Sunday, February 7, 2016

One job

Matt and I went out to do a quick task and decided on removing the last of the Agave tequiliana stump. We got all the leaves cleaned up but the main core is so heavy and rooted that we'll have to complete it another day. 

In other news the Aloe arborescens are glowering beautifully!

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Nate and Debbie
Today's volunteer workday was warm and sunny, and the ground nicely damp after all the recent rain storms we have had - the perfect day for a spot of serious weeding.

Emily, Debbie and Nate joined me in the garden and set to work - those three in the front border, while I set about weeding the Agave gypsophila bed in the middle back bed, the bottom of the steps, parts of the brights bed and the back border.

Matt chainsawing
In the meantime, Matt went to rent a chainsaw from Action Rentals.

We've been trying to get a chipper from the city in order to clear the gigantic pile of brush up in the dog area, but the plans always fall through, so in a fit of desperation Matt located a chainsaw to at least cut the fallen tree into smaller parts we can chip next time.

As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail... and Matt was naturally keen to chainsaw anything he could while he was able to wield the power tool.

Agave tequiliana, ex
With that in mind he took down the Agave tequiliana from the cactus wall - once stately succulent, now post-flowering wreck.

The gaping hole left by the Agave tequiliana means we have a spot for a very impressive cactus of epic proportions to fill. What will it be? A ghostly giant Agave franzosinii? A spine-laden Opuntia subulata (Cane Cholla)? Or a replacement Agave tequiliana, but this time the variegated form?

Agave gypsophila bed weeded
In a last fit of chainsaw madness, Matt also cut 1/3 of the Pittorsporum on the terraces that was dead.

Not a bad day's work!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Before and after: storm drain

Here's a good before and after photo set.

The first photo is of the storm drain looking out towards Pennsylvania Avenue from January 25, 2009. the second photo is almost the same view from today, seven years later - the Agave americana in the first photo is the one you can see further back in the second photo.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weeds and things

Hardenbergia violacea
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours weeding and picking trash at PRG. Things are looking good there since I moved the dumped chair to the top where poor Mariposa Center Garden used to be (city appointed developers ripped it out without consulting SFDPW or SF Parks Alliance), alongside the bath tub someone left there last week. 

Also left at PRG last week was a dozen 16' long 6"x2" fence boards, wrapped in tarps and plopped down on top of some Santolinas. I got rid of those within an hour by posting them FREE on Nextdoor Potrero, and someone was delighted to have 'em. However, the bath and chair are not as attractive, so I installed the free 311 app on my phone and uploaded a photo an service request this evening.

Chasmanthe floribunda
Back at PG, the Hardenbergia violacea is flowering up a storm way down at the back of the terraces, as well as the yellow Chasmanthe floribunda in the left bed (two clumps), and the Aeoniums are growing strongly. Bulbs are coming up, weeds are easy to pull, and all that remains this week is to secure a wood chipper for the volunteer day next weekend so we can get rid of the unsightly pile in the dog area!

Monday, January 18, 2016


Similarly, whoever has been systematically hacking apart the big agave at the front entrance... What is wrong with you?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cordyline forest

Matt and I planted 4 Cordylines and a Coprosma "Sunset" in a very quick trip today.

The Cordylines went in as a group in the brights bed and are:
  • Red Sensation 
  • Torbay Dazzler
  • Coral
  • Sundance
Three more to move/plant and our multicolored Cordyline forest will be complete! Time for rain please :)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Work day chop!

John and Bob clearing
out shrubs
Today's workday had an energetic crew: Janna, Matt, Emily, Bob and John convened on the garden to make a mark on the plants that have died of drought.

Janna got to work turning the compost and the rest of us cleared a huge amount of dead material to the now HUGE pile in the dog area. Today the plants that got removed were two Kunzea baxteri who, despite having survived the drought were too floppy in form to live where they had been planted. Our Cytisus scoparius (Scotch Broom) had died too - a volunteer who had been cheerfully providing a splash of yellow for a few years, but is now as dead as a dodo. It joined the others on the heap.
Janna all smiles
taking a break form the compost

We also lifted the canopy of the nearby Hakea suaveolens and Berberis linearifolia, cut back the Salvia leucantha (Mexican Sage), Salvia canariensis (Canary Island Sage) and Plectranthus argentea severely, and gave the Watsonia bulbs a haircut.

The whole brights bed looks really different now with only one big tree left, and a determined pair of taller plants: Cussonia spicata and a Berberis linearifolia who needs to be cut down to size...

In the meantime, Matt went and fetched a large Agave "Green Giant" from PRG as it was buried under a Malva. It came up to join the other big Agave of the same cultivar by the wrong way sign. I cleared out tons of overgrown Pelargoniums in the area, and we moved a Coprosma "Evening Glow" to the left bed, and a clump of Watsonias to where the others are. All we need to do there now is add a few grasses and the area is transformed.

After all this, Matt and I went and bought some new plants to replace the dead ones - plants we know are tougher than tough! We got 5 Cordylines and a Coprosma, all thanks to a great donation by Christopher Johnson of Mississippi Street!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Planting and moving

The Phormum "Alison Blackman" grew from a lovely little girl into a boisterous teenager pretty quickly, and she was taking up too much space at the edge of a path, as you can see in the photo to the left. 

Today Matt and I moved her to the brights bed. She will have a lot more room to flop around and be surly, and I used all the removed leaves as mulch (my new policy with Cordyline and Phormium leaves, which don't compost well and therefor make a great weed suppressant!) After that Matt planted some Euphorbias around the base of the clump.

Then after that we moved an Agave weberi from the "wrong way" sign area to the bench area, to create a focal point. We added six Bulbinella robusta plants, and moved a variegated Dietes to where the above-mentioned Phormium used to live.

Circle complete!

After that, we weeded the front bed and created some spaces to plant six Agave filifera in two groups.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An Uber Workday

Quick shout out to the volunteer crew from Uber that visited in December. They were on-demand garden heroes! Many thanks to Jackie, Phil, Becky, Katie, Yulong, Kevin and Kyle for a stellar workday.
This crew dug in and got a lot done

Like usual, we meet-up at Pennsylvania Garden go over a bit about how volunteers make all of this happen and the history of the gardens. After some sorting out of who wanted to do what job and collecting supplies, we headed down to the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden to get to work.

Everyone split into teams, while one team was diligently picking up trash, others were ripping up the fennel that has begun to pop up. Even the trees received some TLC, getting some extra water carried over by hand from SF Paint Source. Buckets and buckets of trash and weeds were cleared and the garden looked much more beautiful and fresh than before!
Some would say a miracle occurred, as a $100 bill was found among the agaves. Drug deal leftover or generous donation from an anonymous volunteer you decide...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Agave forest

Yesterday Matt and I decided to do one quick task in the garden: move some Agaves.

We had noticed a large Agave parryi was languishing behind something taller on the cactus wall, so we dug it out and put it where the wrong way sign used to be. Being prolific puppers, this one came with half a dozen babies so we worked them into the design.

This area now has a great swath of A. parryi and we're going to add another Agave "Green Giant" behind them and some Mexican Feather Grasses (Nassella tenuissima) and Euphorbia characias to complete the bed.

While Matt was digging I collected up a bucket full of Opuntia fruits that had fallen in the drainage ditch and were rotting or being eaten by rodents. I turned the compost bins and added the fruit to the newest heap to rot down. There are lots more fruit ripening up there and I don't want people trying to get back there to steal them as they'll get hurt. I myself spent quite some time picking spines out of myself after that job, and I had the right protective gear on.

The day before yesterday our quick garden job involved cutting back all the Salvia leucantha in one of the BRCs at PRG. They were crushing the pampas grass in that spot and now it has some breathing room. Yay!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

More rain!

Aloe maculata
We had 1/2" last night, and more due tomorrow, so Matt and I got a few more plants planted and moved today.

First up, we moved an Agave angustifolia and two Yucca whipplei to the steps. I also planted an Agave potatorum into the group there.

Then we planted a dozen Aloe maculata by the bench, as well as several seedling Euphorbia characias.

Then we moved all the clumps of Agapanthus from the place where the "wrong way" sign was, over to the Triangle Garden in preparation for adding more Agaves to the wrong way area.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Before the rain

Two new clumps
We're due a nice big rain tomorrow - half an inch maybe? So Matt and I decided to take care of some plant moving and dividing so the new plants would get rained in and we wouldn't have to lug water up to the garden.

The ground at the garden is still very dry - the top 4" is damp, but below that everything is dusty, so we're a long way from being back to normal, though the last few week's of light rain has helped for sure.

Pampas and moved Phlomis
We dug up the Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass) "Silver Comet" by the arch and divided it up into several parts.

Then we returned the largest clump to the ground in the same spot by the arch, and then planted five divisions in the brights bed, middle back bed and left bed.

Cortaderia is one of the toughest plants we have, sailing through the drought without suffering at all, so we're confident having more of them is a great idea. This is a sterile hybrid, too, so unlike the plain green kind won't seed all over the place and be a nuisance.

The remaining original
I planted two large clumps of Chasmanthe bulbs in the brights bed, rescued from the Mariposa Center strip's destruction.  The other Chasmanthes in the garden have lots of leaves already so should be flowering soon - a nice spot of orange for the winter.

Lastly Matt moved a buried Phlomis to the brights bed. Much better spot for it, and it should fill in in front of a new Cortaderia there quite nicely. 

We have lots more plants to move and loads of brush to run through a chipper. Need to try renting one again!
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