Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Live Oak School Digs In

A super volunteer crew from Live Oak
Many thanks to Nick and Minerva, teachers from Live Oak, and John, volunteer extraordinaire, for leading the special Martin Luther King day of service for Live Oak at the gardens. The kids (17 of them!) and their adult mentors made a big difference at the garden, picking up trash and making a dent in the fluffy weeds that seem to be everywhere this time of year.

A huge thank you to Live Oak for supporting the gardens!

Way to go!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Plant profile: Peritoma arboria (Bladderpod)

Latin name: Peritoma arboria (pronounced "perry-TOE-ma are-BORE-ee-ah") (formerly Isomeris arborea, syn. Cleome isomeris)
Common name: Bladderpod, Burro Fat, Spider Flower
Originally from: California and the Baja California Peninsula
Blooms: Bright yellow and delicate, the shrub can often be covered in them.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 5' x 5'
USDA Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: Along the cactus wall at PG, and a couple of them live along PRG too.

Well this plant is a solid California native that does ever so well at PG and PRG. Despite the annoying number of Latin names it's endured,  good ol' bladderpod is what we call it.

Covered in unusual and delicate yellow flowers and dangly fruits that, when dry, rattle, the plant has a strange odor, when the leaves are crushed, from which the name "burro fat" comes. Resiny, musky, sort of sulfurous, dry and burnt smelling - you either love it or hate it. I like it, Matt hates it.

Found in the western Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert, all the way to Baja California Peninsula in the wild, ours are on the cactus wall (essentially fried) and along PRG (where the percolation rate of the dirt was impossible to gauge because even with a hose going full blast we could not fill the required 3'x3' hole up with water in order to test the rate it drained out. Um, drought tolerant much?

An evergreen shrub with glaucous (bluish green) leaves, it grows about 4-5' tall and wide and is great for really rocky, gravelly soil, hot, dry areas, alkaline soil, salty coastal bluffs and probably would do just as well planted on top of a burning subterranean coal fire at the end of the world when only this plant, a few yuccas, and some cockroaches remain. It hates overwatering, and is hated by deer. Give it a shot!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reasons to be outside before a storm

Annie and Sarah ham it up
 for a quick photo
Big thank you to Sarah, Chris, Annie and Matt who all came out to the gardens today. We were able to get a lot of work done during a mostly dry, if a bit blustery break, before the storm. We've had such little actual rainy weather in the last fews years that I had forgotten how fun it is to be outdoors as a storm is coming in. 

Lots of extra energy in the air and a feeling of let's get this done now made for a fun and productive workday! Matt and Annie potted up a bunch of echiums for later planting in the dog area, and Sarah, Chris and I made a good dent in the fluffy weeds that are popping up everywhere. After getting a good workday in outdoors we can now justify finishing up those holiday cookies with hot cocoa, right? 

Friday, January 6, 2017

You're Invited: Quick Weekday Weed-A-Thon

Chris, volunteering during the week
and making a huge dent in the weeds!
It doesn't take long for a little hard work to turn into big rewards in a garden! Two hours later and weeds are piled high and the garden is on its way to looking good.

Chris and I are meeting up during the week to get some extra work done at the gardens, and could use an extra hand. If you're interested in volunteering during the week please send me a note so we can coordinate. Emily@psgsf.org

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Changemaker Lecture & Visit

2nd Graders from Live Oak School
I had the privilege today of showing a gaggle of 2nd graders from Live Oak School around the gardens, and giving a lecture at their school. What a nice bunch of kiddos! Tons of great questions and they were very respectful, and fairly appreciative, of the gardens. We were able to corral them near the front entrance for a group photo - super cute!

As I was putting together my power point presentation for the 'at school' portion of the visit, I realized I had been giving this lecture since 2013. So much has happened at the gardens since then, including competing Pennsylvania Railroad Garden! Literally thousands of volunteer hours later (I keep track!) and the gardens are going strong. Many thanks to everyone who has lent a hand to Pennsylvania Street Gardens, and a Happy New Year!

Looking forward to seeing you all around this garden, and especially this Saturday January 7th at 10am for a workday. We are hoping the rain will come in later in the day, so 10am is a great time to get a little outdoor time in and make the gardens shine!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Plant profile: Bulbine

Latin name: Bulbine frutescens ("BUHL-bin-ee froo-TESS-ens")
Common name: Bulbine, Cat's Tail, Jelly Burn Plant
Originally from: Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland).
Blooms: Orange and yellow flowers are held above the foliage in late spring/early summer.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Although a succulent they seem to prefer occasional water over the summer.
Height x width: 18"x24"
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some dotted around the left bed and brights bed.

The genus Bulbine has about 80 species, which are found mostly in Southern Africa, with a few species extending into tropical Africa, about six in Australia and some in Yemen.

Bulbine frutescens is a nice little perennial with succulent, finger-shaped leaves and lovely delicate orange and yellow flowers. It's mostly dormant in summer, blooming in the spring, and then again somewhat in fall. It can be propagated easily by stem cuttings which can be planted immediately and kept in a shady area. They do not need any special attention or treatment, and build strong roots in a couple of months.

Bulbine in San Diego
Bulbine frutescens is sometimes commonly called Jelly Burn Plant as it contain glycoproteins, similar to many aloe species, and is touted for similar burn-healing properties as Aloe vera. These properties have also caused it to be called cape balsam (from the Africaans name balsem kopieva) - other common names include snake flower, cat's tail and and geelkatstert.

Plantzafrica.com says:
The fresh leaf produces a jelly-like juice that is wonderful for burns, rashes, blisters, insect bites, cracked lips, acne, cold sores, mouth ulcers and areas of cracked skin. This plant is ideal to grow and is a useful first-aid remedy for children's daily knocks and scrapes. The Rastafarians make an infusion of a few fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water. The strained drink is taken for coughs, colds and arthritis.

These plants prefer full sun, but they will also grow in semi-shade for part of the day. At PG it needs a bit of water - I wouldn't call it really xeric but rather "pretty drought tolerant," and I have to put it places where it will be somewhat damper for it to look good. It multiplies rapidly in the right conditions. Prune it when untidy, and deadhead for more flowers. For best results it should be planted in well-drained soil preferably enriched with compost.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Another garden anniversary

Aloe arborescens "Lutea"
It's December, and that means that Pennsylvania Garden is a year older. In fact, it's 8 years old!

Matt and I started the garden in early December 2008 when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and rented a place on Pennsylvania Avenue. We planted the following plants:

4 Dietes - still doing great!
8 Agapanthus - a feature at the front of the garden to this day.
3 Hakea suaveolens - two out of the three are now solid trees - one fell over and we have to remove it.
3 Kunzea baxterii - no longer with us, their form was too large and floppy for the spots we planted them.
1 Coprosma australis (variegated) - while it's mostly reverted to plain green, this is a really tough border edging "hedge" we still have.
2 Geranium maderense - this seeded around and may pop back up.
3 Ceanothus "King Sip" (ground covering/low) - still doing great!
2 Geranium macrorhizum - not so drought tolerant... gone!
2 Dianella tasmanica - very drought tolerant but deemed too boring in color. We dug them up and gave them away, but did get a variegated version.
1 Aeonium - still doing great!

Since then, Matt and I have been married and bought a house, and Emily and a host of other volunteers joined us in beautifying the neighborhood. We have endured a few setbacks: severe drought meant we lost a lot of plants as a result, and we saw the Mariposa Center Garden accidentally razed by local developers. Our tools were stolen and plants defaced or stolen, but the overall net result of our efforts has been hugely positive I think.

Together we made the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden happen, and encouraged gardeners to use less water and plant things that like to be dry. We held monthly volunteer days like clockwork, and helped people understand how important gardens are to the mental health of a city - as well as creating a tiny oasis for wildlife!

I hope you'll join us in the garden in 2017. A few minutes spent picking up trash, or pulling weeds, is a gift to your neighbors and your neighborhood that everyone appreciates. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Clean & Green Team At Pennsylvania Garden

Visitors always welcome!
Many thanks to the Clean & Green team from SF Public Works for coming out to Pennsylvania Garden on Saturday. The sun was shining, the air was a bit crisp, and the weeds... so ready to be pulled!

The recent rains have been great for many plants, and a bevy of fluffy weeds is taking over certain parts (ok most...) of Pennsylvania Garden. While I was getting things ready for the crew, May came by with her two cute dogs, who were so excited to be sniffing around the garden. Welcome!

Part of the Clean & Green
Team from SF Public Works
The crew came at 9 am, and after a brief introduction about the garden and a tutorial on weeding, I set everyone to work in the dog area. Hoes and rakes beat back the weeds, and after a few hours, we made a good dent in the weed population.

A small group also weeded near the bench, leaving it looking a bit barren with just dirt, although that is preferred to weeds!

Quite the morning's work!

I will be placing a mulch order soon to get the garden in proper order. Let's all turn out in January to spread mulch!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We Need You This Saturday

Everyone can help make
 the gardens look good!
It's a great time to get outside to clean up and beautify the gardens! Our monthly workday is coming up this Saturday, November 5th from 10am-12. Per usual please meet up at Pennsylvania Garden, and we’ll disperse from there. Volunteers will be on-hand to teach you everything you need to know. Gloves, tools and drinks will also be available to make it all happen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stop, thief!

At the weekend Matt and I were transplanting Agaves when a neighbor stopped Matt to ask him why he was digging things up.

Thanks neighbor! It's great that people are looking out for the garden :)

If you see something, say something.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Plant profile: Lycianthes rantonnetii (Blue Potato Bush)

 Latin name: Lycianthes rantonnetii (pronounced "lie-see-AN-thees rat-oh-NETT-ee-eye")
Common name: Blue Potato Bush, Paraguay Nightshade
Originally from: Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay
Blooms: Absolutely covered in purple flowers that have a little yellow eye. Flowers a lot. Relentlessly? Shamelessly?
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Drought tolerant
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 4-6' x 4'-6'
USDA Zones: 8b-11
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed by the steps

Lycianthes rantonnetii is a species of flowering shrub in the family Solanaceae.  Cultivated as ornamental the world over, you might deem it boring and decide to pass it over. But you'd be wrong.

The blue potato bush is one of about 150 species in the genus Lycianthes, which are found mostly in tropical regions of the Americas, with others in the Asia-Pacific region.

The species is named after Barthélémy Victor Rantonnet, a 19th-century French horticulturalist, who thought at first that it should be lumped in with the nightshades (Solanum) - the same genus as potatoes, hence the frumpy common name: Blue Potato Bush.

Unfortunately, after that got sorted out and it was moved to the genus Lycianthes the Potato Bush name had stuck. Several other little-known Solanum species probably should be included with Lycianthes but there you go.

I got this plant as a freebie left on the street by a random Craigslister. It consisted of two twigs and a few rumpled leaves, so not much hope was given to it. However, tough as an old boot, it sprang to life and is now a handsome flower-covered shrub 6' tall. It looks ratty in the dog days of summer, but a quick sprinkle of rain and pow: loaded with flowers again.

You can train it into a little tree, or let it be shrubby. It's easy to prune an doesn't care much when you do it. The flowers don't have a scent but aside from that it's a great little plant that handles all sorts of abuse cheerfully.

Oh, and boring? More like dangerous. Like most nightshades all parts of this plant are poisonous so keep your kids and dogs out of the flower beds people. A source of psychoactive alkaloids, they will cause a nasty upset stomach and worse.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Volunteer Workday

Here's Matt and Chris moving a lovely big Agave attenuata from the front where it was blocking the path to the left bed's bottom path area. Just before this Matt had cut back all the Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) down to 6" in prep for winter.  I am sure they will spring right back up and fill in that whole area - they are a bit brutal.

I weeded all over, and planted some Rock Purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis) in the new border of the top area with Matt, and also moved some Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina) to fill gaps.

Emily, Nathan, Bill and his dog Coco and John weeded at PRG and picked trash - it's time for a bit workday though as the weeds are gathering strength and taking over!

Chris also repaired the broken composter lid that had been hanging loose for a while.... it's time to move that composter back against the fence so we have more space to work there.

In order to do that we are gradually emptying it and placing weeds we've removed in piles in the middle of beds where they can rot down out of sight in their own time.

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