Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Who wants a FREE TREE?!

Our pals at Friends of the Urban Forest let us know that the good people of Potrero Hill haven't taken advantage of an amazing offer they have going on: FREE TREES! I don't know guys - I'd jump on this if I had room!

This just in from Jasmine:

The requests for trees in your neighborhood (Potrero Hill) is low. We are looking for more neighbors to plant trees with us! We have been leaving notes with neighbors and apartment buildings with large sidewalks. We hope that you can meet or talk to some of your neighbors about requesting trees, or reaching out to their landlords.

The FINAL DEADLINE to receive requests for your neighborhood is JANUARY 24, 2018. Forms are available online: or

What you can do to help is:
1. Forward this email to a Potrero Hill list or club you may know
2. Share information about the deadline on
3. Talk to your neighbors

The City is responsible for STREET TREE MAINTENANCE:

Please let me know if you are interested in helping or advocating for a certain block. Thank you!

Jasmine Lim
Community Outreach Manager
Friends of the Urban Forest

So, jump on it - make our Hill an even nicer place to be :)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy 2018!

Aditi is always smiling :)
Fun workday today! The sun was out after some rain, so the weeds were ready to go nuts. Matt and I met Hilary, Chris and Aditi at PG and noticed a couple things. Things that didn't make me very happy at all...

First of all, someone had hacked at the beautiful Agave weberi on the front border, taking off about 1/5th of the leaves on one side. The plant probably won't look good again for 5 or 6 years, if that. This really upsets me, as it was a gorgeous plant... if you see someone destroying plants in the garden please call 911.

We also noticed that the homeless encampment down in the back of the garden has returned - and it's twice as big. I took a quick photo an posted it to the 311 app right away, very worried about what to do as these camps can get out of control fast, and the mess is already horrific..

Chris whacks a Lavatera
We headed down to PRG to start clearing the pathway, which has become very overgrown. Everyone got started picking up trash (oh, there was a LOT... including 20 needles I picked up, and a huge number of dog poos in bags, or loose...) and also cutting back plants along the pathway.

The plan is to get some bids from garden maintenance companies to come down and replace some of the decomposed granite that's washed away over time, making the path more level again. We'll do that after the rainy season, but getting the paths cleared now is a step in the right direction.

Hilary hard at work
We pruned back some trees, cut the Lavateras that were spreading on to the path, as well as the Santolinas, Calandrinias and other overflowing plants.

A huge number of fennel plants and other weeds got whacked too, and a giant pile of trash accumulated. About halfway through the day I saw a DPW truck going down the street, and managed to catch up with it to ask if they were there to clean out the encampment.

Matt can dig it!
The driver, Ina, was very friendly and came back up the street to look at the encampment. She said it might not be a DPW job to complete the work, but promised to return the next day with a crew to do just that. Thanks Ina! That's a huge weight off my mind. She even came back at 1pm and started picking up the big pile of trash we accumulated during the workday - great news.

All in all, a very productive day, despite the unpromising start!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Volunteer Workday

Great sunny day for the workday this Saturday!  We got so much done too.

I turned the compost, and put a lot of the completed product onto the Mexican marigolds we planted last month. Looking good. I also picked a lot of trash and some needles from PRG, and made two big piles for 311 to take away (yay for the 311 app - makes it so easy to report)

Matt redid the side of the middle back bed by dividing the Agave gypsophylla, adding an Agave ovatifolia, and replanting the Aloe brevofolias there. He also cut the flower stalk off an Agave desmettiana marginata that's absolutely STUFFED with bulbils. We set up 4 flats of bulbils and have lots more to share.

Chris took a long-suffering Brahea edulis (Guadelupe palm) from the far back of the terraces and brought it up to the brights bed where I hope it will go nuts.

He also coppiced a Coprosma and helped me down at PRG by picking trash, weeding, and bringing a lovely Agave angustifolia up to a better spot on the steps.

One sad note was all the dog poop at the garden - I picked up 5 large, fresh piles at PG alone! Who is leaving it?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

December workday coming up!

Join us on December 2nd for a workday at the gardens! It promises to be sunny and dry, so drop on by and enjoy making your neighborhood a nicer place to live :)

Jobs we will work on include:
  • Planting Salvia canariensis plants at PRG
  • Trash picking and weeding at PRG
  • Turning the compost at PG
  • Sweeping and trimming the paths, as usual.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Quick trip

On Saturday I spent a productive couple hours at the garden getting a few tasks done.

I cut back two Salvia leucantha (Mexican Sage) to get them ready for new growth and more flowers. You can see the before and after - you just cut them down to about 6" and leave the new growth to pop up from there.

I like to leave a few flowering S. leucantha all year round for the hummingbirds, so the rest of these can be cut back over the next couple months.

I also moved an Agave shawii into a better spot - there are some pups forming so hopefully that will spread out more.

The homeless encampment in the back of the garden is still gone, but the hole at the bottom fence appears to have been reopened.

Lastly I cut back some Santolinas and trimmed up and few other things. We got lots of rain so lots of weeds will soon follow... but the Chasmanthe are sprouting so look out for those orange flowers soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Big cleanup and homeless update

The Clean & Green Team
Today we had the hardworking Clean & Green Team come to PG, led by Paul, as well as a DPW packer truck to take away all the green waste and compost it.

They managed to completely remove a pile about 20' long, 10' wide and almost 5' high - tough work on a sunny and pretty warm morning!

Thank you Julia, Marissa, May, Paul and the crew - and Chris for moving all the debris up to that spot in the first place!

While the team worked to move the huge pile down to the front by the truck, Matt and I investigated the homeless encampment in the back of the garden. There was nobody home, and it looks like all belongings were gone too, so we spent a couple hours dismantling the encampment, picking up all the trash, and cleaning the area.

We also cut back a lot of fennel and filled the hole in the far bottom fence with a large blue Agave americana - better than barbed wire!

Spiky fence
Now, I don't think this is a permanent solution - halfway through the job a homeless person came down and asked if there was a hole there to go through, and I said no... but I expect it will be back. Agaves, yuccas and opuntias do a fearsome job repelling humans, but only when they get established, which is hard to do when they get ripped out or clambered over.

Hope these ones make it - the opuntias we planted many years ago are gamely trying to form the impenetrable hedge I know they can, but they're a quarter the size they should be, with many broken branches.

A whole lot of the 1 gallon pots of Agaves and Aloes growing on in that back area had been trashed by the homeless encampment, and I threw a number out. Matt planted a dozen pups in the "pup farm" along the off ramp street edge. They'll grow on and recover there, in relative safety, until we can transplant them to their final spots.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Homeless concerns at PG

Hi friends,

Please read: need a bit of help here.

It's been a long time since we've seen homelessness at this level in San Francisco. City services are struggling to provide help to thousands of people affected by homelessness, and the often related issues of substance abuse and mental illness.

I recently met with various people to discuss this: Sophia Kittler, Legislative Aide in the office of Supervisor Cohen, Randy Quezada, who works in the office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Stephanie Muller of the Delancey Street Foundation and Eileen Loughran, Health Program Coordinator at San Francisco Department of Public Health, as well as various local community leaders.

We discussed ways to prevent encampments from growing in front of buildings, and in the gardens we have built, and the meeting was not a moment too soon – at our volunteer day last weekend we saw that an encampment had started at the back of Pennsylvania Garden.

There’s a real emotional push and pull between wanting to help people, or leave them in peace, and dealing with the needles, crack pipes, broken glass, feces, trash, fires, and verbal or other physical threats from encampments.

In order to protect the people who enjoy our gardens – visitors, volunteers and wildlife – I want to outline the steps needed to prevent this encampment growing out of control.

  1. Call 311 or use the 311 app ( ) to report the issue of an encampment at PG or PRG. I’ve already done this, but it’s not about me calling 10 times – a faster response comes from 10 people calling once each, according to the city.
  2. Call 911 if you feel threatened at all.
  3. Call Animal Care & Control at (415) 554-6364 if you see an animal in an encampment that is suffering, or behaving aggressively. 

Can you take a minute to call 311 or use the 311 app today? Randy Quezada outlined the services offered to these encampments – they’re not going to get a police ticket they can’t pay, and his team has had success getting people off the street.

Thanks for helping – I hope we can resolve the issue for real one day soon.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Volunteer day: rain TBD!

Aloe ferox flower!
Despite a forecast for a gloomy, rainy Saturday morning the weather in Potrero Hill was sparkling sunshine and perfect for gardening. Probably as a result of the forecast we only had a few hardy volunteers, but a lot was accomplished.

A few months ago I took some cuttings from the Coprosma "Marble Queen" and rooted them. Four nice 1 gallon plants resulted, and they were ready to go in - a perfect replacement for the Impatiens we pulled out last time, under the cherry plum trees.

Small Coprosmas
Hilary and I prepared the holes and planted the plants, with lashings of compost and solid watering bowls to help funnel rain into them.  Hilary watered them in too - hope we get some more rain so they are off to a good start! I'll be making more cuttings of this plant in spring for sure.

Matt cut back several shading branches from the cherry plum trees, and we used them to protect the new plants by making a barrier to the pathway.

We also planted three Mexican marigolds, Tagetes erecta, which came from our pal John, in the middle back bed, and moved a Dietes to accommodate. Hope they take off!

Matt worked on removing the stump of a huge agave that had flowered behind the wrong way sign. he manfully hacked it out and replaced it with a little Agave "Butterfinger" pup which should be very impressive one day.
Stump: removed!

Matt also moved a few other Agaves around - some about to outgrow their spot - and had a good time wrestling them. And Leslie headed on down to PRG and collected a vast amount of trash - along with a fridge - for the city to pick up. Thanks Leslie - lots of deferred maintenance down there that needs to be done, and it's time someone stepped in. I submitted a 311 request, and as of today it appears they picked up the trash. Good news.

Tiny Butterfinger in there...
During the week Chris accomplished a huge feat - he removed all the compost bins contents and piled it at the top of the garden. This is a huge amount of work, but frees the composters to generate useful compost again, so that was well worth doing. Thanks Chris!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Volunteer Workday: Balmy Fall!

Bill trims Leonotus
What a superb day to be in the garden: the weather was just right and our gang of volunteers set about a number of tasks. Wish I got more pics - you'll have to imagine ;)

Hilary and I set up the hoses and watered a few areas - this will be the second watering this year and we saw a huge difference after the last one. Worth it.

Bill removed a number of Impatiens shrubs that looked extremely tired. Let's face it, Impatiens look best with a good bit of summer water and we're not promoting that! So out they went, and now we can replace with something tougher (but what? I'm thinking some nice Coprosmas I've been propagating this summer)

Bill and Hilary also each pruned back a Leonotus leonurus and they're ready to grow back out into lovey flowering shrubs.

Matt chops Agave
Yannicka and Bill cut the dead leaves of several Phormiums, as well as tidying up several Cordylines. It's surprising to see such tough plants looking drought stressed, but I think they'll make it.

Matt in the meantime took the dead flower stem a dn leaves off Moby Dick, our big, and now defunct, Agave americana variegata. It's been a swell ride, and it's over. But now there's room for another mega Agave and I'm excited about that.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Many thanks and goodbye from Emily

After living in San Francisco for over 11 years, I am saying goodbye and moving to Oregon. When we founded the garden almost a decade ago, I knew there might be a time when I’d have to say goodbye. It has been a privilege to work with everyone and I am still amazed we’ve created multiple street parks as an all-volunteer organization! I know the garden is in capable hands, and I look forward to visiting and seeing it continue to grow. 

Our regular workdays are still in full swing, so please join the crew at our monthly workday this Saturday, October 7th from 10am-12; please meetup at Pennsylvania Garden, and we’ll disperse from there. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Agave attenuata - extra tough
Unless you were out of state last weekend you'll know it was punishingly hot over Labor Day weekend. So what did we do? Volunteer Day!

In fact, it turned into three days in a row, with Matt and I returning on the following two days to keep up the good work and get things tidy. There's lots more to do though - it's time to make a schedule to get everything done.

A mason jar to direct water
The garden is possibly drier than this time last year. Always the most parched time of the year, we haven't watered anything since last September when a number of plants died.

We replaced them with plants we thought would be much tougher... and now THOSE plants look weak. Quite a shock to see Cordylines wilting, and even some of the Yuccas and even Agaves looking a bit worse for wear.

Stacey and Hilary
So, out came the hoses and we set up sprinklers in a few key areas to save lives. Emily, Matt and I were ably assisted by Stacey, Chris and Hilary, and we all got to work weeding, trimming, clearing and tidying.

Stacey deadheaded all the Agapanthus, and Hilary cleaned the steps out thoroughly.   Emily, Matt and I planted a lot of potted plants Emily has donated to the garden too - Yuccas, Agaves, Crassulas, Cotyledons and other succulents - they look great!

A lot of plants looked fabulous though - these are the ones you want to plant if water is an issue. Agave, Opuntia, Yucca, Dasylirion, Hakea - those are the drought-proof winners. You can see a big jungly mess of them in the photo left. Matt and I thinned a few branches out of the Yuccas and you couldn't even tell what we removed afterwards, they are growing so thickly.

Agave hedge in training
I removed some pups from the Agave "Butterfinger" at the front arch and planted them, plus another from home, along the very top edge of the garden. We'll add more Calandrinias and Euphorbias between them to make a great edge.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to cut back Stachys and Euphorbia

It's about time to cut the dead flowers off your lamb's ears! These tough dry garden plants are fantastic to fill in around bigger plants with their soft, silvery leaves.

They send up tall spires of honey-scented flowers in a lovely lavender shade, and when the flowers set seed if you leave them for a while, they will seed around and you'll get baby lamb's ears growing everywhere. Bonus!

After all that though it's time to cut back the flower spikes because they start to look ratty. And it's very easy to do, but be sure to do it right. The top photo here shows a small plant that has flowered - the flower spikes are tall.

The second photo shows the plant cut back - but someone left stubs of flower spike! It looks bad - those stubs will die back and remain as little dry sticks, spoiling the look of your plant for the rest of the year.

The last photo shows the plant properly cleaned up. Take those spike ALL the way back so the stubs hide under a leaf. Magic! You're done.

Euphorbia characias and similar species can be cut back just the same way - DON'T leave sticks poking out while deadheading - they'll just look like a mess of sticks instead of a nice small green shrub. Cut them all the way back. Got it?
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