Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weekend happenings

Unfortunate hummingbird
Yesterday Matt and I popped out for the usual: a quick survey to see if we can do one job that will make us good about being at work in offices all week.

Unsurprisingly we found lots of weeds - still. Somehow the weed fairy has not magically removed them overnight. Pah! So we started weeding while we considered other tasks.

Matt planted 5 Puya laxa (Hay Stack Puya)  that had been growing in pots down on the terraces for some time. This is a fuzzy little bromeliad from Bolivia with blue-black flowers.

I weeded the right side of the brights bed - only the left side remains. I added compost to the base of the lovely Cussonia spicata there, and watered the newly planted plants from last week and mulched them even more. I also spread a lot of the foliage from the Hakea suaveolens that Chris had put to one side on the ground as mulch too - I think it will be very effective.

Matt sawed up the remains of the Hakea trunk and branches, and we now have several new piles of debris in the top area which I'll hire someone to take away shortly.

Today I went out to turn the compost and found the right bin full of ready to use compost. Always lovely. So I put three tubtrugs full on the middle back bed and weeded there. Then two wheelbarrows full on the brights bed. At some point I aggravated a muscle in my back so I had to stop, and couldn't finish the job. I did find a dead hummingbird and buried it under a bright Arctotis. Circle o'life...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Plant profile: Cussonia

Cussonia spicata
Easy to grow, not too tall, strikingly architectural and evergreen, this genus is a great tree for our area and a personal favorite of mine. I'm surprised they aren't more popular, but large specimens are not often available to buy. Annie's Annuals often has small ones though, and they grow pretty fast. Get a hit of funky, tropical, yet drought tolerant action in your garden!

Latin name: Cussonia ("kuh-SOH-nee-ah")
Common name: Cabbage Tree
Originally from: Southern Africa.
Blooms: Big crazy spikes that the bees love.
Light: Full sun
Water: Survived severe drought!
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 15-40' tall and wide
USDA Zones: 9a-11b
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed we have a large Cussonia natalensis, and in the brights bed a Cussonia spicata.

Cussonia leaf
The name Cussonia is named after the Professor of Botany at the University of Montpellier, Prof. Pierre Cusson (1727 - 1783). We got our first one way back in February 2009 - a C. natalensis with shiny green leaves that grew from a 1 gallon plant to a big multi-trunked 15' tall tree in just a few years. Eventually it should reach 40' tall, unless the dry weather keeps knocking it back.

During the 5 year drought it started to die back from the top, and I thought it wasn't going to make it. I watered it twice in the final year, and it pulled through. As of April 20156 it is sprouting vigorously from the base. You can see the dead branches at the top of the photo below.

Our Cussonia spicata was planted in the brights bed in 2011 and survived the drought fine. It's got a way to go to attain it's final height of 25-40'.

I also planted a Cussonia paniculata in the middle back bed, but it was somewhat smothered by other plants around it and died. I'd love another of that species - the blue-grey leaves are lovely, and it only gets 15' tall.

Cussonia natalensis
In addition to its popularity as a decorative garden tree and useful accent plant, the leaves of C. spicata are not only beautiful in shape but also traditionally used as a treatment for indigestion, and the roots are succulent and edible - mashed roots have also been used in the treatment of malaria.

The bark is cork-like, and the wood is very soft and decays easily - it's used to make mole traps and brake blocks for ox-wagons in Africa.

I highly recommend this plant. With an exotic mop of deeply-divided leaves and interesting bark on the trunk, it looks a bit like a funky palm tree.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Got trees? Make sure they are looked after.

This just in from our lovely pals at Friends of the Urban Forest:

"After years of research and preparation, we have crafted a ballot measure that will finally fix San Francisco's broken policies for street trees and sidewalks. FUF is urging all elected Supervisors to place the measure on the November ballot, and we need you to let your Supervisor know this measure is important to you.

***Click here to send a quick email to your Supervisor, and fix our urban forest***

To ensure a thriving and safe urban forest for SF, the measure will:
  • Fix all the sidewalks broken by tree roots
  • Publicly fund the pruning of all street trees and fixing of sidewalks to keep them healthy and safe
  • Make the city -- not property owners -- liable for tree falls, limb drops, or trip-and-falls
  • Set the stage to plant and care for an additional 50,000 street trees
  • End the disastrous "tree relinquishment" program that punishes residents and trees

When the plan is enacted, the City will have adequate funds to maintain all street trees and adjacent sidewalks with high standards of care.  Property owners who have trees in front of their properties will be relieved of financial risk, and the streets will be safer for everyone.

This plan is good for trees and good for people!

Click here to send a quick email to your Supervisor, and save our urban forest.

Doesn't take a minute to send an email to our supe, Malia Cohen. Do it today!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

4 hours

Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"
Today Matt and I went up to PG to have our morning bagels and noticed a few (haha) jobs that needed to be done. One was staking up the Euphorbia lambii (again!) so we popped over the Flowercraft to buy some really good stakes. And a few plants.

We decided that after the staking we'd weed a little and ended up staying in the garden for four hours! Lots got done.

In the brights bed, I noticed our gigantic Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila" is NOT dead and has re-sprouted which is great news and means the area will soon be fill of salvia again. Then I weeded five tubtrugs of weeds out and planted:

3 Arctotis "Hearts & Tarts"
3 Artemisia arborescens (Large Wormwood)
5 Aloe vera from the back terrace

I also moved half a dozen little volunteer Euphoribia characias in to better groupings, and rearranged some Aloe veras into a group too, and after watering I mulched the new plantings thoroughly.

Agave gypsophila
In the meantime, Matt moved some Aloe maculatas to the middle back bed and weeded all over. He grouped some stray Yucca flaccida "Garland's Gold" together, and some variegated Furcreaeas too. He also added a third Limonium (Sea Lavender) to the front border, so the pattern of purple flowers repeats nicely down the bed.

While he was hauling out weeds I planted a big Agave gypsophila that Emily donated to the garden. It needs more sun - you can see how different the new one (left) and established one are in form. The new one should perk up soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What are the chances? 0.3% apparently.

Today Matt and I had a workday in the light, refreshing rain. I didn't expect many people to come weed in the rain but I was happy to see Chris show up as he's always good for conversation and a hard worker :)

Later on, I because even more grateful that Chris was there...

As we started the day I mentioned finding needles in the garden, and how I'd picked up a dozen or so. I told Chris to be careful. I've been worrying about what might happen if a volunteer got a needle stick injury, and I wanted to have a protocol to follow in case that dreadful day arrived.

Turns out Chris is a retired AIDS doctor! I asked him what he would do, and he gave me some great and balanced information. The chances of getting HIV or Hepatitis from a needle stick are very, very low... 0.3% according to various legit-sounding sources online. You can also take drugs that will reliably prevent you developing HIV. So needle stick injures seem less terrifying.

The real question is "what is your tolerance for stressing about it" because it can take 2-4 weeks to develop a testable case of HIV, and if you don't start prophylactic medication within 72 hours, that's a long wait to know if you're safe.

About five minutes later as I was lifting a pile of weeds into a tubtrug I felt a prick.

A used needle lay in the weed heap.

What are the chances of THAT?

There was no blood, but it poked me in the palm - through my glove. Chris directed me home and I scrubbed it with Hibiclens and noted my last tetanus shot was in 2012. Back at the garden, Chris reassured me some more and told me to get on the phone to my doctor. And they called the hotline for such things. And called me back to say "don't worry" - there has never been a single case of HIV infection from a needle found in the environment.

I'm going to go in Monday for an HIV and Hepatitis test, and repeat that in a month just in case.

In the meantime, stay safe out there gardeners. I think some heavy leather gloves are in order.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plant profile: Artemisia

Artemisia is a huge genus of plants with between 200 and 400 species belonging to the daisy family. Amusing common names for various species in the genus include mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush. It's one of our dry garden stalwarts, and the leaves have a distinctive scent.

Latin name: Artemisia (pronounced "art-eh-MEES-ee-ah)
Common name: Wormwood
Originally from: Temperate climates of both hemispheres, usually in dry or semiarid habitats.
Blooms: The flowers aren't the point here - they're usually yellow and insignificant.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 30"-60" x 3'-6'
USDA Zones: 5-9
Where to find in P. Garden: In the front bed, left bed, and many large clumps at PRG

In the garden, we use Artemisia plants as tough, drought tolerant border edging. The beautifully feathery "Powis Castle" edges a lot of PRG. We also have three Artemisia arborescens (Large Wormwood) just planted in the brights bed. They should reach 4-6' tall and wide - let''s see if they do well.

The aromatic leaves of some species are used for flavoring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste. A. dracunculus (tarragon) is widely used as a culinary herb, particularly important in French cuisine. Artemisia absinthium (absinth wormwood) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine).

The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, "wormwood") is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood. The awfully potent spirits absinthe and Malört (Swedish for wormwood) also contain nasty, bitter wormwood. It really doesn't taste good - even the people who make it say:

"Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort after the first "shock-glass." During the lifetime of our founder, Carl Jeppson was apt to say, 'My Malort is produced for that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.'

It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts - seemingly forever. The first shot is hard to swallow! Perservere [sic]. Make it past two 'shock-glasses' and with the third you could be ours...forever" 

This plant grows quickly and tolerates relentless hot sun and parched soil quite happily. You can cut it back almost anytime and it will bounce back into lovely mounds of silver fronds.  And it's cheap and easily available - if your mound gets out of control or the middle starts looking scraggly, rip it out and throw a new one in there. No worries.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

More Weeds Sunday & Potrero Boosters Heads Up

My mom, Debbie, clearing a big
grassy patch in the dog area
Before I get into the very brief post about our Sunday at Pennsylvania Garden, let me tell you all about Tuesday.

Tuesday is the Potrero Booster's monthly meeting per usual, but the developer of the parcel adjacent to Pennsylvania Garden will be giving a presentation on what things will look like with condos there.

Annie, Matt and I will be there and hope to see many neighbors there.

Starting to look like someone cares ; )
Sunday my Mom, Debbie, was visiting and we headed out to the gardens for some weeding and trash pickup. Someone had dismantled the doggie bag holder (!) so I'll add that to the 'to do' list for things that need to be replaced.

Nice color at PRG
Otherwise it was the usual, us gardeners trying to get the upper hand on all of the grass in the garden, and today we attacked the dog area. We also added a quick sign announcing the next workday (Saturday May 7th 10-12) so the newbies know when to be where to keep their neighborhood looking good. Hope to see you all at the workday too!

Earth Day, cont'd.

Yesterday we weeded from the north end of PRG, taking home a tubtrug of trash and pulling weeds up to the rain garden. Boy that is a weedy mess.

Today Matt and I went back for more, filling 4 bags of trash, a tray of needles, and load after load of weeds. 

After I picked up the needles, a gust of wind blew them over into a shrub and I had to pick them out again. Damn I hate picking needles up!

Keep your dogs OUT of the planted areas people, that's all I can say, unless you want them to get stuck by a needle - or you, if you're a conscientious owner who picks up your dog poo.

The North end is clean! South end is clean after last week too! Just the middle remains... and we will be out there working on it in the coming weeks.

I used the 311 app to submit two requests to the city - one for a trash pickup, one for the needles, which are sitting in a plastic tray next to the trash: watch out.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day in the garden!

Kevin, pruning
Today I brought employees of 3D Systems to the garden for a pre-Earth Day special! Thanks Peter, Tina and Kevin for helping out.

Kevin artfully cut back an Artemisia that was creeping over the pathway - it barely looks pruned: very neat job and much better than just hacking it straight across and waiting for it to grow back a bit and look natural.

Peter and Tina, weeding
Tina cut back a huge Calandrinia and took lots of cutting we will use for the other garden up the street, PG.  She did get poked by an Agave spine but the guys across the street at Hilti gave her a band-aid.

Peter ably hacked down loads of the evilest weeds known to Potrero Hill gardening - fennel - and threw the hacked fronds over the fence to mulch down out of sight.

The 3D Systems crew

Loads of trash was collected, and about 8 tubtrugs of weeds got pulled but my goodness - there are loads more! Anyone want to do some more weeding this weekend?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Avast! There she blows! There she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!

Something is about to blow here - can you spot it? Oh dear.

Gardening. A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Here's our lovely big Agave americana, that we named "Moby Dick" thanks to its spouting form, whale-like heaviness during planting, and epic profile in our fledgling garden.

It has grown here since 2009, and now it is flowering. Which means it will die. And yes, I'm a bit sad, but at the same time we can replace it with another epic Agave. And anyway, dying plants? I am past scorching; not easily can’st thou scorch a scar.

It's always hard work digging Agaves to move them, and usually someone gets scratched, stabbed or otherwise lightly maimed.  But you have to laugh.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.

So we got 7 good years out of this plant, and the flowering will take 3 or more months in a great, final display.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.

A cookie to the person who can spot all the Herman Melville quotes in this post! Call me to let me know - call me Ishmael. :P

Sunday, April 10, 2016

After the rain, the weeds

Matt and I headed up to the garden to do an hour of weeding today. The garden is in full bloom!

You can see a lovely Kniphofia flowering in orange here, with an Echium in blue, and an Agave gypsophila and some red Dyckias in the foreground. 

I pulled all the weeds on the steps, and we planted a Yucca whipplei there, with the three others.
Matt pulled weeds all over the garden - we hauled 5 tubtrugs full to the compost bins, which are very full and need to be turned.

I cut back a Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) at the bottom of the steps , and the Leucadendron salignum "Golden Tip" and the Lycianthes rantonnetii (Blue Potato Bush) at the top of the steps.

There's so much weeding to do - come on out to the Friday April  22nd Earth Day volunteer event to help us weed this place up!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Buckets and buckets of weeds

Chris keeping pathways
clear and weeds out of sight 
The recent rains have made everything germinate and grow, and our gardens are being slowly overrun by a number of weeds! Fortunately John, Chris, Annie, Matt and I were at the gardens today, and put a big dent in the weed population. Way to go team!

Annie and John set off for PRG, while Matt worked in the brights bed. Chris and I took to cleaning up the pathways near the archway. Chris did a great job trimming back the Dipogon lignosis aka 'Cape Sweet Pea' which covers the arch; be sure to check it out and enjoy the scented blooms that are starting to appear in beautiful drifts. 

Matt hard at work in
the brights bed
Honestly, even with everyone working super hard there are just too many weeds for one workday! Everyone did a great job, and I look forward to rallying more volunteers at the next workday to remove even more weeds and keep the gardens looking good. Hope to see you all then!

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