Columnist Herb Benham kicked off spring with a visit to Bolles Nursery Landscape.

Spring doesn’t start without visiting the nursery and recently it was Bolles for me.

People are loyal to their nurseries like people are to their barbers, hairdressers and beach vacations. Unless there is a good reason to switch, most don’t. Rather than looking for the newest and brightest, we find comfort in the well-worn and familiar. We want the boots and saddle that don’t smell new, but broken-in.

Going to the nursery is an occasion but instead of dressing up it is an opportunity to dress down. Wear your gardening clothes. Jeans with the bleach spot on the cuff and the blue T-shirt fraying at the collar that has endured too many dryers but is just right for working in the garden and going to the nursery.

Bolles used to be nearby on Wible but they moved several years ago to Allen Road, north of the puckerbrush and east of the beach. It seemed so far I thought I might have to pack a snack, sunscreen and an overnight bag so to begin with, I resisted.

Then, thanks to my friend Bill “I don’t suffer fools kindly” Thomas and his Westside Parkway, one day I took a drive. I was surprised. Bolles was only 15 minutes away. Two songs, some daydreaming, a few jellybeans and I was there.

Gardens are narratives, ongoing, year-by-year narratives, and it’s reassuring to have a relationship with a nursery that is familiar with your story.

“That’s right, you live downtown. You have shade in the backyard and a couple of south-facing flower beds in the front.”

With some gentle reminders, they are reasonably fluent in your strengths and weaknesses and don’t dwell on your failures, although gardening is about letting go of the things that don’t work because everybody has a litany of flameouts.

On my last trip there, I had bought some Chinese boxwood hedges that I planted outside the kitchen window between the window and the chain-link fence. Half of them went yellow immediately and the half didn’t looked like they could. I don’t think they grew an inch in six months.

Soil, wrong spot, bad choice to begin with? At first, I refused to give up. Surely the next morning they’d would look better, greener and taller and surely they never did no matter how many mornings came and went.

I like yellow bananas, yellow legal pads and yellow lemon curd but not yellow boxwood so I raised the yellow flag. On my recent visit to Bolles, I splurged and bought six, five-gallon rosemary bushes.

Bolles was festive, it was like a garden party. People were smiling. Couples were arguing good-naturedly about whether to get this or that. People looked happy to be there and not in a hurry to leave.

Maybe they’d find something new. Something that would transform their garden. Something that would transform their lives.

The rosemary bushes lay on their sides on the way home. The car smelled as good as it ever had. I could drive home but it was spring and full of promise and I could keep driving too.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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