Thursday, March 26, 2020

Weeds thwarted despite pandemic

Weed rampage
Last week Josh risked his LIFE to go to the garden and do some weeding. Either he's an extremely devoted volunteer, or he needed a break from reality. Either way, he demolished a load of weeds!

Also, there was additional excitement to be had. His message to me read "Exciting car crash on the bridge. Stolen Lexus totaled on the guardrail. Driver ran away but the cops got him."

I am sure the driver was speeding to the garden, keen to help us get rid of some weeds. But really folks - be like Josh. Take it easy, pull some weeds, don't break any laws. It's not worth it!

Also one wonders how much it costs to replace that guardrail over and over, and when Caltrans or DPW will come up with a better idea? Answer: Lots and never?

Friday, March 20, 2020

How to maintain social distancing in the garden

Cistus (Rock Rose)
Well unless you live under a rock you know we have a bit of a situation going on. To keep everyone safe, we have to shelter in place, but we are allowed outside for exercise, pet care, and essential tasks, as long as we can maintain at least 6' of distance between people.

Can we do any gardening? Yes! Bring your own tools and gloves and enjoy some quiet time weeding in the garden anytime. Just be sure to stay away from others, and remember our paths can be narrow - just go the other way and be polite.

Washing your hands after gardening is something we have ALWAYS recommended, and we always wash our gloves in the machine after using them as well.

Will we still have volunteer workdays? No - we really can't have a group of people gathering - even outdoors and wearing gloves. Drop by the garden in your own time, pick some trash, pull some weeds, walk your dog, pick up poops. The garden will still be there after this has all passed. Matt and I will do our best to try and keep up with the weeds as we can too, and we'd love your help with that.

Can I have a cookie? Yes, yes you can. But wash your hands first.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The power of Recology!

Chis vs Green Giant!
Today it rained for the first time in over a month, in case you didn't notice,  and it rained all through the volunteer workday. And not a little bit - it really rained! Despite that, my intrepid band of volunteers kept working away and I am deeply impressed by that. Really.

I had a plan to clean up by the front kiosk area, by the archway, and Matt and Josh set to work there. It soon became apparent though that the huge Agave stump left there after the Agave americana flowered was tied to the ground by a huge root and nothing could move it. Matt focused on cleaning up chunks of Opuntia cactus, removing baby Agaves, and cleaning up trash and weeds.

Josh, stop being so awesome!
Meanwhile, Josh started planting those baby Agaves over on the Triangle Garden up on 18th Street - an area that needs a revamp. He moved some Bromeliads and Aloe nobilis to more visible spots, and put in half a dozen Agave americana, and half a dozen Agave "Green Giant" that Chris spent a long time removing from the big mother plant up there. Dangerous and dirty work!

John, Compost King
John turned the compost. A lot of weeds have been added there recently, and the piles were really steaming hot from all the composting activity taking place - great to see.

The weeds will break down all that much faster now with added oxygen and a bit of rainwater to dampen the piles, so this task is really important. And exhausting, if we're being honest.

Hilary and the rescued Agaves!
Hilary weeded the bed on the path to the composter. All the little Agave parryis and Furcraeas were getting choked with weeds, but she rescued them all, and added a nice layer of mulch to prevent more weeds too. While getting soaked to the skin. With no complaints. So cool.

Bill got into it with weeds too - he filled many bags with weeds from the path, as did John. That's a task I usually leave to the weeding experts, and they did not disappoint me! Both these guys are Show Up and Get Shtuff Done types, and I love that about them.

After Chris was done planting six Salvia leucanthas with me in the Triangle Garden, we started tidying up and putting away tools, and went to see what Matt was up to. He had a digging bar and was trying to pry that Agave stump out of the ground, but it looked pretty futile - that type of job usually takes a few hours and the stump will weigh a couple hundred pounds.

Bill is a Weed Pirate!
Earlier in the day I used the 311 app to request a green waste pickup for all the non-compostable material, and coincidentally the Recology truck rolled down the street to get our 8 bags right then. We all helped the driver, Jose, to load the bags, then Josh made a joke about maybe Jose can help us drag the Agave stump out of the ground using his truck? He laughed - that's a great way to get your truck damaged when a heavy stump suddenly lets go and flies into the back of your vehicle!

Jose jumped in his truck to leave. Then he came back. He had time to help us! Matt, Jose and Chris started digging and cutting the roots out from the Agave stump and using the 25# digging bar to rock it back and forth. Pretty soon, Jose looked like he was regretting his offer to help...

Jose saved the day!
After a solid 30 minutes of digging, prying, rocking, shoving, sawing, hacking and generally beating the heck out of that Agave stump it finally came loose! Jose backed his truck up to the stump and then it took another 15 minutes and some rope to drag the damn thing into his truck, because it was HEAVY. We thanked him and promised to tell his supervisor what a rock star he is, and away he went. Wow.

How did that happen?!?
All that was left to do was clean up the crime scene - shovel all the dirt and rocks back into the bed, sweep the sidewalk, replant the Agave filiferas in that bed, and marvel at how people just show up and help do filthy, sweaty, amazing things in the rain, just to make our Potrero Hill a better place to live. Thank you all!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

IHS Markit team and the battle of the weeds!

Women getting ish done
Julianna from IHS Markit emailed me a while back looking to do a VTO day at the gardens for her team. We're always thrilled to show new people why the garden was started, and hopefully get them excited about drought tolerant gardening. or at the very least squeeze a couple hours of hard work out of them!

Sadly, we didn't have a drop of rain in February but HAPPILY that made for a wonderfully warm and sunny Friday for Julianna's team to visit PG and do battle with the emerging horde of weeds we have there.

Before and after
Ten of the finest IHS Markit team's people assembled at PG, and Matt and Josh described the day's duties. Suitably prepared for the job with gloves and tools, the team headed to the top of the garden to eradicate weeds and uncover plants - a lot of them recently planted - who were trying to compete with all the new growth.

In just two hours they cleaned the whole area, and I know that not only will dog walkers be very grateful, but the new plants we put in there will not have to compete for light and nutrients now and will grow on much better.

Compost hero!
Matt also asked one of the team to turn our newly filled compost bins. This is a pretty good workout for whoever does it, and our brave volunteer managed to turn TWO bins into one, which massively speeds up the composting process. It's a tough job, so it's especially wonderful when a volunteer tackles it.

All in all, the IHS Markit team was a joy, an we can't wait to have them back to visit us. Go team!




Thursday, February 27, 2020

Late February and the sun is blazing'

Cussonia wants a drink
This weekend Matt and I hit the garden twice. And although Matt went to baseball practice shortly afterwards, we got a lot of weeding done in the gorgeous sun.

One thing we noticed when we arrived was that one of the Cussonias was wilting. This is a biggish tree, and after a few weeks with no water at the height of the winter growing season, it was quite alarming to see. We set up a hose and gave it a drink for an hour - the next day it was looking a bit better. This is not a great sign though - we're at about 38% of our usual rainfall for the winter season, which is a bit shocking.

Mulched and ready to rock!
Between us, we thoroughly weeded and mulched parts of the middle front bed, the back bed and the left bed. The parts that didn't have ground cover, that is - always an invitation to weeds, and despite the lack of rain they have been growing like maniacs.

The weeds went in the compost bins, two of which are almost full. It's time to turn the bins and make compost again!


On Sunday I set about weeding and mulching by the wrong way sign - an area about 10' x 20' in dimension, and around a lot of Agaves. My hands and forearms are looking pretty nicked up after that task. 

Slender salamander
I came across a nice little California slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus) while I was repairing the path edging. So cute with his tiny little legs. These guys hunt for earthworms, and are a sign that the garden is pretty healthy. This one wriggled off to live under the bench.

After that I weeded around the new plants put in recently up at the top of the garden. They were in danger of being swallowed by weeds - seemingly overnight - so protecting them is key. I gave them water as well - the ones that needed it, anyway. 

Left bed weeded
I also weeded in the front bed and mulched thoroughly. Nothing like a nice layer of wood chips to keep those weeds from getting involved. The garden is looking very luscious right now - head out and enjoy it :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Another awful Californian day

Horrible California - glorious sunshine on February 1st! Ugh! I jest of course.

Matt, John, Chris, Saba and Waris joined me in the garden for our volunteer day and we got right down to business in the warm summer winter sun.

John!
John weeded with gusto, clearing out pathways and beds with his classic, cheerful style: always fun, always working hard.

Chris took down geraniums behind the wrong way sign and composted like a trooper. His project to fix up the bed behind the wrong way sign is coming along beautifully.

Matt did more tree stump removal, and started a big cleanup project at the kiosk at the front of the garden. That old agave has to go: maybe next volunteer day we will finish that task!

Saba and Waris!
Meanwhile, Saba and Waris (friends of the inimitable Mikey!) absolutely transformed the Aloe nobilis hedge along the bottom path, weeding it clean and planting 16 new Aloes as well!

I planted some plants too. Quite a few actually! Matt helped. The final tally including the Aloe hedge additions was:

2 Agave gypsophila
16 Aloe nobilis
4 Cereus repandus
2 Euphorbia rigida
1 Furcraea (or Agave vilmoriniana... I can't remember) 
4 Salvia leucantha
1 Strelitzia reginae

Then when everyone went home we realized we had two big Agaves to plant... so Matt and I put them in down at PRG. Whew!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Moar planting! When will it end!

Matt sawing
Matt and I took another weekend trip to PG and PRG to plant some plants - it's that time of year, and all the plants we have accumulated in the last 9 months need to get planted!

We had a great time and lots of new species went in - lots of them thanks to Jamie who donated Grevilleas and Leucadendrons galore recently. I hope they do well!

While I was busy planting three Agave potatorum "Cameron's Blue" at the top of PG, Matt took our chainsaw and cut down a tree. Yep! One of the dead cherry plum trees is GONE! It finally succumbed to years of drought, but lets face it they're not very long lived trees anyway, and it was about 15 years old. Oh well, more sun for the other plants. Thank you, next!

Matt CHAINsawing!
He also removed the stump of a Pittosporum and generally tidied up a lot of things. More to go - I don't think the remaining cherry plum trees are looking that great... *cackle*

What else got planted? Quite a list:

2 Grevillea gaudichaudii
2 Westringia “Blue Gem”
2 Grevillea sp 
2 Leptospermum scoparium prostrate
1 Agave americana medio picta aurea

Most of those were from Jamie - thanks Jamie! After that, we headed out for lunch, and after THAT we planted at PRG. Here's the list:

3 Agaves and a Leptospermum
1 unidentified Manzanita
1 Yucca elephantipes
1 Agave geminiflora 
2 Salvia  canariensis
1 Furcraea of some kind
1 Cortaderia selloana “Silver Comet”

And by then we were knackered, so we went home. Hope you like the new plants! Come to the Volunteer Day on Saturday and find out more about 'em.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Plant Profile: Salvia "Anthony Parker"

Latin name: Salvia ("SAL-vee-ah")
Common name: "Anthony Parker" Sage
Originally from: A cross by Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina
Blooms: Covered in spikes of deep blue-purple flowers much of the year
Light: Full sun to part shade..
Water: Winter rain is enough, but in some areas a little irrigation might help.
Height x width: 4' x 4'
Zones: 9a-10b
Where to find in P. Garden: One in the brights bed.

This Salvia is a cross between two species we know and love: the incredibly tough, xeric Mexican sage, Salvia leucantha (throw a rock at PG and you'll hit one) and the very much less drought tolerant Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage) with the lovely red flowers and incredible pineapple scented leaves. We had a S. elegans back in the day, and it was epic, but required more water than we were willing to give.

Would you expect a cross between those two Salvias to create a dark, midnight purple flowered plant that's possibly even more tough than Salvia leucantha? I would not, but "Anthony Parker" (or "Tony" as I like to call him) is flowering away like a fool right now in January, and I haven't shown him a drop of water in years. Take that, pineapple sage!

This cross was discovered in the garden of designer Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina and was named after her grandson in 1994. No guarantees on the parentage then - a case for 23andMe?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

More planting

Leucadendron "Jester"
Last weekend Matt and I went out and I watched Matt plant some new plants, because I've been sick with a flu/bronchitis thing for a couple weeks now.

First thing we planted was another Leucadendron "Jester" and a Leucadendron "More Silver" in the middle back bed.

Now, we have had many Leucadendrons over the years, and they have often failed and dropped dead for no apparent reason too.

Leucadendron "More Silver"
However,  I think I know what's up now: they can never be watered. So, these two, a gift from Jamie, were put in and will be studiously ignored.

Fingers crossed at least the "Jester" will be as impressive as our other "Jester" which is really one of my favorite plants in the garden, and a very impressive 8' tall and wide by now.

Brahea armata
Next up was a plant I will water as needed to get it solidly established. A Mexican Blue Palm, Brahea armata. This is a nice 15 gallon specimen I hope will do well in the brights bed... again, fingers crossed... one day it will hopefully be a very impressive palm tree.

I added about 8 one gallon pots of Blue Chalk Sticks (Senecio mandraliscae) in the middle back bed, around the red Yucca "Blue Boy" group as well - I think they will contrast nicely, and hope they'll suppress weeds a bit there too.

Galanthus
Lastly, I noticed some lovely flowers. A snowdrop (Galanthus) and a group of paperwhites (Narcissus), which smell amazing. Get out there in the garden and see if you can find them!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Plant profile: Dyckia "Naked Lady"

Dyckia "Naked Lady"
Latin name: Dyckia "Naked Lady" (genus: "DYKE-ee-ah")
Common name: Dyckia
Originally from: Arid and high-altitude regions of Brazil and the central part of South America.
Blooms: Orange flowers are held above the foliage in spring.
Light: Full sun to part shade.
Water: This xeric plant needs no extra water in San Francisco.
Height x width: 24"x 24"
Zones: 9a-12
Where to find in P. Garden: We have two in the brights bed, near the steps.

Flowers
Dykias are wonderfully tough plants. They look like some kind of starfish, with leaf edges that curl under, covered in backwards-facing spines. They need very little water and seem almost indestructible. They grow wonderfully in a pot, but in ground they like rocky, sunny areas and have a natural tendency to clump which leads to large groups of plants.  However, if weeds start to grow near the base and pop up between the leaves, watch out while weeding - those spines will hook your hands worse than any Agave and you might live to regret it.

Top: "Naked Lady" Bottom
left: a regular spiny Dyckia
They're in the bromeliad family - just like pineapples. But the genus is one of the most ancient in that family. Named after the Prussian botanist, botanical artist and horticulturist Prince and Earl Joseph Franz Maria Anton Hubert Ignatz F├╝rst und Altgraf zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck  (1773–1861). So if you're in any confusion about pronouncing the genus name, just think: it could have been so much worse...

According to San Marcos Growers "This plant was discovered by Vivienne Doney (1904 - 1988) at her Monrovia succulent nursery. The name Naked Lady was suggest to her by Aloe hybridizer John Bleck during a visit to her nursery with Robert Foster in the mid to late 1960s. It began showing up in catalogs with this name as early as 1978. There has been speculation that this plant is a hybrid between Dyckia encholirioides and D. brevifolia.  It has also been called "Nude Lady"."

No teeth here!
"Naked Lady" grows in clusters with individual plants reaching 1 foot tall and 1- 2 feet wide with bright green plastic-looking leaves that curve backwards quite gracefully end in a sharp tip. And unlike any other Dyckia this plant has absolutely no spines along the leaf edges. In spring plants grown with plenty of light produce tall wands of bright orange flowers. You can also plant in bright shade or morning sun - you'll get the best leaf color that way, but don't expect many flowers.

We got our "Naked Ladies" from Mat of Farallon Gardens in early 2020 - let's see how they grow!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Surprise guest and a lot of plants

Hilary, Chris and Bill
I've been sick in bed for almost a week, so to be honest the thought of dragging myself from said deathbed and going and doing some energetic gardening was pretty unappealing. But duty calls, and what if loads of volunteers showed up and poor Josh had to show them what to do all on his own? I mean, come on...

Then I got a text from Josh saying that Mat McGrath and his wife Mali would be joining us. If you don't know who he is, Mat runs Farallon Gardens, is a highly knowledgeable xeric plant professional, recently donated a stunning Aloe thraskii, and is an all around great guy and plant enthusiast of the highest order.

Mat and Josh
Suddenly, I had a panic and knew that the double whammy of duty and visiting guests meant WE HAD TO GO. Screamy Munch face.

I hauled myself and Matt from our unkempt lair, loaded up the truck with perhaps 2/3 of the plants we'd originally planned to put in (due to lethargy) and slowly drove our sorry selves to the garden, swigging Robitussin and eating Ricola like the candy it basically is.

Dyckias and Aloe
Happy day, we had a wonderful crew and I was delighted to see them all: lovely Bill, sassy Chris, dear Hilary, John the Cone King, Mat, Mali and of course JOSH!!! And happy day, Mat and Mali brought us some plants - some really cool ones!

So, I basically wandered around aimlessly, coughing loudly, while everyone else did the following:

John, Josh, and Hilary planted 20 Agave parryi in the new bed along the path to the composter. Added a dozen Agave desmettiana variegata to the opposite bed, along with 6 Cotyledon orbiculata var oblonga.

Aloe "David Verity"
Josh put in 5 Agave celsii "Multicolor" with a lovely Aloe "David Verity" (A. arborescens x A. salm-dyckiana) that Mat donated near the bench.

Mat and Mali put in two big donated Dyckia "Naked Lady" (What!? Amazing plant!) and two other reddish Dyckias near the top of the steps, as well as a lovely Dasylirion wheeleri at the top of the garden. Mat then went berserk on an Echium behind the bench and really cleared the area so an A. arborescens underneath it all could get a chance.

Mat and Mali
Meanwhile Chris and Bill were stripping the uncool Pelargoniums and underperforming Calandrinias from behind the wrong way sign in preparation for better things, soon joined by Hilary - many bags were filled for 311 to take away.

Josh planted a nice offset of Agave difformis marginata aka Agave funkiana "Hakuro Shiro Fukurin" (Japanese for "frosty white edges") that I brought from home, and a spare Artemisia "Powis Castle" while John took out an uninspiring Phormium and replaced it with a Beschorneria albiflora which will look much better on the lower path.

After everyone left Matt and I went home and went straight to bed, where I have been ever since and may stay tomorrow too. But it was worth it!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Xmas gifts!

On xmas morning Matt and I popped out to plant some plants. Merry holidays to everyone on P Hill! Here's what we put in:

3 Agave desmettiana variegata
3 Furcraea selloa
7 Agave parryi
37 Aloe nobilis - yes, thirty seven!

We made a new bed on the way to the composters with most of these, and planted about 8 plants opposite them. We have lots more plants to plant, so come to the next workday if you enjoy that type of thing :)

Matt brought along the chainsaw to cut down a tree stump but for whatever reason it would not start (unlike yesterday when it worked perfectly...) so we gave up on that.
 
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