds was Magnolia Gift and Garden. 

“The Local Nursery Crawl is also a great community builder; not only between the nurseries themselves, but the ‘crawlers’ have a great opportunity to support local independent businesses,” event organizer Courtney Paulson Hunter said.

Magnolia Gift and Garden, started by Paulson Hunter and her husband, has been in operation since 2008. It features many small alcoves to explore, including sheds full of pottery, a converted school bus housing potted plants and a shop area with plenty of dirt and decorative rocks to build terrariums or the perfect bonsai display. 

“We are fortunate enough to do what we love every day,” Paulson Hunter said. “This community really values supporting small businesses like our own, and for that we are grateful.” 

Potted houseplants filling shelves, in the forefront large tropical plant leaves fill the frame.
A small shed packed full of houseplants at Magnolia Gift and Garden. Photo taken Feb. 25 by Heather Taylor.

The nurseries also give back to the community that supports them. Many provide native plant species which thrive in local climate zones. This is the primary focus of Floral Native Nursery. This nursery grows and sells many native plants, and it provides helpful information cards in front of the rows detailing how much water they need and their ideal growing requirements. 

Deja Vu Gardens Galore Nursery of Paradise was ultimately not able to participate this year, but owner Cindy Dawson has been involved with the Local Nursery Crawl in the past. The nursery hopes to honor the crawl discounts on an upcoming weekend when the weather is better. The rescheduled date will be announced on social media, when available. 

“We get lots of new customers every year,” Dawson said. 

Customers purchasing from Deja Vu’s 30,000 item inventory, including about 3,000 roses, make it possible for Dawson to give back to the Paradise community. The nursery offers fire survivor discounts to help those who have lost their homes to wildfires and wish to redo their landscaping. 

Deja Vu staff provide customers with landscape design and consulting. This “personalized one-on-one time” is what Dawson thinks sets her nursery apart, along with the knowledgeable staff’s expertise. 

Two other participating nurseries care for the community in another way. Both Fair Street Nursery and Little Red Hen’s Plant Nursery fund programs focusing on vocational training and providing jobs for people with disabilities. 

A red barn style shed with a sign reading "Little Red Hen Nursery." Around it are plants and an archway.
The Little Red Hen’s Plant Nursery saw plenty of Nursery Crawl participants, despite the overcast weather. Photo taken Feb. 25 by Heather Taylor.

In addition to having a perfect name for a plant nursery employee, Poppy Fields has been the manager at Little Red Hen’s Plant Nursery for two years. Fields said the Local Nursery Crawl is “a good day for people to find out what we’re about.” 

Judging by the limited parking spaces available on Saturday, many people were exposed to the nursery’s purpose. Started by a Chico resident, Teresa Wolk Hayes, The Little Red Hen now includes six distinct retail locations, including the nursery, and an online department which ships all over the world. Customers can know they are contributing, as 100% of proceeds go to programs assisting people with disabilities.

Those who did not attend the crawl are always welcome to stop by and ask questions, Fields said, or explore the volunteer opportunities offered. 

With the variety of nurseries participating, each offering different garden supplies and plants, Local Nursery Crawl participants are left looking forward to next year’s event — hopefully with blue skies!

Heather Taylor can be reached at [email protected]