Saturday, December 3, 2022

Wet from sky

It rained at the volunteer day, as it is apt to do this time of year, but nevertheless Matt, Chris and Josh helped with some fun tasks.

Matt harvested some Agave attenuatas and variegated Yucca branches so we can grow them on the for the garden. more plants!

Josh, Chris and I set about planting. We put in a dozen 1gallon Limonium sinuatum (Statice) plants that I have been growing for the last several months, and they are all along the front bed now - will look great! Then Josh planted four Leucophyta brownii that I'd also grown on for the garden.

Chris moved a Salvia canariensis up to the top of the garden, and rearranged some Agave filiferas in the front bed. After that he turned the compost which was a bit of a heavy task. I added some water and left the lids open so hopefully all that material composts down a bit faster.

And yeah - we watered in all the new plants. In the rain. Because the rains we have had so far have only dampened the top couple inches of dirt. It's amazing to see, we never stop being surprised by it, but we really, really are in a drought.

Photo: Lovely  Aloe "David Verity" that we got from Mat McGrath flowering away today.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Adios, tool chest

No surprise in winter, but we got some good rain last night. The gardens will be LOVING it. Last week Matt and I popped out to PG and removed the tool chest from the back area.

We built that tool chest back in October of 2015 and it's given is 7 long years of use. but the sad fact is that as much as we fortified it over the years, it was honestly just sitting there waiting for people to break in and steal all our stuff. More recently we have only used it for equipment we don't mind losing, but a recent break-in made me give up - so the chest has sat empty for a while. We will reuse the wood for something else.

We also did some trimming and pruning, and noted that the last rain meant the weed seeds are sprouting. JUST when you think they are all gone - oh no. Also sprouting is the very first flower we have ever had on an Agave attenuata. It's going to be a crazy bloom: watch out for that!

We have a volunteer day this weekend - Saturday 10-12 as usual - and the GROWTH Project will be joining us again next week. Come on down and help prepare for more rains - we might even be planting stuff (The. Most. Fun!) if the ground is damp enough!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Rain! It's that time of year.

Our Volunteer Day on Saturday was fine and clear - we had a sprinkle of rain but it wasn't really noticeable.

Chris emptied the middle compost bin and spread the resulting product around the garden. We left the other bins open so they can get a soaking from the rains due this week. He also valiantly weeded what's left of the dried up weeds... who are right this moment charging up for a big flourish of growth thanks to aforementioned rain... *side eye*

Josh weeded the front bed and lots of other areas. I have to say, despite being dry it's looking pretty good. The Chasmanthe have started to sprout and that's always welcome at this time of year.

I cleared up lots of fallen cactus fruits around the front kiosk, and Chris helped by cutting flowers off the Yucca plants, which you can see him holding up in the first photo. Someone has been lopping the tops off the yucca plants to get the flowers - if you see anyone doing that tell them to knock it off! It damages the trees and makes them look ugly for a long time - it's so rude!

Today we're having lots of rain. The GROWTH Project team came by and we weeded the Triangle Garden through showers, and turned the compost which will soon be steaming away merrily. They're making a big impact on the garden, and I can't wait to see what they do next!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Volunteer days - October and November

Just like that October is over! And we have a volunteer day at the garden this weekend, but I still haven't blogged the last volunteer day.

Well, what happened? We went down to PRG and weeded a lot - we also cleaned up the pathways (Bill helped me and we sheared back anything hanging over the path. Also looks like Bill really got into it. I'm a bit scared... :P ) and picked up trash. There's always a lot of trash down there. 

Then Chris took some pups off the huge Agave "Green Giant" at the bottom end, and we replanted them in various places. You can see from the photo that this is work that brings Chris joy and contentment. Also who the heck is cutting the leaves off bigger Agaves? Kindly knock it off - you're ruining them!

We probably did a whole load of other things but I can't remember them now.

The following week we had a new volunteer group come by. The GROWTH Project is a UCSF program and we had about a dozen participants and two group leaders come by PG to help. We weeded (always!), turned compost, cut back Salvias and deadheaded Echiums. The team were great - and we got lots done. They're coming back monthly to help us out, and I'm excited for that!

But, enough - come down this Saturday from 10-12 and help us prepare for winter. It's gonna be a great day to get some fresh air!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Plant Profile: Agave attenuata

Latin name: Agave attenuata  ("ah-GAV-ay ah-ten-you-AH-tah")
Common name: Foxtail Agave
Originally from: Central Mexico
Blooms: One, crazy, arching 5-10' long spike.
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 4-5' x 6-8'
Zones: 9b to 12
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some in the left bed, middle front bed, and also down at the North end of PRG

Are you looking for a plant that makes a big architectural statement, needs no water, but don't want something spiky and pokey? Agave attenuata has all the most epic agave qualities and no teeth, spikes, spines or other ways to get stabbed.

For an agave, it's also a relatively fast grower, even producing lots of babies along the trunk it creates (yes - an agave with a trunk!) and can handle damper conditions well. It comes in various variegated and "blue" colored forms too, so you can mix up the look. At PG we have the regular apple-green type, and the blue type ("Nova" or Boutin Blue")

Snails will munch on it, as will deer given the chance, and the leaves are breakable if you bump into them, so that's the down side of such soft leaves.

It is native to the plateau of central Mexico in the states of Jalisco, México and Michoacán where it grows on rocky outcrops in pine forests from 6000-8000 feet in elevation. French-Belgian botanist Henri Guillaume Galeotti (1814 – 1858) founds some in central Mexico and sent them to Kew Gardens. From Jalisco east to Mexico City, it lives in small colonies at elevations of 1,900 to 2,500 meters (6,200 to 8,200 feet), but there have been few recorded sightings - it seems to be rare in the wild.

While we have had these for a long time, none of them has ever flowered. They produce a 5 to 10 foot vertical flower stalk that curves down towards the ground before arching upward again, giving this plant the common name, the Foxtail agave – it is also called Lion's Tail Agave and Swan's Neck Agave. The flowers are a pale greenish yellow and are followed by seed pods and many bulbils (mini plants) which you can later share with 800 of your closest friends.

It has two subspecies: A. attenuata subsp. attenuata: Native to Central and Southwest Mexico and naturalized in Madeira and Libya, and A. attenuata subsp. dentata: Native to Northwest and Southwest Mexico. I have never seen the latter type for sale, but would love to have one.

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.

 
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