Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We Need You This Saturday

Everyone can help make
 the gardens look good!
It's a great time to get outside to clean up and beautify the gardens! Our monthly workday is coming up this Saturday, November 5th from 10am-12. Per usual please meet up at Pennsylvania Garden, and we’ll disperse from there. Volunteers will be on-hand to teach you everything you need to know. Gloves, tools and drinks will also be available to make it all happen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stop, thief!

At the weekend Matt and I were transplanting Agaves when a neighbor stopped Matt to ask him why he was digging things up.

Thanks neighbor! It's great that people are looking out for the garden :)

If you see something, say something.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Plant profile: Lycianthes rantonnetii (Blue Potato Bush)

 Latin name: Lycianthes rantonnetii (pronounced "lie-see-AN-thees rat-oh-NETT-ee-eye")
Common name: Blue Potato Bush, Paraguay Nightshade
Originally from: Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay
Blooms: Absolutely covered in purple flowers that have a little yellow eye. Flowers a lot. Relentlessly? Shamelessly?
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Drought tolerant
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 4-6' x 4'-6'
USDA Zones: 8b-11
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed by the steps

Lycianthes rantonnetii is a species of flowering shrub in the family Solanaceae.  Cultivated as ornamental the world over, you might deem it boring and decide to pass it over. But you'd be wrong.

The blue potato bush is one of about 150 species in the genus Lycianthes, which are found mostly in tropical regions of the Americas, with others in the Asia-Pacific region.

The species is named after Barthélémy Victor Rantonnet, a 19th-century French horticulturalist, who thought at first that it should be lumped in with the nightshades (Solanum) - the same genus as potatoes, hence the frumpy common name: Blue Potato Bush.

Unfortunately, after that got sorted out and it was moved to the genus Lycianthes the Potato Bush name had stuck. Several other little-known Solanum species probably should be included with Lycianthes but there you go.

I got this plant as a freebie left on the street by a random Craigslister. It consisted of two twigs and a few rumpled leaves, so not much hope was given to it. However, tough as an old boot, it sprang to life and is now a handsome flower-covered shrub 6' tall. It looks ratty in the dog days of summer, but a quick sprinkle of rain and pow: loaded with flowers again.

You can train it into a little tree, or let it be shrubby. It's easy to prune an doesn't care much when you do it. The flowers don't have a scent but aside from that it's a great little plant that handles all sorts of abuse cheerfully.

Oh, and boring? More like dangerous. Like most nightshades all parts of this plant are poisonous so keep your kids and dogs out of the flower beds people. A source of psychoactive alkaloids, they will cause a nasty upset stomach and worse.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Volunteer Workday

Here's Matt and Chris moving a lovely big Agave attenuata from the front where it was blocking the path to the left bed's bottom path area. Just before this Matt had cut back all the Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) down to 6" in prep for winter.  I am sure they will spring right back up and fill in that whole area - they are a bit brutal.

I weeded all over, and planted some Rock Purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis) in the new border of the top area with Matt, and also moved some Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina) to fill gaps.

Emily, Nathan, Bill and his dog Coco and John weeded at PRG and picked trash - it's time for a bit workday though as the weeds are gathering strength and taking over!

Chris also repaired the broken composter lid that had been hanging loose for a while.... it's time to move that composter back against the fence so we have more space to work there.

In order to do that we are gradually emptying it and placing weeds we've removed in piles in the middle of beds where they can rot down out of sight in their own time.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Yippee! Rain!!!

Well we've had some rain and things are starting to grow. Including weeds.

The to-do list at the garden is pretty long, but some have dependencies: task A needs to be done before we can do task B. And even task C.

An example of this was that there has been that the Agave americana by the front archway is too big to stay there. Chris started removing pups and lower leaves in prep for moving it down to the back fence as a fence-jumping deterrent.

But that fence has a hole in it that needs to be fixed by a yet-to-be-determined agency. Before that can be fixed, the Monterey pine tree above it needed to have a couple branches lopped off as they were dangling perilously.

Happily this week DPW took care of the tree, lopping off a few bad branches so it's good to go for a while.

Now we need to figure out who fixes the fence, so we can move the Agave.

In the meantime, here are some photos I took in San Diego last week of an awesome Dracaena draco (Dragon Tree). Hope ours gets this amazing one day!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Plant profile: Salvia leucantha (Mexican Sage)

Salvia leucantha
Latin name: Salvia leucantha (pronounced "SAL-vee-ah LOO-can-thah)
Common name: Mexican Sage
Originally from: Tropical and subtropical pine forests in central and eastern Mexico.
Blooms: Purple, purple and white, white, or white and pink.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought repellent
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 3' x 6'
USDA Zones: 8-10
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed, the brights bed, and the very top bed.

Salvia leucantha
"Danielle's Dream"
Salvia leucantha is a surefire winner in the San Francisco garden, producing flowers for almost 12 months of the year that hummingbirds love, staying evergreen in our climate, and only needing one satisfying and easy chop back to 6" in the winter for them to spring back up looking fabulous. And hey - if you forget to do that they don't look bad.

They even have a lovely round shape and grow nicely in between other plants too, creating a lovely purple accent in any garden. No wonder they're so popular!

Salvia leucantha
"Santa Barbara"
Oh, and did I mention they don't care about drought? You cannot kill them. In fact, they're even super easy to root from cuttings or layers on the ground.

We have three different types. The regular species has bi-colored, velvety-textured flowers consisting of white corollas and longer-lasting funnel-form purple calyxes that arch all over the plant nonstop.  You'll see these all over the Bay area.

Salvia leucantha
"Santa Barbara"
Then there's the slightly more compact all-violet colored "Santa Barbara" and a new one for us called "Danielle's Dream" that has which calyxes and pink flowers.

I have heard of an all white one called "White Mischief" and a deeper purple one called "Midnight" and if I see them for sale I'll be picking them up for sure.

Salvia "Anthony Parker"
Growers crossed Salvia leucantha with Salvia elegans to make another excellent plant we have: Salvia "Anthony Parker". This one has a shorter flower season but the color is a stunning deep purple and again the plant is super tough, so worth the wait. Can someone please breed a few more Salvia leucantha hybrids?

Monday, October 3, 2016

A getting ready for rain workday

Many thanks to Annie, Matt and Chris, who came to the October volunteer workday! You'll see from the first photo, of Chris holding a Leucadendron, that we are anticipating the winter rains. Chris is getting ready to plant it in the brights bed. As you probably already know, this is the best time of year to put in new plants, or move old ones to a new spot. We have been working hard to remodel the brights bed, filling it back out with lovely plants after loosing some of our taller, fuller, plants to the drought.

Per usual, our workday also included the cleaning up the garden by removing trash and weeding. We were visited by some doggie neighbors and their owners, and it was great to hear how much they enjoy the garden!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Theft... again.

Our community garden lock box got broken into, clearly by someone who had bolt cutters as the padlocks are gone. All our tools have been stolen - again. Very disappointing indeed.... this time a police report is needed I think. Here's a list of missing items in case you see any of them... please let me know: 

Hose reel - metal, 2 wheel, gray, large
2 hoses (one green, one grey)
3 pairs of pruners (Fiskars,
4 (?) trowels (wood handles, red handles)
1 heavy metal digging bar
2 shovels (one with green ended handle)
3 small and 4 large tubtrugs (blue, green, yellow, purple)
Tool box - gray and black
2 sprinklers (plastic)
2 brass sprayers
Brass “water key” for turning on city water
Tupperware box full of nitrile gloves (multicolored)
Clipboard and forms
Trash picker
4 (?) kneeling pads (green and purple)
First aid kit
Box of doggie bag rolls

Monday, September 26, 2016


I had noticed recently that our resident bramble at the bottom of the steps has gotten a bit enthusiastic about life, and was attempting to jump over the drainage ditch and set up housekeeping on the cactus wall.

This is very bad news. On the one hand, prickly brambles (aka blackberries) are a great deterrent to the average vandal that likes to mess around in the drainage ditch, but on the other hand, brambles are unattractive, invasive, messy and quote painful to be around. So I had to get in that ditch and sort them out.

It took a couple hours but I removed two tubtrugs of brambles and got pretty scratched up in the process. And it was not a second to early either - they were really running back in the cactus wall and about to be a real problem. There is still a lot of ivy to be removed, and a board down there needs to be re-pegged. But it's a good start. I should probably just dig up all the plants in that area and scour it clean of every scrap of weed... but the sun got too hot and I wilted.

This is not the first time I've had to do this - you'll notice I referred to them as "our resident bramble." This is because they are about impossible to kill - leave even the tiniest sliver of root and they come right back, so hacking at them is more of an annual haircut than eradication. If I was one for the herbicide Round Up these guys would be the ideal candidate...

I also watered several areas deeply as we're in a real heatwave the next few days. Hope everything survives.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Heat advisory

Then there were three
Today was hot and the weekend will be hotter, so Matt and I met my parents in the garden to do some tasks before it gets sweltering.

First off Matt dug up two Yucca "Silver Star" from PRG where they were buried in shrubs and looking ratty. We brought them up to PG and planted them with the one we put in a week or so ago - now there is a nice group of three!

I put the water on to sprinkle them.

Fuchsia whacked
My dad cut back some Artemisia that were overlapping the path at PRG, and then he and my mum cut back the Fuchsia boliviana "Alba" and one of the Leonotus leonurus in the brights bed.

I messed around trying to see if a Phlomis could be cut back hard too. Boom! Ready to grow back in a nice shape.

Later on I was driving by and saw Chris working on the Agaves at the front too - wonder what he's going to achieve today!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More heat

Aloe, Doryanthes and Arctotis
Today Matt and I had less time for gardening, but we got a few things done anyway.

Matt cut some of the bottom leaves off the Agave americana variegata we call Moby Dick. It's flowering and sooner or later the big task of removing the dead plant will come... going to be a prickly job!

He stashed the removed leaves in the middle of the left bed, and I put the Salvia cuttings there too, so they can compost away slowly.

Salvia canariensis haircut
Oh yes - I pruned the Salvia canariensis (Canary Island Sage) quite hard - about half is gone so it should come back in a bit tidier.

This is a really nice tough Salvia with woolly silver leaves and lavender-pink flowers. It has taken a lot of abuse since we go it, and with zero water too, yet it always manages to look good. It is quite large though so needs space to grow - I think we put it a bit too close to the path.

Goliath rescue
 Matt also dug out the Aloe "Goliath" from the terraces where it was languishing. I have the same plant in a pot at home and it is huge compared to this one, so I planted the rescued one in the brights bed and gave it some water. It will get a bit of shade from the Cussonia and Salvia next to it, and better quality dirt there too. Hopefully one day it will grow into a nice tree.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hot September

3 Santolinas, 3 Teucriums
Nice hot day - Matt and I went out to plant a few things we picked up in Mendocino in the last week. Among them were:

3 Teucrium fruicans "compacta." This should be a solid drought tolerant plant, with silvery leaves and lavender flowers. They went in the new top area behind the yellow Santolina virens "Lemon Fizz" that we planted last week. I added in a fourth of the same  Santolina from the steps, but not sure it will make it as I was a bit blasé pulling it out and roots were traumatized...

3 Cistus and a Beschorneria
3 Cistus sp. "purple" - well, you know the one, magenta pink flowers, dark green leaves... I guess the nursery couldn't even be bothered labeling them with the right name, so neither will I!

These went in behind the group of Santolina chamaecyparissus at the other end of the bed. I hope they do well - they are a plant that should be a staple for us, but for some reason have never really gone for it. I moved a Beschorneria to the front of that and it should do well.

Agave angustifolia group
Matt next rearranged the variegated Yucca aloifolia at the top of the steps which had gotten floppy. They look smart now. Then we took all the Agave angustifolias scattered about the garden and arranged them in the front border in a group with the one that is already there. They should perk up soon.

I planted four more Achillea "Coronation Gold" on the steps as it's one of the few things that does well there - even Agaves sometimes start to look withered in that area. Hope they make it: they're the only Achillea, aside from the plain white and very invasive native one, that has survived.

Lastly Matt planted a pretty cool Salvia leucantha "Danielle's Dream" which has white and pink flowers. That went in at the very top between some Agaves and will look pretty girly I admit.

With all these new plants it means a bit of watering, but rain soon... I can feel it... and so can this lamb which I found grazing on an Agave.

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