Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rain showers means weeds

Agave gypsophylla flower
Last weekend's volunteer workday was light on volunteers (me, Matt and Chris) but we eradicated tons of weeds. Pennsylvania Garden is looking great thanks to regular weeding sessions almost every week recently, but Pennsylvania Railroad garden down the street is a weedy mess.

Chris worked away in the left bed while I got into the midst of the top bed and many weeds met their fate.

Agave salmiana (?) flower
Matt set to work removing weeds from the rain garden at the bottom and 6-7 giant tubtrugs of weeds were whisked away, as well as lots of trash. But there's SO much more... I think it might be time for a weekend weedathon!

A couple of Agaves are flowering right now - check them out. They will flower for about 6-12 months, then die. Exciting, but also sad!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cherry Blossom Time

Just a quick note to thank Chris and April for joining me to spiff up the garden on Thursday. Pathways were cleared, weeds pulled and the area around the wooden arch prepped for us to fix the arch next week. Yes! We will get it done. Hope you all are having as much of a 'get it done' week as we are at the garden and enjoying the cherry blossoms while they last!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Little Rain and a Big Improvement

Most of the Saturday Crew
Many thanks to everyone who made Saturday's workday a big success!
Jimmer from SF Public Works brought us tools, and Matt cleared the Hakea that fell over in the last storm, and Chris cut it up into manageable pieces before it was used as a "mulch" in the beds. Annie set out to rid the area by the steps of weeds.

Up in the dog area, Debbie, Kathryn, Aditi, John, Victoria and I (Emily) all worked together. We've been clearing out the dog area of weeds for weeks, and today was the last big push to prepare it for the big pile of mulch. Many thanks again to Trees Company for their generous mulch donation!
We couldn't have done it
without your tools Jimmer!
 Our team weeded furiously, even when it briefly poured rain everyone just put their hoods up and kept working and chatting. Good company and a getting a job done was enough to keep us going through the rain, and we were very glad it was a brief rain! After clearing weeds we laid down cardboard (thanks Center Hardware!) and piled the mulch on top.

It isn't often that my birthday falls on the first Saturday of the month, and it was a treat to hang out with everyone and make the garden look even better. Hope to see you all around the garden soon, and please get in touch if you'd like to volunteer during the week by emailing me at

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Preparing for Mulch Workday

Jean-Claud, Debbie, and
puppy helper Xena
I am super fortunate to be able to set aside time during the week to garden, and I am even luckier, that I get to hang out with Chris, Jean-Claude, and my mom Debbie! We spent a solid two hours weeding at the garden on Wednesday in preparation for the mulch that is happening at our Saturday workday (this weekend!). So many buckets of weeds were removed from the dog area, I can't wait to get a good layer of cardboard down and wood chips on top! As an added bonus, Jean-Claude was dog sitting, Xena, a super lovable pup. About every ten minutes she would come to check on you to see if you needed a snuggle, or would throw a stick. Loved it!

Debbie helping out
with the wood chip delivery
Trees Company came through today with a small load of wood chips, and I am hoping they will be able to make a more drops for Saturday. It's for free, so I am happy for what we get!

Hoping to see you at this Saturday February 4th for our workday, 10-12!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weekday Garden Love

Chris weeding in the dog area
Big thank you to Chris and April for coming out to the gardens on Thursday. There is always something that needs to be done, and they both dug in clearing weeds and making things a bit better!

If you ever want to join in on a special weekday, please contact me at

April hamming it up
In addition to lots of weeding, pathways were swept and cleared of some over enthusiastic Agapanthus that we potted up. Chris gave the arch a nice trimming too. Robert, a botanical enthusiast that works nearby, was on a walk in the garden and we had a good conversation about South American sub-tropicals and herbs. Was also glad to hear he enjoys the garden!

Chris insisted on taking my photo
Hope to see you all at our big Saturday workday, February 4th from 10-12!

Storm damage

Unfortunate Acacia
A couple of trees at the gardens got damaged in the recent storms - be careful out there! You can see from the pics Emily sent that they are somewhat horizontal...

At top is an Acacia stenophylla which has bent all the way over. Friends of the Urban Forest are coming out to straighten it and reattach to stakes.

Tragic Hakea
Then at bottom we have the second of the three Hakea suaveolens we planted which great up to be gorgeous but doomed. With a heavy canopy of evergreen, water-catching needles, they seem to get laden with water and then easily blown over in strong winds.

There's one left, leaning at quite an angle.... I wonder how long it will last?

Matt has cleared some of the Hakea away and we will complete that this weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Live Oak School Digs In

A super volunteer crew from Live Oak
Many thanks to Nick and Minerva, teachers from Live Oak, and John, volunteer extraordinaire, for leading the special Martin Luther King day of service for Live Oak at the gardens. The kids (17 of them!) and their adult mentors made a big difference at the garden, picking up trash and making a dent in the fluffy weeds that seem to be everywhere this time of year.

A huge thank you to Live Oak for supporting the gardens!

Way to go!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Plant profile: Peritoma arboria (Bladderpod)

Latin name: Peritoma arboria (pronounced "perry-TOE-ma are-BORE-ee-ah") (formerly Isomeris arborea, syn. Cleome isomeris)
Common name: Bladderpod, Burro Fat, Spider Flower
Originally from: California and the Baja California Peninsula
Blooms: Bright yellow and delicate, the shrub can often be covered in them.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 5' x 5'
USDA Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: Along the cactus wall at PG, and a couple of them live along PRG too.

Well this plant is a solid California native that does ever so well at PG and PRG. Despite the annoying number of Latin names it's endured,  good ol' bladderpod is what we call it.

Covered in unusual and delicate yellow flowers and dangly fruits that, when dry, rattle, the plant has a strange odor, when the leaves are crushed, from which the name "burro fat" comes. Resiny, musky, sort of sulfurous, dry and burnt smelling - you either love it or hate it. I like it, Matt hates it.

Found in the western Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert, all the way to Baja California Peninsula in the wild, ours are on the cactus wall (essentially fried) and along PRG (where the percolation rate of the dirt was impossible to gauge because even with a hose going full blast we could not fill the required 3'x3' hole up with water in order to test the rate it drained out. Um, drought tolerant much?

An evergreen shrub with glaucous (bluish green) leaves, it grows about 4-5' tall and wide and is great for really rocky, gravelly soil, hot, dry areas, alkaline soil, salty coastal bluffs and probably would do just as well planted on top of a burning subterranean coal fire at the end of the world when only this plant, a few yuccas, and some cockroaches remain. It hates overwatering, and is hated by deer. Give it a shot!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reasons to be outside before a storm

Annie and Sarah ham it up
 for a quick photo
Big thank you to Sarah, Chris, Annie and Matt who all came out to the gardens today. We were able to get a lot of work done during a mostly dry, if a bit blustery break, before the storm. We've had such little actual rainy weather in the last fews years that I had forgotten how fun it is to be outdoors as a storm is coming in. 

Lots of extra energy in the air and a feeling of let's get this done now made for a fun and productive workday! Matt and Annie potted up a bunch of echiums for later planting in the dog area, and Sarah, Chris and I made a good dent in the fluffy weeds that are popping up everywhere. After getting a good workday in outdoors we can now justify finishing up those holiday cookies with hot cocoa, right? 

Friday, January 6, 2017

You're Invited: Quick Weekday Weed-A-Thon

Chris, volunteering during the week
and making a huge dent in the weeds!
It doesn't take long for a little hard work to turn into big rewards in a garden! Two hours later and weeds are piled high and the garden is on its way to looking good.

Chris and I are meeting up during the week to get some extra work done at the gardens, and could use an extra hand. If you're interested in volunteering during the week please send me a note so we can coordinate.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Changemaker Lecture & Visit

2nd Graders from Live Oak School
I had the privilege today of showing a gaggle of 2nd graders from Live Oak School around the gardens, and giving a lecture at their school. What a nice bunch of kiddos! Tons of great questions and they were very respectful, and fairly appreciative, of the gardens. We were able to corral them near the front entrance for a group photo - super cute!

As I was putting together my power point presentation for the 'at school' portion of the visit, I realized I had been giving this lecture since 2013. So much has happened at the gardens since then, including competing Pennsylvania Railroad Garden! Literally thousands of volunteer hours later (I keep track!) and the gardens are going strong. Many thanks to everyone who has lent a hand to Pennsylvania Street Gardens, and a Happy New Year!

Looking forward to seeing you all around this garden, and especially this Saturday January 7th at 10am for a workday. We are hoping the rain will come in later in the day, so 10am is a great time to get a little outdoor time in and make the gardens shine!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Plant profile: Bulbine

Latin name: Bulbine frutescens ("BUHL-bin-ee froo-TESS-ens")
Common name: Bulbine, Cat's Tail, Jelly Burn Plant
Originally from: Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland).
Blooms: Orange and yellow flowers are held above the foliage in late spring/early summer.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Although a succulent they seem to prefer occasional water over the summer.
Height x width: 18"x24"
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some dotted around the left bed and brights bed.

The genus Bulbine has about 80 species, which are found mostly in Southern Africa, with a few species extending into tropical Africa, about six in Australia and some in Yemen.

Bulbine frutescens is a nice little perennial with succulent, finger-shaped leaves and lovely delicate orange and yellow flowers. It's mostly dormant in summer, blooming in the spring, and then again somewhat in fall. It can be propagated easily by stem cuttings which can be planted immediately and kept in a shady area. They do not need any special attention or treatment, and build strong roots in a couple of months.

Bulbine in San Diego
Bulbine frutescens is sometimes commonly called Jelly Burn Plant as it contain glycoproteins, similar to many aloe species, and is touted for similar burn-healing properties as Aloe vera. These properties have also caused it to be called cape balsam (from the Africaans name balsem kopieva) - other common names include snake flower, cat's tail and and geelkatstert. says:
The fresh leaf produces a jelly-like juice that is wonderful for burns, rashes, blisters, insect bites, cracked lips, acne, cold sores, mouth ulcers and areas of cracked skin. This plant is ideal to grow and is a useful first-aid remedy for children's daily knocks and scrapes. The Rastafarians make an infusion of a few fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water. The strained drink is taken for coughs, colds and arthritis.

These plants prefer full sun, but they will also grow in semi-shade for part of the day. At PG it needs a bit of water - I wouldn't call it really xeric but rather "pretty drought tolerant," and I have to put it places where it will be somewhat damper for it to look good. It multiplies rapidly in the right conditions. Prune it when untidy, and deadhead for more flowers. For best results it should be planted in well-drained soil preferably enriched with compost.
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