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Nursery Is Oasis Where the Plants Are for Sale


When I heard about Mystic Gardens in San Juan Capistrano and read the slogan: "Not just a nursery. . . . It's an experience," I was skeptical. A well-stocked nursery, maybe, but an experience?

Putting their claims to the test, my daughter, Sabrina, and I visited the two-acre property on Ortega Highway.

As we strolled meandering pathways past colorful, exotic plants and sat in rustic furniture while listening to the sound of burbling fountains, I had to admit--we were having an experience.

We weren't alone.

On her first visit to Mystic Gardens, Robin Wilder of Laguna Niguel expected it would be a quick shopping trip. "Things didn't work out that way," she said. "I took my four children and it was like a field trip. We stayed a long time."

Dave McAllister, who owns McAllister Topsoil and Compost in San Juan Capistrano, said his weekly trips to the independent nursery make him think of Hawaii. "It's much more than a nursery--almost like an arboretum."

Orange County has other independent nurseries that offer unusual plants, high-garden accessories and expert service, such as Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar, Heard's Country Gardens in Westminster, Laguna Hills Nursery in Lake Forest, M & M Nursery in Orange, Huntington Garden Center in Huntington Beach, Upland Nursery in Orange and Brita's Old Town Gardens in Seal Beach.

Thomas McLaughlin, who co-owns McLaughlin Landscape Construction in San Clemente, and his wife, Lori, bought Mystic Gardens two years ago and added stone paths, ponds, stream beds and waterfalls.

"We made it a destination," Thomas McLaughlin said. "People enjoy strolling through here."

Creating an inviting nursery and having full-grown plants on display to help customers visualize how plants would look in their garden are keys to surviving in business, said general manager Ken McCausland, who worked at the location before the current owner revamped it.

* Mystic Gardens, 27401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano. (949) 488-0074.

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