Monday, September 5, 2022

Pathways: mulched

On Thursday I got a call back from Bayview Greenwaste who said they could deliver mulch to PG on Friday for the paths. I'd been waiting for a call back so jumped on the chance, and met the delivery driver in the morning.  Unfortunately there was a car parked right where I planned to have the mulch delivered, so we couldn't take as much as I planned. But that was a good thing, in the end...

I immediately sent out the email to our subscribers, posted to Twitter, Facebook and NextDoor, and texted people asking for help to move the pile on our Saturday workday.

Then I went to work right away and managed to move about 20 wheelbarrow loads myself in 2 hours. At that stage I was absolutely shattered and went home hoping for a great volunteer turnout to help shift the remaining 3/4 of the huge pile. I also emptied the tool chest - someone was again trying to break into it, and I've had enough: I brought everything inside it home for good. We haven't stored anything really valuable there in ages, but it is handy to have extra tools there. Unless they get stolen... I also picked up dozens of needles and a pile of trash from the back area, and put in a 311 app request to pick it up.

Saturday's volunteer workday dawned with a big rush: Matt and I had to drop by Home Depot to rent an extra wheelbarrow, and also pick up drinks for the volunteers. But as it turned out we didn't need the extra drinks... because nobody showed up :(

We managed to get about 40 wheelbarrow loads of mulch moved,  in another 2 hour stint. About 1/4 of the pile remained before we ran out of energy.

Today, Monday we returned, and this time Chris and Jim showed up to help move the remaining pile in record time. We also deeply watered specific areas of the garden that really needed help to get through the summer.

I've never put out a request for help and had NOBODY show up before - even people who said they would. Perhaps it was the holiday weekend, perhaps it was the heat. But it left me feeling deflated.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Plant Profile: Yucca filifera (Mexican Tree Yucca)

Latin name: Yucca filifera  ("YOU-kah fill-IFF-er-ah")
Common name: Mexican Tree Yucca, Palma China
Originally from: Mexico
Blooms: 5' long weeping panicle of white bells
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Up to 32' tall and 9-12' wide
Zones: 6 to 10b
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some in the Brights Bed at the top of PG, and several down at PRG too.

What a handsome beast! This Yucca is one of my favorites for so many reasons. First of all, it doesn't need any water, loves rocky, dry soil, and doesn't need any pruning - any faffing at all actually - it always looks sharp. 

And when I say sharp, I mean watch out - the leaves are rigid, pointed, and they will stab you. I used to say "How can you tell the difference between Yucca guatemalensis and Yucca aloifolia? If you fall into the former you'll get scratched up as you scramble out. If you fall into the latter you won't get out at all..." but Yucca filifera takes it to the next level, turning the average human appendage into kebab meat with a wink and a smile.

With that in mind I have bought every one I can find at Flora Grubb and planted them in places where I don't want people going to great effect. They're all less than 4' tall right now but keep an eye on them. Growing up to 32 feet in height the Yucca filifera is regarded as one of the largest and fastest growing Yuccas so its growth rate would be considered fast, if it's given extra water.

It flowers from July to August with large clusters of cream or white bell-shaped flowers on a long (often over 1m) downwards pointing panicle which is very distinctive.  Despite being known as a low pollen plant, great for people with allergies, in its native habitat it reproduces through pollination by the yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella).

In Mexico, its early use was roofing for homes because of the strong fibers in its leaves. It is used for rope, thread, baskets, mats and the roots contain saponins which are toxic to humans and animals but can be used as soap.  The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, the stem can be cooked like asparagus and even the flowers are edible.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Plant Profile: Leucophyta brownii (Cushion Bush)

Latin name: Leucophyta brownii  ("loo-ko-FYE-tah BROW-nee-eye")
Common name: Cushion Bush, Silver Bush
Originally from: Australia
Blooms: Pale yellow pom poms dot the plant in spring and summer
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: about 2' x 2'
Zones: 10-12
Where to find in P. Garden: Up along the top border and also in the brights bed

This is a great little silvery pom-pom of a shrublet with really interesting wiry branching stems, a round shape and tiny, close held leaves that make the whole thing look like a tumbleweed. They grow neatly and are more about the foliage than the flowers, but the flowers are cute little 1/2" pale yellow buttons in spring and summer.

We never water them, and in fact they dislike soggy conditions and don't care for heavy soil, preferring poor and well-draining soil so they are perfect for us. It withstands winds and salt spray, so it's perfect for coastal gardens, and can take a light pruning to keep it tidy if needed.

Not long lived, apparently it propagates easily by seed or semi-hardened stem cuttings, but I've found that Flowercraft often sells inexpensive 6 packs of plug sized (about 2") plants and they grow quickly so I haven't tried propagating them yet.

Occurring naturally on coastal dunes and cliffs along the south coast of Australia’s mainland and on the northern coasts of Tasmania, King Island, and Flinders Islands the more compact form that is in cultivation was a selection made from near Cape Le Grand in Western Australia. 

As is common in the plant world, this one had a name change along the way, so you might see it referred to by both names. The plant has long been referred to as Calocephalus brownii but the genus Calocephalus was found to be "an unnatural group" (whatever that means) and this plant was segregated into the monotypic genus Leucophyta. 

This previous name for the genus, Calocephalus comes from the Greek words 'calos' meaning "beautiful' and 'cephale' meaning "head" because of the silver rounded heads of flowers. The etymology of the newer name is from the Greek words 'leuco', meaning gray-white and 'phyta' meaning plant so combined as "white plant", which is also appropriate. The species name honors Robert Brown the Scottish botanist and surgeon who botanized and collected nearly 5,000 plants in Australia on the voyage of the Investigator from 1801 until 1805.

Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/cushion-bush/cushion-bush-information.htm
Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/cushion-bush/cushion-bush-information.htm
Cushion bush, also known as silver bush (Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii) is a very tough and attractive perennial, native to the southern coast of Australia and nearby islands. It’s very popular in pots, borders, and larger clumps in the garden, most notably because of its striking silver to white color. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a cushion bush and cushion bush growing conditions. Cushion Bush Information Cushion bush does produce small yellow flowers on the tips of its stems, but most gardeners grow the plant for its foliage. The stems grow thick and outward in a shape very much like a tumbleweed, and the soft leaves stay close to the stems.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/cushion-bush/cushion-bush-information.htm

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Volunteer Day work

Our August Volunteer Day was attended by a small but devoted bunch. Sadly I didn't get photos of people but I did get some pics of the work done.

Kai and his dad Kresh weeded the entrance pathway with Kai's special tiny trowel that I keep ready for him, and while they did that, I deadheaded a lot of Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), cut the cardoon (Cynara carduncuulus) down to the ground, trimmed the palm by the bench and weeded too.

Matt went to the hardware store to get better stakes for the new big cactus. Some helpful (!) person had taken the guy line and all the padding off the cactus so we had to replace it all. I think the new work looks much better anyway, and as a bonus Chris found the rope and padding that had been removed, left elsewhere in the garden. Matt and I also staked up the Dodonaea viscosa (Purple Hopseed) on the lower path that was leaning over.

While all that was going on, Chris moved the cardoon. We cut this back every year but this year it never really got very big as we were so short on rain. Generally when it gets big though it's too close to the path. So, Chris dug it up and moved it about 2' back in the bed, and also gave it a huge amount of fresh compost from the compost bins so it can bounce back. Matt watered it too.

Josh planted some cactus I had brought from home on the back slope, and both he and Chris weeded a lot too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cactus delivery

John messaged me recently and asked if we wanted some big columnar Euphorbia ammak (or trigona...?) cacti. I said yes before really thinking it through as usual because John always has the good stuff.

Off we went to John's neighbor's place in Glen Park and lo - two GIGANTIC Euphorbia cacti planted int he ground and needing a new home. And I mean, gigantic. So, of course, we decided to dig them up whole instead of trying to cut them apart and re-root smaller sections because, well... like I said, not thinking things through.

With John's help, Matt and I attached each specimen to a tall ladder for support with bungies and rope, padded with drop cloths, then dug it up, lowered it to the ground, and carried it down a flight of steps (!) to the truck where we had to hoist them onto the roof and tie it down with even more rope. 

Fun times - did you know cacti are mainly water and as such... HEAVY?

Then we drove slowly along back roads (vs the freeway) home to Pacifica to keep speeds down and avoid the beasts falling off the roof. Once home, we enlisted a friend to help unload them onto our driveway - said friend was a bit daunted when he arrived because Matt didn't sufficiently describe the task when asking for help...

The next week we planted the smaller one at our house, and last weekend we managed to hoist the bigger one BACK onto the truck with just the two of us, drive back to the city, and with the help of Josh and Jim we planted it at PG. It is a realistic 15' tall and it was HARD WORK, but it's done and it looks magnificent!

We will keep the guy line on it for quite a while as it didn't have much in the way of roots and needs the support. If it falls over I will cry.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Dry garden is dry

Well we turned the corner into June and despite a light sprinkle of rain (!) this week the garden has never looked so dry so early in the year.

Despite that we had a great workday last weekend. Chris, Bill and Leslie joined Matt and I, and we deadheaded Euphorbias, cut back remaining Chasmanthes, gave a lot of Salvia leucanthas a haircut, watered anything recently planted to get it through, and weeded away like maniacs. 

The Gazanias that someone left in a pot at the garden were planted by the front kiosk. They're currently flowering and look lovely - I should get some more for the garden. I forgot how tough they are, and how cheerful.

We have two compost bins totally full of green waste but it's so dry that it's not composting down. We added some water so fingers crossed by next month we can turn the two bins into one and it will be well on the way to nice dirt.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Fencing complete

A while back someone down at PRG had a bonfire that involved the wood fence on top of the retaining wall. 20 fence boards and their supporting structures were burned, and a number of plants were damaged as well.

Last weekend, Matt and I replaced the boards. Not perfect, but solid and will last... until next time they get burned down? At least that long.

While we were working a security guard down on the railway tracks stopped and told us we shouldn't be removing the fence. We explained who we were and he watched us for a while... then got bored and left. Glad someone said something, at least.

I picked up all the trash I could find at PG while we were there, and noticed that someone has been weeding along the edges of the path on the street side - thanks!

Then we went up to PG and watered the plants that were recently put in. The whole garden looks very dry early int he season this year - it's going ot be a long tough summer for some plants.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Plant Profile: Hardenbergia violacea (Purple Vine Lilac)

Latin name: Hardenbergia violacea ("har-den-BERG-ee-ah vy-oh-LAY-sha")
Common name: Purple Vine Lilac or Purple Coral Pea Vine
Originally from: Australia
Blooms: Masses of small purple pea-flowers cover the plant in late winter.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Vining to 12-16'
Zones: 10a -11
Where to find in P. Garden: Far in the back, by the compost bins, covering the fence.

Back in 2009 we were looking for very tough, drought tolerant and evergreen vines that would cover ugly things like fences at the garden. This one fits the bill! I don't think I bought this plant though - someone donated it. And it was pretty scraggly... it limped along for a while in a very tough spot getting no water because I thought it was doomed and the hose didn't reach all the way there... 

Well, somewhere along the way it found its feet and sprang into life, covering the chain link fence it was suppose to cover (and which the Bougainvilleas planted at the same time failed to help with - in fact they died, which tells you how tough the Hardenbergia is)

This evergreen vine has really pretty purple flowers with a chartreuse spot in center covering the plant from winter to early spring. It enjoys sun or light shade in hot inland areas, and tolerates (and even prefers) heavy soil so long as it drains well. 

Happily for us it requires little water once established, and if we could be bothered it would respond well to pruning - hard pruning can reinvigorate older plants. 

The species is widespread through much of Australia and can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Tasmania where it grows from the coast to up into the mountains. 

Having a long, carrot-like root, it was reportedly used as a substitute for sarsparilla by Australian aboriginal bushmen. As a result, it also has the common names Australian Sarsparilla and False Sarsaparilla. The Australian aboriginal name for it is Waraburra.  

Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt first described the plant in 1793 in Icones Plantarum Rariorum based off cultivated plants that were thought to be from seeds collected in the Sydney area. Originally in the genus Glycine (the genus of the related soy bean Glycine max) this plant was later combined with Hardenbergia, a name Bentham used in 1837 when describing Hardenbergia ovata

The name for the genus honors Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, sister of the Baron Karl von Hugel, a 19th century Austrian patron of botany who collected plants while on an expedition to Australia in 1833. I can't find a photo of Frenziska, but I did find a pic of George Voorhelm Schneevoogt looking smug.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Worst weeds, ranked!

Last volunteer day we did a lot of weeding, and I asked each of our valiant volunteers what was their favorite, or most hated, weed. Well the results are in!

Chris has no fondness for Fumaria capreolata, or White Ramping Fumitory.  This weed is delicate and ferny, but man does it grow quickly! Turn around and it's smothered the plant it "ramps' up onto using it's little tendrils. 

In some ways it's not that bad because it's an annual, and it comes out pretty easily when you pull on the roots. On the other hand, it's awful because it grows and sets seeds so lightning fast that it's impossible to eradicate, and if you grab the stem it's so soft that it breaks off easily.


Jen pulled up this beastly Malva parviflora (read the Weed Profile here) and as you can see this weed is truly awful no thanks to its huge roots. If you don't get the root out, you can expect this one to come right back too. 

Another hateful thing about it is that it seeds quickly and those seeds can sit dormant in the dirt forever. Ugh.



Leslie told me about her most hated weed in the world, but as it turns out we don't have that weed at PG! Miracles. But her second most hated weed is ivy.

Way back when they were building the freeway, ivy was planted at this location on purpose as a ground cover. And I would say it's a great choice - as long as that is the only plant you want. Its ropey vines are impossible to remove completely, so we simply give it a haircut whenever we see it, with no hope of getting rid of it for good.


And John? John's favorite weed is Oxalis (read the Weed Profile here). When I say "favorite" what I mean is he actually likes it. John likes the acid yellow flowers and the cute shamrock leaves I guess? John also likes to pull my leg... so maybe he was kidding...

Oxalis, the bane of many gardens, is impossible to get rid of because it produced millions of tiny bulbs underground... just ugh!



Friday, March 4, 2022

Weed profile: Oxalis pes-caprae (Sourgrass)

Latin name: Oxalis pes-caprae ("ox-AH-liss pez-CAP-rye")
Common name: Sourgrass, Soursob, Oxalis, African wood-sorrel, Bermuda buttercup
Originally from: South Africa
Blooms: November to April
Worst feature: Dreadful replicating bulbs
Best feature: It's edible!
Height x width: 6-12" x 6-12"
How best to weed: Just pull the tops off... you won't find all the bulbs
Don't mistake it for: Any of the ornamental Oxalis cultivars that people buy and plant ON PURPOSE (!)

Oxalis is a genus of the devil. I mean I would call the entire genus an invasive, noxious weed but as it turns out there are a few ornamental Oxalis species and cultivars that people like to grow for fun, but when I see them for sale I either laugh or resist the urge to dump the pots in the nearest trash can.  Even I, as a newbie gardener, planted Oxalis about the place. SMH.

What makes it a bad weed is the fact that it's very successful at reproducing thanks to all the little underground bulbs it makes - they're impossible to dig out, and when bringing in new soil to your garden, unless it's guaranteed to be free of them can easily be contaminated with little bulbs. 

And you may ask "is that where one of the common names (soursob) comes from - the noise gardeners make when they see it growing?" No. The sour part is from the sour taste it has - due to large amounts of oxalic acid in the plant.

Is it all bad? Well, it contains large amounts of vitamin C. You can eat the leaves and (boiled) roots - it's "reasonably" harmless to humans and livestock, which is really all you can ask for in a foodstuff. In South Africa it is a traditional ingredient in dishes such as waterblommetjiebredie ('water flower stew')) and a yellow dye can be made by boiling the plant too.

On the whole thought I think you can tell I don't love this plant. I do find it a useful social litmus test though. Do you find acid-yellow a nice color? Do you like to see fields and gardens full of that shade?  Then, with notable exceptions (John...) we cannot be friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Mmm, steamy deliciousness

Matt and I went to PG today because WEEDS. I turned the compost and found the two bins we filled to the brim last week had reduced in volume by half as predicted. I turned bin 1 over onto bin 3 and it was steaming hot inside, as you can see from the photo - a sign of active composting on the go. 

I can't explain how satisfying this is - to have pulled weeds and see them composting down in to usable soil for us to use just fulfills something deep within. This article in the Financial Times says it's "...a form of ‘welldoing’ as well as wellbeing" and I have to agree.

Aside from this task, we also pulled weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. In fact we almost filled a bin, though the garden still looks very weedy!

Lots of plants are flowering right now - get out and enjoy them! Here's a pic of the cherry plum flowers, so lovely.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Weeds get whacked - by hand

Our February volunteer day was fantastic! We had a nice crew out there to help get rid of weeds, and they were amazing! Jen, Chris, Bill, Matt, Leslie, John and Joe were joined by Kresh and Kai (superstar mini-weeder in his new gardening gloves!) and while I turned the compost bins, they filled the empty ones really quickly.

I took lots of photos this time, and I'm going to do more Weed Profiles and also asked each volunteer what their most hated weed was. Everyone has one! I'll post that stuff in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, see if you can find these three plants in the garden right now. They're flowering and SCENTED!  Have a sniff - it will change your day. 

They are, from the left, clockwise: Narcissus, Philadelphus, Eriobotrya (Bronze loquat)




Also shown is the before and after shot of the top of the garden where Jen worked her magic and cleaned out SO many weeds. Wow.





 
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