Saturday, June 16, 2018

Genentech slays again!

Amazing results
We were so delighted to welcome Genentech volunteers to the gardens again on Friday for Genentech Gives Back week, as they are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Last year we had a great gang, and the results were incredible - could they do it again?

Great teams
Aditi, Matt and I were joined by 15 volunteers and Kunaal and others took some great pics of the action.

In two hours we managed to fill a dozen huge composting bags, and 4 bags of trash as well, with a huge pile of weeds left that didn't fit in the bags. What a feat!

I can actually see the path!
Volunteers from Genentech are always energetic and focused, and this gang proved to be no exception. They gleefully took it upon themselves to search for and destroy all unwelcome forms of weed life on the path - including digging out the notoriously difficult to remove fennel and malva weeds, whose roots are just devilish.

Weeding is cathartic!
They picked up trash, they hacked back weeds, they raked up heaps of waste and they even carefully cut back Calandrinias and made cuttings to share. All with great cheer and lots of laughs.

I quickly used the 311 app to call in the vast debris piles we made, and a truck from Recology arrived quickly to take our green waste and trash away, while I took home the recyclables. Hurrah for 311!

All in all, the day was fast paced and very effective, and I'm super grateful for the Genetech and PSG teams - thanks for ALL your hard work! Check out Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the links on the right of the site to see more photos.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Extra! Extra! Weed all about it!

The path used to be so neat...
Wish you could do some gardening on a Friday, instead of our usual Saturday? Looking for some volunteer hours to fulfill your company's volunteer policy? Just ready for a Friday afternoon in the sun?

Join us for an EXTRA Volunteer Workday on Friday June 15th from 1pm-3pm

Please meet up at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden, on the 100 block on Pennsylvania Ave, as we’ll work there.

We're going to clear the path at PRG so we can refill the granite path covering. Every weed will be obliterated! We have teams joining us from Genentech and other companies, and it's a great opportunity to give back and meet some fun people.

Gloves, tools and drinks will also be available to make it all happen, as usual. We just need YOU and your smiling face to join us :)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Path of least resistance

Hilary taking a break
The 4' wide path at PRG has become quite difficult to use this year. It's overgrown and very narrow in places, thanks to some enthusiastic plants and also the decomposed granite (DG) substrate gets washed into deep grooves by rain. That creates ankle-twisting ditches on one side - not good.

DG needs maintenance every couple years, and I had called a number of companies to get quotes on repair. One of them came out to see the site on Saturday. The representative said the path needs to be completely clear to give a real quote.... so, at our volunteer workday on Saturday we decided to seriously attack the path!

Matt, Aditi, Sarah, Sage and Hilary joined me and the sun was very warm as we worked on cutting back all ornamental plants (not weeds) that crossed the path edging.

Not weeds? Well, we have a weeding volunteer day on June 15th 1pm-3pm (join us!) and that team can focus on weeds, then we can just use the string trimmer if there are any left. Ornamental plants need to be cut back a bit more carefully though.

Anyway, away we went. We focused on a couple sections and really hauled out a lot of plant material. The path is now drastically wider in spots, overhanging branches are trimmed, a lot of fennel got whacked, and Calandrinia cuttings were reserved for future planting. More to do though!

Then on Sunday, Matt and I did a couple more hours before exhaustedly heading up to Papito for some well-deserved sangria.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Are you angry? Frustrated? Need a good outlet?

Join us on Saturday and take out your annoyances with life on our WEEDS! Pulling out weeds and beautifying a garden is a hugely cathartic thing to do ;)

Alternately, perhaps you are a person with great empathy and cannot stand to see nice plants smothered by unpleasant weeds? Same solution - help us save the plants by sending those weeds on their way.

Or maybe you just watched the show Weeds and you're keen to discuss the seedy underbelly of drug cartels... while pulling out weeds?

Either way, our volunteer day is fast approaching and we would LOVE to see you at PG: tools and drinks provided. Just show up filled with rage and/or bursting with love, and we will direct it in a useful way!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Very naughty weeds

Matt and I headed to the garden to weed over the weekend, and found the weeds to be a bit rampant up at the top of the garden. I don't even want to look at PRG! Happily we have a Genentech workday coming up soon, so that team will make a huge difference.

We cleared weeds from the plants in the new bed up at the top, and planted some new plants. An Agave impressa and a Furcraea longaeva joined the mix, as well as a beautiful Dasylirion wheeleri rescued from the cactus wall before the wall is demolished.

Weeds thrown on the path
We tried to rescue the huge, gorgeous Puya from the cactus wall too, but it's just too spiky - I cannot figure out how to get it out without damage to plant and human.  We will just have to hope that during demolition of the building next door, the plants do not get crushed. I am quite worried about the Aloe ferox there... perhaps we will need to build a shelter around it, so it's safe?

Cotyledon cutings
While I was clearing around the Puya, I removed a lot of Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga, and planted those opposite, at the bottom of the steps.

We moved around the garden, weeding and weeding... and generating quite a pile at the top of the garden. We're not filling the composters right now, as we plant to move those bins to a better location soon.

In other news, we have been propagating up a storm and now have a couple dozen Salvias ready to plant in the fall - that'll fill in the top bed nicely.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Weekend weeding

Agave angustifolia + Aeoniums
Last weekend I popped over to the garden for a couple of hours of weeding and found NO homeless encampments and NO damage to the dog poop station. Hooray!

I started weeding in the middle back bed and after clearing out the weeds, realized a nice ground cover would be some lovely Aeoniums. These are a good tough rosette-forming plant, and easy to start from cuttings. I clipped a load from the cactus wall and put them in place - should keep things tidy.

I did the same by the wrong way sign too, and had a lovely chat with Liz and Betty who were visiting the garden and very supportive.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Plant Profile: Aloe maculata (Soap Aloe)

Latin name: Aloe maculata ("AL-oh mack-you-LAH-tah") (syn. Aloe saponaria)
Common name: Spotted Aloe, Soap Aloe, Zebra Aloe
Originally from: Southern and eastern South Africa, south-eastern Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Blooms: Int he bay area springtime is when the plant sends up tall, flat-topped clusters of coral/peach/orange colored flowers which are awesomely frilly!
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty.
Height x width: 24"x18" - flowers can reach 36" tall
Zones: 8b-11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a group by the bench, another group near the top of the steps, and some in the brights bed.

Have you always wanted to try Aloes but afraid to kill something expensive and finicky? Are you extremely frugal and love plants that pop out little clones of themselves all the time? Do you just like spotted things? Or plants that have crazy peachy orange flowers that hummingbirds love? Aloe maculata is your friend.

This species was previously known as Aloe saponaria, a name that came from the Latin "sapo" meaning soap, as the sap makes a soapy lather in water which is used by local people in South Africa for cleaning.

Now it's called Aloe maculata ("maculata" means speckled or spotted), and it's a dry garden rock star.

Salt tolerant and highly adaptable, it is naturally found in a wide range of habitats across Southern Africa, from Zimbabwe in the north, to the Cape Peninsula in the south. It's also naturalized in some areas of California - that's everything you need to know about how easy it is to grow here!

It is also a very variable species and hybridizes easily with other similar Aloes, like Aloe striata, sometimes making it difficult to identify.

The leaves range in color from purple and reddish when very drought or heat stressed, to light green when they are getting lots of water and shade. They always have distinctive flat-topped flower spikes. The color of the flowers may range from red to yellow, but is usually peachy orange or persimmon color.

This Aloe will grow to an impressive but manageable 2' wide quite quickly, and will offset mini versions of itself so you always have more coming. What's not to love?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Volunteer Day - so much to do!

Lots flowering now!
Our May volunteer day was lovely - the sun was out but not too hot, and the weeds were ripe for pulling. A bit over-ripe actually, and going to seed, so all the more reason to pull them.

Matt, Sarah, Aditi and I showed up at 10, and as I expected, there was a homeless encampment (still) in the back of the garden since last week, despite my trying to get them moved before they destroy more plants.

I called Police Non-Emergency and asked them to come move the residents along (yes, I know - it's not a solution!) but the resident left before they showed up. When they did show up, they told us we were doing the right thing... and really nothing more can be done.

Recology Ryan
We moved all the belongings to the street, in bags and called 311 to get them. Ryan from Recology showed up in an hour and took everything away.

Next I repaired the brand new dog poop bag station, whose $300 top part had been bent so someone could steal the probably $5 of bags inside. Nice.

If it breaks again, dog people: what's the solution here? You use the garden daily - I think it's time for you to be involved in the handling of poop. Shall we have a special dog owner's meeting to discuss?
Wonderful Cardoon

Then we got to weeding. Aditi and Sarah headed down to tackle the insane weeds at PRG. Matt and I took on PG.

We weeded by the cherry plums, and planted a nice big Furcraea selloa var. marginata we've been growing on, and made a nice group of three. Well, the middle one was damaged by a homeless fire, but it's slowly starting to recover.

Then we moved down to the bottom pathway, and removed mountains of weeds from that area. The Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) is absolutely going berserk and yeah - it's a native. so we want to keep it, but it needed a real haircut to give the plants nearby a chance to live.

Furcraea selloa var. marginata
Nate and his two kids showed up and let me know he's still faithfully reading the blog. Interested in stats, I looked up and saw that we have on average about 75 people visit the site each day, and 236 yesterday alone. Hi everyone! :) Not a bad readership for the blog.

And at the end of the day Matt cut down some of the cactus that needs to be moved before the building next door is demolished. This is a very tricky job as they have 3-4" long spines that are very sharp. Good job Matt.

He also moved an Agave scabra from the cactus wall to the new Furcraea group  looks great.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How to root Salvia cuttings

Buying enough plants to fill a garden gets pretty expensive pretty quickly. A cheap, 4" size pot plant is usually $5-7, and a 1 gallon from $8-15... so gardeners usually get pretty interested in propagation sooner or later!

Some plants are so easy to propagate it's a crime: they seed everywhere, or push up pups that are simple to transplant elsewhere. Others can be propagated by root layering, cuttings, or even just from a single leaf.

Today I'm going to show you how to propagate Salvias from cuttings. In this case, Salvia canariensis: that big silvery shrub at the top of the garden.

Initial cutting
1. Take a cutting
To prevent the cutting getting bacteria on it and rotting, use a very sharp, clean knife, pruners or scissors to cut a stem of Salvia from the shrub. Choose a stem that doesn't have a flower on the end, because the cutting will waste a lot of energy on the flower vs making roots, and cut a bit about 4-8" long.

The best time is in Spring when plants are growing like crazy. You can try to root cuttings at other times, but they're less likely to work.

Prepped cutting
2. Prepare the cutting
Pinch or cut off all the bottom leaves from your cutting, and cut the stem down if needed as well.

The idea is to leave the (growing) tip intact, and 2-4 leaves at most, so that the cutting doesn't wilt and die.

All rooting up nicely
3. Start the cutting
Dip the bottom of the cutting in powdered rooting hormone if you like,  then pop it into a plastic plant pot (with drainage holes) full of perlite (a white crumbly material you can get at any garden center which drains well) so the whole stem is in the pot and the leaves are above the perlite.

You can usually fit 4-8 cuttings in a 1 gallon pot no problem. Water them well, and leave them in a shaded place.

Rooted! Ready to pot
If the cuttings wilt you need to water them more, or remove some leaves (or both). I usually find I need to water my cuttings daily, or every second day.

Keep the perlite moist, but not waterlogged, and after 2-6 weeks roots will form.  You'll also notice that some leaves will start to grow - that's a great sign that roots are in place.

Safely potted up
4. Ready to pot up?
Give your cuttings a little tug - if they slide out they're not rooted yet. Give them more time.

When they are rooted, gently tip the cuttings out of the pot (those roots are fragile!) and put one cutting per pot onto 2-3" of potting compost, then gently fill the rest of the pot up with more potting compost. Water well, and put the cuttings in a semi-shaded place to grow on.

Nip the tip
After a few days to settle, I move them to a sunnier spot. When potting up, or a few days after, you can pinch out the tips of each cutting with your fingers or scissors so that the cutting branches out nicely into a shrub.

Look after your new plants and in a few months they should have grown a lot, and if you see lots of growth on the leaves, and roots filling the pot, your plant will be ready to plant in the ground! The best time to plant out in the bay area is in the fall, so get those cuttings started now.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Cuttings and weedings and ponderings

Yesterday I went to PG to do some weeding. On arrival I saw a deserted encampment down in the back area, and dolefully set about moving all the trash/bedding to the curb. I used the 311 app to schedule a pickup right away, as these can take time to be done.

Then I saw a man heading purposefully to the back of the garden - to the camp. He came back a few minutes later and asked if I had seen a backpack - I showed him where it was, and told him this is not a good place to camp... he had uprooted and broken up several of the yucca branches planted back there to make his camp, and as usual there will be piles of trash, used needles, vomit and crap to clean up...

I called police non-emergency - as is our policy - in order to underscore that this is not a place to camp, and went back to weeding, very sadly, thinking that there is no winner here, and feeling helpless, frustrated, unsafe, and annoyed.

Sorry - I wish it was all flowers and butterflies, but  unfortunately in the last year, this garden has become as impacted as the rest of the city by homeless issues, and the poor decisions of the governments of yesteryear...

On the plus side, I was happy to see Aditi, who dropped off two pots of cuttings she has been nurturing for several weeks. And they're rooted! I brought them home and I'll publish a post about how to root cuttings soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Weed Profile: Dove's Foot Cranesbill (Geranium molle)

Tiny, blurry flowers
This is the second in our weed ID series. I've noticed this weed is very common at PG this year, and while it has some redeeming qualities, it's still competing with other plants for light and food, so it needs to go.

Latin name: Geranium molle ("jer-AY-nee-um" and "MOLL-ay")
Common name: Dove's Foot Cranesbill, Dovefoot Geranium
Originally from: Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean areas
Blooms: Flowers bloom all the time. They are small, pink/purple, and about 1/4" - 1/2" in diameter.  
Worst feature: It is everywhere!

Best feature: Cute leaves, tiny flowers, easy to weed out.
Height x width: 6"-14" x 6"-14"

The whole thing
How best to weed: Just pull it up by the roots - in damp soil they come out easily if you grab the whole base of them.
Don't mistake it for:  The fancier geraniums!

This annual plant grows quickly and seeds quickly too - like most annuals. But it can also survive over winter and become a short-lived perennial. It has pretty little leaves, and tiny purple flowers. Throw in somewhat hairy reddish stems and overall it's not ugly! But at the same time, it's not really a superb ground cover or fascinating specimen plant, like some of it's relatives (Pelargoniums etc) so by dint of being a bit dowdy, it's a weed. OK, now I feel a bit guilty.

Red stems and rounded leaves
It is native to the Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean areas, and has naturalized in other parts of Europe, in southwestern and central Asia and in North Africa. It's not a threat to native ecosystems, however, so no cause for panic.

So it's not evil - but could it be useful? In 1652 Nicholas Culpeper  suggested a variety of uses for G. molle, including the treatment of internal and external injuries. Apparently the bruised leaf healed external injuries faster, and a boiled concentration in wine was said to relieve gout and other joint pains. But then, who has gout these days? If you do, please help yourself to this weed - take as many as you want!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Weed-A-Thon results!

Our volunteer workday annual Weed-A-Thon was a blast!

We were joined by May from SFPA and Paul and his crew from the SFPA’s Clean and Green Team. They set about emptying our compost bins so we can move the bins to a better spot.

When that was done, they removed the new homeless encampment that had sprung up at the back of the garden too. After moving all the trash and green waste to the street, a full 12 bags of waste, they moved down to PRG where the weed situation is intense.

Half the crew picked up trash and made a huge pile, the other half weeded the pathways. End result after 3 hours? 10 more bags of trash and green waste, and a huge pile of street closure signs that PG&E left on the street months ago.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was up at PG weeding away like maniacs.

Matt, Hilary, Aditi, Chris, Gretchen and Katsura diligently pulled weeds from the soft, rain-damp soil and accumulated another dozen bags of weeds. They also spread loads of wood ships on the pathways, and widened the main path up the garden significantly.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves – there’s a LOT more to do, but in 5 hours this crew removed a HUGE amount of weeds and trash, and made a HUGE difference to the garden – thank you so much for your help!

We had a nice break for pizza at noon, and finished up at 3pm completely exhausted, but utterly satisfied with all the effort. What a rewarding day in the glorious sunshine after the storm. I am going to sleep for a week.

Thanks Kunaal for the photos - check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more pics!
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