Saturday, November 14, 2015

Volunteer day - last week!

I didn't get around to posting about last week's volunteer day, nor did I take any photos, so boo on me! However, lots of jobs were completed from Leslie and her man turning compost, to Matt and co removing dead Salvia and Buddleja from the brights bed and Emily, Debbie and John weeding and trash picking at PRG.

This week though, we got pics. Matt and I moved an Agave americana variegata from the front of the left bed to the back of the same bed. It was right in front of the pampas grass by the arch, and in danger of poking folks passing by. Now it's brightening up a spot back between the (revived!) Fuchsia boliviana "alba" and the (currently flowering) Dahlia imperialis. Boom!

Matt also removed the Leucadendron "Safari Goldstrike" which has sadly died in the middle back bed. We're planning to add a big bold Agave to that spot, but need to renovate the rosemary and remove the Tibouchina there too, as I fear it's really, really dead too...

Load of variagated Agave pups by the arch are free for the taking if anyone wants them.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rescue operation

Today Matt and I walked up the street to the construction area to try and find out which agency tore out MCG yesterday. Calls and emails to DPW and SFPA have so far yielded no concrete answers. 

The construction manager on site apologized and said he was just following orders. His company's site manager was called down to talk to me and apologize too - after all they're just following orders. 

They showed me the plans, signed off by DPW in August 2014. So there's that. And they let us into the area all the plants were dumped in. We rescued 3 wheelbarrows of Dietes, a clump of Chasmanthe bulbs and 2 Agaves. Everything else was too torn up to make it... So sad. 

I spent the rest of the day planting and watering the rescued plants while Matt wrote an obituary for his brother. Yes, a crap week on the whole. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MCG no more

This was the scene that greeted me today. Mariposa Center Garden (on Mariposa, across from Center Hardware) is gone. Wiped off the face of the earth. Well, actually, scraped off and dumped in a pile under the 280, across the way.

I'm dumbfounded. I called Hathaway Dinwiddie and left a message asking if that construction company at work in the area did it. I called the SF Parks Alliance and left a message for our contact there - doubt they know anything, but they will help rectify if they can.  And Emily emailed DPW too. I suspect I know who did it though... j'accuse Caltrans!

The strip of land was DPW owned, so this shouldn't have happened. It was planted starting in 2009 with donations from The Godmothers and Center Hardware and lots of backbreaking volunteer work, and contained dozens of Dietes, 2 olive trees, several Yuccas and Agaves, rosemary bushes, native Dendromecons and Eriogonum, Cistus "Sunset", Lavateras, and so on.

If I can access the pile of wilting plants under the freeway tomorrow, I'll rescue the plants that can be rescued (Dietes, Yucca, Agave?) and demand an explanation from who ever did this. A simple heads up that this was to happen would have resulted in consternation, but we could have rescued the plants and put them at PRG or PG.

I mean, come on.

Then, to cap it all off, Matt and I went up to PG after this discovery to move an Agave and found the new tool chest broken into and all the pruners and small tools gone.

Well you know what? Screw this. Back home we go, get the power tools and fix and reinforce the chest. I even planted a few Agaves on the steps area in a spiteful mood, noting that someone had stolen a few plants from there recently and feeling all the more annoyed.

Crack heads and government agencies and thieving plant enthusiasts: Much annoy. So hate.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Steps done! Sort of...

Today Matt and I headed up to the garden at 9am with 2 hammers, drill and bits, level, set square, pencil, and a belly full of coffee to finish the steps.

With 4 steps remaining, we decided to make a longer viewing platform in the middle of the run as with higher risers, the steps were digging too deep into the side of the slope (and causing rubber arms from using the digging bar to cut through rock...)

We leveled off the dirt removed to make a smooth ramp at the base of the steps, and shoveled lots of dirt into the surrounding beds to get rid of it.

At the end of the day we finished with 7 steps versus the 8 planned. Perfect, aside from needing a few extra bricks for the last step.

I left a layer of sand on top of each step to allow it to sift into the cracks. I'll brush it off tomorrow when it's had a chance to settle.

Then, this winter we can replant the area - this time with only the toughest of the tough plants: Agave striata, Leucophyta brownii and Achillea "Coronation Gold" - pretty much all that's survived the drought in this spot!

Home to rest at 3pm. Another long day, but well worth it!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Steps get started

Today Matt and I were at Discount Builders Supply at 9am to buy wood for the steps. Last built in 2009, they'd finally succumbed to rot so it was time to rebuild - this time with pressure treated wood.

Instead of cheapo landscaping timbers we bought treated 4x6s and instead of making 2' wide steps, we had the lumber cut for 3' wide. This will make fewer steps (8 vs 11) that are taller. That should make steps that are much easier to walk on.

We began by removing the rotten old steps and found that the 24" rebar stakes were pretty firmly stuck in the ground. A quick google showed that Burners always have the best ways to remove rebar, using vice grips and some lumber to lever them up. That got each one out of the ground in about 30 seconds, versus the 10 minutes of hammering, twisting and grunting we'd tried before.

Next was drilling the new wood and excavating the larger steps. Digging bar essential. Heavy work. My poor, bruised hands...

Then leveling carefully, adding the new step risers and back filling. Our tamper does a great job pounding dirt into place, and on top of each step I put a layer of sand bag material to suppress weeds. Each step top now has 12 bricks, versus the 9 in place before. I bought a bag of sand to fill the gaps between the bricks too.

With fewer steps, we'll end up dropping down the slope too fast so we're planning to make a bricked viewing platform half way down the steps to take that into account.

We quit at 3pm, after installing 4 steps due to total exhaustion. We cordoned off the area and dragged ourselves home to rest. Gonna be so very sore tomorrow! Hope we can finish this job this week.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Join us at our next workday!

Showing off the garden
 to visitors from Germany
We need your help to keep the gardens in good shape! Volunteering is a fun way to get your hands dirty and invest in your neighborhood. Our workdays are always busy and rewarding, with neighbors coming by to show off the garden to visitors or taking their dogs for a walk.

Laurie & pups enjoying
the street park

Please join us on Saturday November 7th from 10-12 at Pennsylvania Garden. We provide all the necessary tools and training, green and black thumbs are all welcome. Please contact me at if you have any questions.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New tool chest!

Today's volunteer workday was warm and sunny - not too hot. at 9.30am Matt and I were at the lumber store buying everything needed to replace the tool shed with a new, stronger, wooden tool chest.

We got to the garden at 11am with all the lumber cut and hinges, handles, hasps and so on ready to go. Matt set to work trimming some wood while Nate turned the compost heap.

I set up the watering hoses for a good soak - the garden has clearly benefited from the recent watering and rain and some plants have sprouted up quickly! Other plants still need a soaking to make it through. John helped me water, while Emily weeded and cleared trash.

I cut back the Leonotis leonurus in the brights bed to 1/3 of it's previous size. It was gangly and sad looking, though showing new growth after watering.  Should bounce right back. I used the branches cut off as mulch at the base (instead of adding the the mountainous compost heap) and soaked the plant thoroughly.

After the workday ended, Matt and I forged on, trying to complete the building task. We took a break for lunch at 2pm and finally got the chest completed at 4pm. We put away the hoses and wheeled down to Fregosi for storage,and put all the tools in the new chest with a sense of satisfaction.

The lid needs the be a little bigger - we'll get another sheet of plywood, and varnish it, hopefully tomorrow. But it's a very solid trunk with a good sloping lid to repel water and people who want to sleep in top of it - I hope it lasts for years to come!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yuccas donate blood

Yuccas harvested
Well not actual blood, but the yucca cuttings we got from John in 2009 which were but small branches then, are now strapping multi-branched plants so we decided they could lose a few branches of their own to fill in at PRG.

Matt and I clambered into the prickly cactus wall and sawed out 9 branches at great risk to life, limb and eye poking. The crop was great, and the wall still looks lush with yuccas - lots more to harvest there.

Cactus wall still awesome
We loaded them into the truck and took them down to PRG, where I stripped off all the lower leaves and Matt commenced digging.

We made three holes and put three cuttings in each hole. Horribly stony, dusty dirt but yuccas are basically the cockroaches of the plant world and give not a whit for soil quality or moisture.

New plants!
They will spend a few months looking perturbed then in spring they'll bounce back and start growing thickly. They make a fabulous, drought resistant screen that prevents people tagging walls or fence boards, and covers up wire and other ugly fence. Go Team Yucca!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Overcast at last

Phormiums before
After over a week of very high temps, I was a bit worried the garden would be back to square one, but today Matt and I saw that the watering from last week helped and we have a few plants that have clawed their way back from the brink of death. Yeah!

We wheeled the hoses up and set sprinklers going to hit the most needy plants only.

I cut all the dead leaves off 6 Phormiums - the 3 "Guardsman" divisions in the outer border I was sure were dead are not, and got a good watering. The three in the left bed that I rescued years ago from some the trash got cleaned up and watered too - they're going to make it.

Phormiums after
While I was in the left bed hacking away, the Fuchsia boliviana "Alba" was poking my back with it's dead twigs. I cut a few back and saw that it's still alive! I gave it a good prune back to live sticks, and used its branches and the Phormium leaves to mulch all around that area and keep the dirt damp. I noticed that a Bronze Loquat (Eriobotrya deflexa) has seeded itself behind the Fuchsia and looks very healthy. It's a bit close to the cherry plum tree there, but we'll see.

Fuchsia pruned
Matt cleaned all the dead leaves off some Cordylines and around the Cussonia paniculata. He pulled pea vine out of the bed around the arch and weeded generally.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Trash, dumping, and destruction

Agave "Lemon Lime" flowering
Today I spent an hour picking up trash at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden. A lot of it blows in down 17th street, and more blows across the street from the construction site. And this week someone dumped two sofas and 4 bags of trash.

There's a lot left to pick up - perhaps when Matt gets home we can finish off the rest, and I'll schedule a trash pickup with DPW.

Chopped Opuntia
As usual I went through the trash to see if I can find an address (and if I do, I let DPW know so they can fine the owner of the trash for illegal dumping) but this time, the only thing of interest I could see was a page torn out of a calendar that listed what appeared to be dated grievances against a guy at the writer's work, with their disgusted comments. Ironic.

Chopped Trichocereus
Another thing I noticed was that someone has gone through and cut off the tops, and even the majority in some cases, of the columnar cacti at PRG. Those plants where nurtured by us for a couple of years to root and ready them for planting, and they will take probably 10 years to grow to the same size again. This is a real bummer.

Chopped Trichocereus
If you see someone cutting plants at ANY PSG gardens, outside of a workday, call the police. It's against the law to steal from or vandalize street parks.

Volunteer Labor Day

Sad Cussonia
Happy Labor Day weekend!

Today's volunteer day was sunny and warm (go Potrero Hill!) and I had three able bodied guys to work with. We got lots done.

Bill from Redwood City came by and he and our regular John cut back all the Agapanthus dead heads, after which John turned and watered the compost. Our heap is now incredibly tall and a workday where we rent a gas powered chipper to reduce the mountain is overdue.

Nathan and Bill cut back dead plants: the list of dead plants now includes two Athanasia pinnata, and some bronze Phormiums. While cutting back the cardoon, Nathan saw new sprouts emerging, so I watered it thoroughly.

The plants doing surprisingly well are Doryanthes (found a second one in the middle of the brights bed) and Cordyline cultivars (while the species dies. Odd.)

I wrestled the hoses again to water the most desperate plants. I can see evidence that last weeks watering helped, so I'll keep doing that to save some of the best plants until El NiƱo shows up...

My camera died so no pictures yet, but Bill found a praying mantis which was pretty cool!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rough times

Ochagavia litoralis
Having watched many plants die at PG, and not feeling desperately sad about all of them (after all, we're a xeric garden: if it can't survive some drought we don't want it!) I started noticing that some really tough plants have died. And since this is a rare weather event, I felt it's time to step in and see if we can save them.

Yesterday Matt and I went out with our watering gear for the first time in years and spent and hour giving a good soak to a few of the good plants that need help, and would be tough to replace.

Aloe reitzii var. reitzii
Of course, a lot of the plants out there look perfectly happy - Agaves, most Aloes and CA natives are all bopping along looking great. A lot of the Australian plants have not missed a beat.

As you can see from the photos, the Ochagavias are flowering for the first time (surprise!) and the Aloe reitzii var. reitzii as well - apart from being a bit squashed by Moby Dick the big Agave americana, this one is gorgeous!

However, the list of dead or dying right now is:

Berberis linearifolia
Buddleja "Ellen’s Blue" and the other big one Joan gave us
Cestrum fasciculatum
Cordyline "Kiwi"
Cordyline sp.
- surprised about this one
Cynara cardunculus
Festuca glauca
Fuchsia boliviana "Alba"
Kniphofia "Dwarf Yellow"
Leptospermum scoparium "Red Ensign"
Leucadendron "Safari Goldstrike"
Psoralea pinnata
Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"
Tibouchina urvilleana 

...and that yellow flowered Australian edging shrub whose name I can never remember.

Aloe reitzii var. reitzii
Cussonias are looking ropey. Surprisingly the Brugmansia clings on. Phormiums are in bad shape. Several Aloes are tightly curled up and praying for rain. It's all a bit sad really.

I'll water again next week and make an assessment. Hope we can make it through to the supposed El Nino we're expecting. October?
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