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

Roasting

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!

Jungle!
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?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Volunteer day action!

Yesterday's volunteer day was super busy and super effective. We had a great gang, and everyone made a big impact on our rather dry, August garden.

Emily weeded the top area and moved lots of mulch around to uncover some buried Santolinas.

Matt took on the task of hacking fennel. Some of the ones on the back slope had gotten out of control and needed a chop so badly. They really need to be dug out completely to do the job right, btu when you're pressed for time cutting them to the ground is almost as good.

Marcus took a crash course in pruning from me, and proceeded to cut back the Fuchsia boliviana var. alba by 1/2. That ought to slow it's heat stress a bit, or kill it - either way I'm happy! Then he went on to cut back the Brugmansia just as severely, and the same results there will make me equally delighted. Either it dies and we will replace it with something that LOVES a hot dry garden, or it springs back looking good. Lastly Marcus deadheaded the Aloe striatula, then cut back some branches overhanging a nice Agave angustifolia.

I gave the branches to Hilary who came to help again this month, and she set about cutting back Chasmanthe, weeding and replanting a couple of tired looking Agaves that got moved for the last mulch dump. They should pick up again soon - they are such tough plants!

Chris loves to cut down plants, so I think I made him happy by asking him to cut down the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) - it is finished flowering and will be back in about a month with some lovely new growth. He then moved on to the Phormium on the lower path which has never had a real trim. It lost every leaf that looked dry, so quite a severe haircut!

Next to that is a Coprosma australis (variegated) that's had some ill-considered trims over the years. Really it needs to be cut to the ground and started afresh, but he took out quite a lot as an interim measure, and we'll see how it responds by next month.

I weeded the front sidewalk, and showed Aditi how to cut back Euphorbia characias correctly, She went on the clean out the whole front border and donated an unknown Agave to us, which she planted in the front bed.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UCSF Making A Difference

I can't thank Danielle enough for organizing such a fun workday for her department at UCSF! Danielle and her department of twenty energetic and capable volunteers descended on the garden for  a Thursday afternoon work party that kicked ass! Chris and I were on hand to guide their work, where so much was done.

  • Weed, weed, weed! Both Pennsylvania Garden and the Triangle Garden received some much needed attention
  • Archway trimmed, paths swept
  • Mulch spread around the pathways and in some beds
  • Agapanthus flowers cut back
  • Major snuggles by dogs that stopped by!
Your crew is welcome back anytime. Like.. next month?


Plant profile: Dasylirion

On the right, under the red Cordyline
Latin name: Dasylirion wheeleri (pronounced "daz-ee-LEER-ee-on WHEE-ler-eye")
Common name: Desert Spoon, Sotol, Spoon Yucca
Originally from: Northern Mexico, in Chihuahua and Sonora and in the southwestern United States, in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, and also in New Mexico and Texas.
Blooms: A very tall, long spike emerges infrequently.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 3' x 4'
USDA Zones: 6-11
Where to find in P. Garden: In the cactus wall, the middle back bed, and at PRG.

Here's a nice tough desert plant for the garden. I wouldn't call it cuddly, but it's not going to be bothered by deer or human invaders and it makes an impressively pointy pom-pom for the totally dusty dry garden.

This plant sits around on rocky hillsides and grasslands from 3,000 to 6,000 feet in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico west Texas and south into Sonora Mexico. The alcoholic drink sotol, the northern cousin to tequila and mezcal, is made from the fermented inner cores of the desert spoon. It is the state drink of the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila.

Used for food and fiber, its flower stalk can be used as a "fire plow" - for starting fires.

The Tarahumara and Pima Bajo peoples of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua weave baskets from the leaves after they strip off the spines from the leaf margins, which seems like a lot of work. They also make large artificial flowers as holiday decorations using the leaf bases.

We use them to repel all boarders: the leaves have spines facing opposite directions along their length that will just rip your skin if you dare reach in there to pull a weed from between the leaves.

The color of the flower determinate the gender of the plant, being mostly white colored for males and purple-pink for females. We've had one flower at PG and I think it was white.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Street Parks Workshop: my plant recommendations

On Saturday July 22nd I'm speaking at the Parks Alliance's Street Parks Workshop on the topic of water wise planting. Join us if you're interested in learning how to make your own street park!

The plants I'll be recommending that are tough as nails in this area are:
  • Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
  • Aeoniums 
  • Agapanthus  
  • Agaves 
  • Aloes  
  • Artemisia 
  • Bromeliads - Puyas and Dyckias  
  • Calandrinia spectabilis – Rock Purslane 
  • Chasmanthe  
  • Cordylines 
  • Cortaderia – Pampas Grass  
  • Cotyledon orbiculata 
  • Cynara cardunculus - Cardoon  
  • Dudleya 
  • Echiums  
  • Euphorbias
  • Ice Plants
  • Leonotis leonurus – Wild Dagga   
  • Limonium perezii – Sea Lavender
  • Natives 
  • Opuntias
  • Phlomis
  • Romneya coulteri - Matilija Poppy
  • Salvias
  • Santolinas
  • Stachys byzantina - Lamb's Ears
  • Stipa tenuissima - Feather Grass 
  • Yuccas 

Of course there are lots more, but these are some of my easy to grow, zero water favorites. Read the Plant Profiles of many of these plants by clicking here to learn more about them.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Neighborly Business

Marcus + cardoon
I wasn't expecting a big workday due to Impending American Holiday on the 4th, but the day was sunny and warm so I trundled over to the garden expecting to work alone. Then, funnily enough, the first person to show up at the garden was a Brit - Marcus who lives in the building next to our place on 17th.

He got down to work on the Annual Weeding of the Bottom of the Steps, which is a treacherous undertaking due to brambles, cacti, Agaves and other spiky stuff lying in wait on a steep slope. usually it involved getting a bit scratched up, and minorly inconveniencing the brambles who are impossible to kill. but we do need to stop them getting too cocky on a regular basis.

Achillea (Yarrow)
We were soon joined by Amanda and she got down to some Chasmathe cutting-back and clearing dead leaves off the Amaryllis belladonna bulbs - watch out for the bit pink flowers popping out of those soon. I didn't get a pic of Amanda but here's the Achillea she was weeding around so neatly.

I noted again that the compost bins are beyond overflowing. It's time for a debris box so we can start over with turning the compost every single workday otherwise compost doesn't break down quickly enough and we end up with just heaps of weeds.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Genentech Gives Back to Pennsylvania Garden

What an amazing crew turned out for the 2017 Genentech Gives Back event at Pennsylvania Garden! We had over a dozen rough and ready folks turn out to get the garden into shape. It was a warm and lovely day, perfect for a  for a solid three hour workday in the morning. Chris and I were on-hand to lead them through the day's activities.


  • Weeding the dog area, seating area, and cactus wall pathway
  • Mulching the seating area
  • Trimming back the overgrowth on numerous pathways
  • Having a good time!!
The three hours went by quickly and we had a mountain of debris to show for all of our hard work. Thanks to Genentech for coming out to the gardens (for 4 years now?), and you are always welcome back.

Monday, June 5, 2017

All sorts of improvements

Leslie
Saturday's volunteer day was great - we had a dedicated and skilled crew on hand so a lot of wonderful things were accomplished.

Leslie is a stalwart regular and she worked on the middle pathways and beds, ably removing all sorts of weeds, of which we have a surprising number, unfortunately. 

I weeded as much as possible too - we have a good sized pile now  and with a bit of luck can get a debris box for an upcoming workday in order to remove that AND the contents of the compost bins to start afresh.

Hilary
Hilary is new but I could tell right away by her botanical garden tee she was a pro! She got stuck in cutting back Chasmanthe and Euphorbias, as well as the large and somewhat wilty looking Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"in the brights bed.

That Salvia looked pretty dead after the Big Drought, but it came back with a vengeance. Of course looking wilted in early June isn't a great sign, but being cut back means it might conserve some energy and make it through.

Chris
Chris loves ripping things apart so I was able to direct his energy towards the now-defunct Euphorbia lambii (victim of too many windy nights) and an overly-enthusiastic Echium madrerense, both of which are now gone and the garden is much better for it.

I think he had a good time with that. You can see him here posing with an ex-Echium.

In the meantime, Matt closed off one side of the bottom paths with stones etc. Our HUGE Agave attenuata at the front just past the arch is sure to bloom soon, and it's really in the way of that path. Si closing that for now will prevent the Agave being dinged up, leaving another path and the sidewalk as two ways to get to the top of the garden.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Small but Intense May Workdays

Realized I'm behind in posting about our workdays  - and there have been many! - so here is the brief wrap up.
  • Many thanks to Annie, Matt and Aditi for our regular Saturday first of the month May workday. So much weeding and maintenance of the gardens was done, and it was sorely needed!
  • Also thanks to Chris, my partner in crime, for our every week Thursday workdays from 2-4pm. Slowly but surely we are making a dent in the chores to free up more fun projects for Saturday crews. 
  • Everyone is welcome to join us either on Thursdays from 2-4pm or our regular first Saturdays 10-12!

Annie and Aditi getting the
dog area ready for more mulch

 
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