At Flora Grubb Gardens we believe that gardening makes people happy, brings peace into their lives, and offers a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern life. We believe in creating lavishly beautiful gardens that require minimal water and chemicals to maintain. We believe that we’ve already changed the way San Francisco gardens, and we hope to create a city full of green thumbs.
Our goal is to help our customers become successful gardeners. For novices, we offer expert guidance in navigating a well-curated selection of plants that excludes water-hogging options. For more experienced gardeners, we carry an unrivaled collection of rare and unusual drought-tolerant plants, along with all the necessary building blocks to create their dream gardens.
We strive to use an exquisitely designed environment to inspire our customers and draw visitors from all over the world. Our staff of knowledgeable plant fanatics and experienced landscape designers provides excellent service in a fun, welcoming atmosphere.
The Early Years
Flora Grubb is a self-taught gardener. After 20 years of Texas gardening, she moved to San Francisco in 1999, eager to delve into a horticultural wonderland. Soon she found herself starting a small landscaping company, which is how she met her business partner, Saul Nadler.
Flora helped Saul and his wife, Susie Nadler, to create a beautiful garden at their first San Francisco home. The collaboration was so fruitful and fun that Saul and Flora decided to open a neighborhood nursery together. A classically trained chef who studied Russian history as an undergraduate at Brown, Saul had many varied interests; he knew he wanted to open a business, but hadn’t landed on the right idea. Flora’s lifelong dream of a design-focused garden center fit the bill.
They formed Grubb & Nadler, Inc., and bought the Palm Broker, a small nursery on Guerrero Street in the Mission District that had been supplying specimen palm trees to landscapers for years. After a winter’s worth of hard labor cleaning up the site and creating displays of plants and pottery, they opened their nursery on a lucky rainy day in April 2003. It didn’t take long for the nursery to become a destination for San Francisco gardeners and plant-lovers. Neighbors grew to cherish the nursery as a semi-public garden in their dense neighborhood of Victorians set amidst rushing traffic.
The Bayview Store
Flora Grubb Gardens quickly outgrew its little spot on Guerrero, but finding room to expand in crowded San Francisco was not an easy task. Then a local landowner invited Flora and Saul to see a property in the southeast part of the city where he’d envisioned a garden center. Three times the size of their original location, with plenty of room for parking and lots of sunshine, the Jerrold Avenue spot felt like the right place in which to grow the business.
Flora and Saul worked with architects Bonnie Bridges and Seth Boor and Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders to realize their vision for a new urban garden center. They designed a beautiful open-air building, powered by solar panels and adorned with reclaimed barnwood. The facility would include the second location of coffee mecca Ritual Coffee; Ritual’s flagship in the Mission District was around the corner from the original Flora Grubb Gardens, and owner Eileen Hassi Rinaldi was a friend.
The new Flora Grubb Gardens opened in May 2007. Lush, artful displays of plants keyed to San Francisco’s climate, arranged with garden pottery, furniture, and books in an inviting garden-like setting, brought immediate acclaim and press attention to this new concept in garden retailing.
Over the years Flora Grubb Gardens has at times offered a range of additional services, including garden design and floral services, large events, classes, and workshops. Flora Grubb dabbled in online sales and had a web shop for a while. Currently the Flora Grubb Gardens team is focused on what they love the most: creating a truly inspiring experience in our retail store.
The press has been wonderfully supportive of Flora Grubb Gardens. House and Garden named Flora a tastemaker in 2007, and in 2008 she was included as one of the “Hot 20 under 40” in 7x7. In 2012, she was honored as part of Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards. Flora Grubb Gardens has been profiled in numerous publications, including Sunset, Garden Design, Travel & Leisure, Domino, and Dwell magazines, and in The New York Times. In April of 2018, Flora and her home garden were featured on the cover of Sunset.
We Grow It Ourselves!
In 2005 Grubb & Nadler, Inc., purchased a small wholesale plant brokerage, with the goal of eventually growing plants for retail sales. Starting with a few plots of land in the sun-drenched hills of the Rainbow Valley, Saul set about to build a Southern California farming and growing operation. In the process, he discovered a passion for palm trees and became a true palm nerd.
It took a few years to develop our expertise as growers, but these days more than half of the plants sold at Flora Grubb Gardens originate at our farms in northern San Diego County. As both growers and retailers, we’ve made accessible many previously rare, climate-adapted species to help designers and gardeners create varied, beautiful, and personal gardens.
The expanding palette of plants we grow includes succulents, protea-family plants, Australian plants, and other selections. We now sell wholesale plants grown to Flora Grubb Gardens’ exacting standards to designers, landscapers, and retailers all over California and the West, from Texas and Arizona to Oregon and Washington.
Our approach to growing and gardening has made a large impact on our local public spaces, too. Plants grown on our farms populate public gardens throughout the Bay Area. Over the years, Flora, Saul, and our designers and horticulturists have collaborated with community groups and government agencies to help tilt the public landscape in San Francisco toward satisfyingly vivid, dry-loving, low-input plantings that draw upon the wealth of plant materials from South Africa, California, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Mediterranean Basin, Asia, South America, and beyond.
What will the future bring? After 16 years in business, Flora and Saul are considering opening a second location in the Bay Area. They are patiently searching for just the right spot. Meanwhile, they currently employ a staff of 25 at their San Francisco store, where the gardens are open for business 360 days of the year.