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.

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

Starting to look like someone cares ; )
Nice color at PRG
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. 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.

North end is clean! South end is clean after last week too! Just the middle remains...

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!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Volunteer Workday this Saturday

Justine making the gardens,
and our neighborhood,
 a better place!

It's officially Spring!

Join us and shake off Winter and welcome Spring by helping out at our volunteer workday this Saturday April 2nd from 10-12. Meetup at Pennsylvania Garden and we'll disperse from there. The gardens are looking good but need your continued TLC to keep them that way.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tree overboard

The Hakea suaveolens in the brights bed has been leaning at a precarious angle for a week, and I ordered strapping and ratchets, and consulted with an arborist in order to straighten it up.

Sadly over the weekend, before we could get it upright, the heavy rains dragged it down flat, exposing roots. Today we surveilled the damage and concluded the tree was unlikely to make it, even if we could attach the strapping to a point high enough to pull the several hundred pound tree upright.

Pretty sad, as that was the last remaining large tree in the brights bed. However, if the roots were as shallow as they looked and the top as heavy as it is, there's a good chance this is not an ideal tree for that spot.

We have two other examples of the same species in the garden, in the left bed. One of them started leaning a few years ago, and we staked it then. It's leaning again, though I expect it will be alright. The other is upright, but has a heavy branch on the downslope side we will remove to prevent the risk of it tipping.

On the plus side, this means we can select another small tree for the brights bed. Ideally something evergreen and extremely drought tolerant. Another Cussonia?

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Well folks, I've been shopping for some signs to put up at PRG and PG as scraping dog poo off the plants, off my shoes, and out of the beds in general is getting a bit old/disgusting.

Not to mention all the bags of dog poop - yes, picked up, bagged in a special dog poo bag, and then left in the garden, hung off the leaves of an Agave, or even thrown to the back of a bed. I absolutely love picking them up and then walking a few steps to a trash can - it really is what I live for!

Which sign do you think people would respond best to?

The top one is annoying in that "leash-curb" is an odd hyphenation. Mention of the law is an eye opener for some, no doubt.

This one appeals to my sense of humor. However, it doesn't give explicit instructions on what to do with your dog poo, and it seems like we have a few people in the neighborhood who need it have it spelled out to them...

Another funny one. But again, "pick up after your dog" is only half the equation. The other half being "...and then take that poop bag and put it in the trash" which appears to be very difficult for some dog owners to comprehend.

It's possible that the type of person who leaves dog crap in a garden is also the type of person who doesn't care about signs. But at least it'll make me feel like I'm doing something about this problem.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Break in the rain

Arctotis "Cherry Frost"
Last night it rained hard. Torrentially. The sun came out today and Matt and I ran up to the garden to see what it looked like. Damp!

We did some quick planting a tasks to get plants off our patio and into the ground:

1 Puya berteroniana
1 Beschorneria yuccoides 
3 Yucca flaccida "Garlands Gold"
2 Coprosmas - "Sunset" and "Evening Glow"
4 Agaves replanted from yesterday, when I'd had to dig them up to avoid being squashed by the chipper. 

Lycianthes rantonnetii
(Blue Potato Bush)!
We weeded about 4 large tubtrugs of weeds out too, and dumped two loads of mulch on the path below the steps. We also planned a path from the bench to the top of the garden so people can make a loop there. 

The Bronze Loquat (Eriobotrya deflexa) trees are flowering in the gardens now - they smell amazing. Drop by and have a sniff!

Saturday, March 5, 2016


That's Matt and Chris feeding the loud, hungry chipper we rented to crunch up the huge brush pile at the top of the garden. Leslie and Emily joined us and it rained and rained, despite the forecast saying we were due a perfect 2 hour break in the deluge. 
Who cares. The pile is gone, in its place is a lovely load of mulch, and the area is wide open to new planting possibilities! Great job volunteers!!!

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