Saturday, October 3, 2015

New tool chest!

Today's volunteer workday was warm and sunny - not too hot. at 9.30am Matt and I were at the lumber store buying everything needed to replace the tool shed with a new, stronger, wooden tool chest.

We got to the garden at 11am with all the lumber cut and hinges, handles, hasps and so on ready to go. Matt set to work trimming some wood while Nate turned the compost heap.

I set up the watering hoses for a good soak - the garden has clearly benefited from the recent watering and rain and some plants have sprouted up quickly! Other plants still need a soaking to make it through. John helped me water, while Emily weeded and cleared trash.

I cut back the Leonotis leonurus in the brights bed to 1/3 of it's previous size. It was gangly and sad looking, though showing new growth after watering.  Should bounce right back. I used the branches cut off as mulch at the base (instead of adding the the mountainous compost heap) and soaked the plant thoroughly.

After the workday ended, Matt and I forged on, trying to complete the building task. We took a break for lunch at 2pm and finally got the chest completed at 4pm. We put away the hoses and wheeled down to Fregosi for storage,and put all the tools in the new chest with a sense of satisfaction.

The lid needs the be a little bigger - we'll get another sheet of plywood, and varnish it, hopefully tomorrow. But it's a very solid trunk with a good sloping lid to repel water and people who want to sleep in top of it - I hope it lasts for years to come!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yuccas donate blood

Yuccas harvested
Well not actual blood, but the yucca cuttings we got from John in 2009 which were but small branches then, are now strapping multi-branched plants so we decided they could lose a few branches of their own to fill in at PRG.

Matt and I clambered into the prickly cactus wall and sawed out 9 branches at great risk to life, limb and eye poking. The crop was great, and the wall still looks lush with yuccas - lots more to harvest there.

Cactus wall still awesome
We loaded them into the truck and took them down to PRG, where I stripped off all the lower leaves and Matt commenced digging.

We made three holes and put three cuttings in each hole. Horribly stony, dusty dirt but yuccas are basically the cockroaches of the plant world and give not a whit for soil quality or moisture.

New plants!
They will spend a few months looking perturbed then in spring they'll bounce back and start growing thickly. They make a fabulous, drought resistant screen that prevents people tagging walls or fence boards, and covers up wire and other ugly fence. Go Team Yucca!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Overcast at last

Phormiums before
After over a week of very high temps, I was a bit worried the garden would be back to square one, but today Matt and I saw that the watering from last week helped and we have a few plants that have clawed their way back from the brink of death. Yeah!

We wheeled the hoses up and set sprinklers going to hit the most needy plants only.

I cut all the dead leaves off 6 Phormiums - the 3 "Guardsman" divisions in the outer border I was sure were dead are not, and got a good watering. The three in the left bed that I rescued years ago from some the trash got cleaned up and watered too - they're going to make it.

Phormiums after
While I was in the left bed hacking away, the Fuchsia boliviana "Alba" was poking my back with it's dead twigs. I cut a few back and saw that it's still alive! I gave it a good prune back to live sticks, and used its branches and the Phormium leaves to mulch all around that area and keep the dirt damp. I noticed that a Bronze Loquat (Eriobotrya deflexa) has seeded itself behind the Fuchsia and looks very healthy. It's a bit close to the cherry plum tree there, but we'll see.

Fuchsia pruned
Matt cleaned all the dead leaves off some Cordylines and around the Cussonia paniculata. He pulled pea vine out of the bed around the arch and weeded generally.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Trash, dumping, and destruction

Agave "Lemon Lime" flowering
Today I spent an hour picking up trash at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden. A lot of it blows in down 17th street, and more blows across the street from the construction site. And this week someone dumped two sofas and 4 bags of trash.

There's a lot left to pick up - perhaps when Matt gets home we can finish off the rest, and I'll schedule a trash pickup with DPW.

Chopped Opuntia
As usual I went through the trash to see if I can find an address (and if I do, I let DPW know so they can fine the owner of the trash for illegal dumping) but this time, the only thing of interest I could see was a page torn out of a calendar that listed what appeared to be dated grievances against a guy at the writer's work, with their disgusted comments. Ironic.

Chopped Trichocereus
Another thing I noticed was that someone has gone through and cut off the tops, and even the majority in some cases, of the columnar cacti at PRG. Those plants where nurtured by us for a couple of years to root and ready them for planting, and they will take probably 10 years to grow to the same size again. This is a real bummer.

Chopped Trichocereus
If you see someone cutting plants at ANY PSG gardens, outside of a workday, call the police. It's against the law to steal from or vandalize street parks.

Volunteer Labor Day

Sad Cussonia
Happy Labor Day weekend!

Today's volunteer day was sunny and warm (go Potrero Hill!) and I had three able bodied guys to work with. We got lots done.

Bill from Redwood City came by and he and our regular John cut back all the Agapanthus dead heads, after which John turned and watered the compost. Our heap is now incredibly tall and a workday where we rent a gas powered chipper to reduce the mountain is overdue.

Nathan and Bill cut back dead plants: the list of dead plants now includes two Athanasia pinnata, and some bronze Phormiums. While cutting back the cardoon, Nathan saw new sprouts emerging, so I watered it thoroughly.

The plants doing surprisingly well are Doryanthes (found a second one in the middle of the brights bed) and Cordyline cultivars (while the species dies. Odd.)

I wrestled the hoses again to water the most desperate plants. I can see evidence that last weeks watering helped, so I'll keep doing that to save some of the best plants until El NiƱo shows up...

My camera died so no pictures yet, but Bill found a praying mantis which was pretty cool!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rough times

Ochagavia litoralis
Having watched many plants die at PG, and not feeling desperately sad about all of them (after all, we're a xeric garden: if it can't survive some drought we don't want it!) I started noticing that some really tough plants have died. And since this is a rare weather event, I felt it's time to step in and see if we can save them.

Yesterday Matt and I went out with our watering gear for the first time in years and spent and hour giving a good soak to a few of the good plants that need help, and would be tough to replace.

Aloe reitzii var. reitzii
Of course, a lot of the plants out there look perfectly happy - Agaves, most Aloes and CA natives are all bopping along looking great. A lot of the Australian plants have not missed a beat.

As you can see from the photos, the Ochagavias are flowering for the first time (surprise!) and the Aloe reitzii var. reitzii as well - apart from being a bit squashed by Moby Dick the big Agave americana, this one is gorgeous!

However, the list of dead or dying right now is:

Berberis linearifolia
Buddleja "Ellen’s Blue" and the other big one Joan gave us
Cestrum fasciculatum
Cordyline "Kiwi"
Cordyline sp.
- surprised about this one
Cynara cardunculus
Festuca glauca
Fuchsia boliviana "Alba"
Kniphofia "Dwarf Yellow"
Leptospermum scoparium "Red Ensign"
Leucadendron "Safari Goldstrike"
Psoralea pinnata
Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"
Tibouchina urvilleana 

...and that yellow flowered Australian edging shrub whose name I can never remember.

Aloe reitzii var. reitzii
Cussonias are looking ropey. Surprisingly the Brugmansia clings on. Phormiums are in bad shape. Several Aloes are tightly curled up and praying for rain. It's all a bit sad really.

I'll water again next week and make an assessment. Hope we can make it through to the supposed El Nino we're expecting. October?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lovely Photoshoot at PG

Thanks to all our volunteers
 and Monica (photographer)
and Amanda (Flowers & Styling)
It's a big honor and privilege to create and keep the gardens looking good, and it relies on so many volunteers to make it all happen. Everyone has done such a great job, so good even, that the garden has been chosen as the site for a few photoshoots over the years. I think that is a pretty big kudos! Most recently Monica and Amanda were working at the site, and I happened to run into them during their shoot. So volunteers give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done at making the gardens beautiful. Monica and Amanda were very kind to share the final, beautiful finished product with us from Style Me Pretty and the original photos; enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A little bit of everything volunteer workday

Out with the old, soon in with the new!
John and Matt dismantling the shed
Big thank you to Annie, Matt, John, Carl, Nate, Justine and Debbie for getting so many different things done at the gardens on Saturday! As you may know, our shed has been broken into quite a few times, so it was time to take it down and plan to put something in its place that was more secure. Annie decided today was that wonderful day and set out with John and Matt to dismantle and move it to the curb. Annie will make sure the old shed is disposed of, and Matt is gearing up to build a new better storage unit, so our shed woes should be taken care of soon.

We get the best visitors
at the gardens!
Dog snuggles abounded.
Meanwhile, Carl, Justine, Debbie and I headed down to PRG to remove the mountain of trash that collects there weekly (!) and rip out as much of the fennel and other pesky deep-rooted weeds that seem to thrive in the bone dry soil that is down there. Annie and Matt had to leave to attend to horse-related duties, but were able to get started sorting out the compost with John at PSG. John did a
Cheery Justine makes quick
 work of the pathway weeds
fantastic job with some expert pitchforking to get the piles sorted and turned. I hauled up some water from SF Paint Source (they are so nice!!) to help get the ultra dry compost going again and Nate showed up to help too.

Nate, surrounded by numerous
cacti at ground level,
takes care of difficult fennel
Overall a lot of great progress was made at both gardens and we had a really fun time chatting and making the gardens look even better! Looking forward to seeing everyone at the next garden workday, hopefully with a new storage unit and maybe some rain (ok I'm just dreaming here....).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Volunteer Workday this Saturday

Come join us at our workdays!

A beautiful place
for enjoying the outdoors that
 always needs volunteer TLC
It takes YOU to keep the gardens looking good!

Everyone, green and black thumbs alike, is invited to our monthly workdays. Always! Per usual, our workday is the first Saturday of the month at 10am. That happens to be this Saturday August 1st. My Mom and I were out last weekend picking up trash and hand watering a few crispy trees, but there are plenty of tasks at all three gardens to do this coming weekend and we need your support.

We meetup at Pennsylvania Garden, gather supplies, divvy up tasks and disperse from there.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: Hope to see you around the garden.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A moment of silence for the shed

The shed is dead. At the weekend I saw it'd been rifled through again and I spent some time cleaning it up, but this evening we found the door destroyed and hanging open. Matt and I emptied all the tools into my car and took them home. 

Perils of street gardening, I tell you...

Friday, July 3, 2015

Genentech Gets the Gardens into Shape

Many thanks for the volunteers from Genentech that spent their volunteer time at all three of the gardens (!) a few weeks ago. This crew works well together at Genentech to make the best medicines possible, and they also did a fantastic job as a team making our gardens even more beautiful and well-kept. I also work at Genentech, and it's a big privilege for our gardens to be part of the annual Genentech Gives Back Week activities.

So much went on at the workday that I'm just going to have to give the highlights. First, I was onsite early in the A.M. to receive a truckload of mulch that was kindly provided by a local arborist. Once the volunteers arrived at 1pm we divided into teams; Gina, a neighbor of Annie's and a Genentech employee, led a group at the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden taking care of a ton of trash down there and watering the crispiest trees.

Another group went to the Triangle Garden to clear trash and weeds. Long-time volunteer Nate was on-hand with his baby Malcom to help get another group started weeding the left bed, and I started groups removing weeds from the pathways and clearing the weeds and annual pruning of the Salvia dog-area in preparation for the mulch. I ran between all the groups answering questions and checking if anyone needed anything, and we had a great time chatting and working together.

Grubby toe or grubby root?
 It gave us a double take
 when we turned the compost! 
After all the weeding, pathway clearing and distribution of fresh compost to some needy plants, the teams changed gears and began distributing the mulch. You can see in the photo it was a huge pile, and we were fortunate to have pitchforks, shovels and wheelbarrows provided by DPW. Pathways were swept and compost turned; we were able to wrap up by 4pm and enjoy the well-kept gardens!
Many hands really do make light work and it is the consistent effort of the volunteers that keep the gardens going - thanks to everyone who participated, and I'm glad to welcome you back next year!

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to cut back shrubby Euphorbias

 If you're like us, you know the shrubby Euphorbias are the fun lovin' criminals of the plant world. Tough, drought tolerant and always seeding themselves everywhere.

We have lots of Euphorbia characias in the garden and enjoy their compact shape and amazing chartreuse flowers. But when the flowers are over (more brown than lime green) they need to be cut back, so here's how.

Don't do this
First of all, note that Euphorbia sap, a white milky and sticky substance that leaks out when you prune them, is quite the irritant. Don't get it in your eyes people! Some species have sap that can blind you, so take care.

That also means that pruning them around dogs and children needs to be done right.

First, do not just deadhead the tops of the flowers and leave sticks with nasty sap at small-beast eye level! Someone's gonna get hurt, and at the very least it looks ugly when you prune plants this way.

Second, if you cut down to a few inches from the base and compost the stalks (I chop them up a bit for faster composting) it's a quick job. See the before and after here - the new stalks coming in will quickly fill out the shrub.
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