Sunday, August 3, 2014

Volunteer Excitement & Shed Disappointment

Leslie making quick work
of the grass that was taking over
The weather yesterday morning may have been a bit gloomy, but a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers turned out to spiff up both Pennsylvania Garden and the Triangle Garden. So much was done at both gardens I will run through the highlights, with photos!

All smiles while working at the garden
A quick aside, our shed was broken into last week and a random assortment of things were were taken, including all of our pruners. The saddest thing is that all of the supplies are worth more to us in terms of cost and effort to replace them than they are to the crazy person who busted through our shed. Oh well. I promise to get all the tools back in order for the next workday. Now onto the photos!

Excited crew at the Triangle Garden
At Pennsylvania Garden Annie and Matt worked together to turn the compost and spread the finished compost around the garden. Quickly done with that heavy work, they set about to cleaning up the back slope area and added a few hardy plants that were waiting on the terraces in pots. Meanwhile, Leslie, Joanne, my mom Debbie, and I plowed through the left front bed, removing all the weeds and dead growth from the Agapanthus and Alstromerias. Our weeding party then moved on to the back middle
Chris and Ann giving
 the garden a 10 out of 10
bed and surrounding pathways, including trimming up the variegated mint that was getting out hand and blocking the pathway. At the Triangle Garden the crew pruned and weeded, leaving the garden in much better shape. It was a very productive workday, and as shown, the compost bin was pleasantly full by the end.
A full bin after a full workday
Many a neighbor came to visit during the workday, often saying something like 'Wow, this is great, thank you!' and from the doggie visitors, we received encouraging snuggles. One of the best compliments we received was from Chris, enthusiastically giving the gardens a '10 out of 10'! I hope to see you all as volunteer and visitors at our next workday, Saturday September 6th!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Volunteer Workday This Saturday

You're invited to join us this Saturday at our volunteer workday. We'll meetup at 10am at Pennsylvania Garden and then get down to work, making the gardens even more beautiful.

Any questions? email

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Front border looking lush
Another warm sunny day at PG, and Matt and I went out for an hour to plant more tough, xeric stunners. Actually the trip to the garden ended up being closer to two hours, but we got lots done.

I turned the compost heap again (seems like the only exercise I get!) and added straw, then Matt added some water. Compost needs to be damp for optimum decomposition, and we have two bins full that are just a couple of weeks from being ready to spread.

Little Puyas in the front
Matt planted two clumps of Puyas of two different unknown species. This tough family of bromeliads comes from the Andes and Chile and is pretty drought tolerant. With a bit of luck we'll find out what species these ones are soon, but basically one went in as a low clump of grass-like edging along the middle back border, while another group went at the top of the terraces.

Echeveria secunda before and after
I planted a whole flat of Echeveria secundas near the bench. I rescued them from the Triangle Garden up the block. These lovely blue-green succulents do much better with a little dampness and shade, and were frying to death in full, blazing sun at TG. You can see from the photo how much happier they'll be in a few weeks.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Now's the time of year for planting succulents

Crocosmia "Lucifer"
My favorite time of year: the best time to put Agaves, Yuccas, Aloes, various cacti and other succulents in the ground because they don't need to be watered in.

With that in mind, Matt and I popped up to the garden and spent a happy 4 hours cleaning up the terraces, planting as many plants from there as possible, and taking care of the compost bins.

Kniphofia "Pineapple Popsicle"
I turned one of the bins into an empty bin, layering in straw to help speed up the composting process. Pretty good workout right there! In the meantime Matt was pulling all the potted plants from the terraces, weeding and sorting through them to get them planted.

A list of plants released "into the wild" to grow out of pots today (and yesterday too) includes:

1 Agave colorata
1 Agave desmettiana - variegated
3 Agave lophantha
5 Agave parryii
4 Agave shawii
1 Agave sisiliana
1 Agave weberi "Arizona Star"
4 Aloe maculata
8 Bromeliad sp.
8 Echeveria secunda 
1 variegated Furcraea sp.
1 Furcraea longaeva
6 Gasteria sp.
1 Mangave "Macho Mocha"
6 Puya sp.
6 Sempervivum sp. 
2 Yucca aloifolia 
1 Yucca sp.

Yucca aloifolioa var. gets a haircut.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some but that's about 60 plants in the ground: not bad at all! I also moved an Aeonium, cut back some Euphorbias, swept the terrace steps and organized a bunch of pots behind the shed. Phew!

The thanks is to you!

Many thanks to everyone that
has made the gardens special!
Without getting too sentimental, let me start off by saying thank you to Paintsource, Inc., formerly Fregosi & Co. Paints, which is right across from Pennsylvania Railroad Garden. Over the years they have always been friendly, helpful, and  also generously provided paint related supplies. Back when we were doing outreach for the new garden they graciously provided meeting space. An absolutely huge benefit has been the access to water for our street trees, which really made the addition of the 23 trees to the block possible. Wrangling water to the site by other means would have been a nightmare of cost and permitting. Hmm, this is a long list of great things they've done for us! It makes me feel like I should take an ad out in the Potrero View thanking all of the individual neighbors and businesses that have participated in creating or keeping the gardens beautiful.

It was heartwarming to see their 'thank you' at the bottom of their advertisement. Annie and I may have been named in ad, but there are dozens of people that we have relied on in big and little ways over the years that make the gardens possible. Many heartfelt thanks to everyone that has made the gardens special!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July Weekend Workday

Berkeley, beaming excited little dog-ness, goes to snuggle Eliot
Today we were able to get to some less frequently tended to tasks around the gardens. Annie and Matt picked through the plants along the back slope, selecting some nice ones, and spent the workday planting down at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden (PRG). Annie also picked up a mountain of trash at PRG, so I am sure it is looking much improved down there (yay!). Nate and I stayed at Pennsylvania Garden, making use of the recently turned compost by digging some in around the Dahlia imperialis (tree Dahlia), Fuchsia, the Lilium (species unknown to me) in the brights bed. We also put a lot of compost around the newly planted bed in the dog area, with the aim of improving the soil. Next, we went to the back slope and cut back/dug out as much of the fennel that we could and heard the booming voice of Eliot, trying to find us to join in for the workday!

Completely surrounded by spiky plants
 and still smiling, it's Nate!
After the fennel was all chopped into bits and put into the compost the three of us we weeded the pathways and the back middle bed. It was a great time to not be hidden in the back of the garden, as quite a few dogs and their humans came by to say hello. Many a dog was snuggled and I think a good time had by all! What a lovely day to be out and about, hopefully you'll get to stop by the gardens too and enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Block Party at Progress Park

Passing this information along from Bruce over at Progress Park. Hopefully you can head over for some garden fun there this weekend.

Join us at Progress Park beginning at 11am for a game of Bocce ball, Taco food truck arrives ~ 11:30am, ice cream from Mr&Mrs, popcorn from our neighbors down the street on Minnesota and tunes from present to past. Music by Brendan (#1 DJ machine).  Fun provided by your neighbors.  Games, food and music.
DATE: Saturday, 06/28
TIME: 11am - 2pm
PLACE: Progress Park Bocce Ball court
Come on out.  Keep the fun alive and well in Dogpatch.
PS. The Dogpatch Playground is making great strides ... planned opening this summer.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new

Or rather, out with the dead, replace with the living!

Today I popped up to the garden and was very much enjoying how great it looks after the Genentech workday. I decided to weed the cactus wall, cut back some Chasmanthe, and noticed a gap along the steps where I'd removed a dead Convulvulus cneorum last weekend.

Having recently (today!) decided that no more plants can be planted at PG unless they come from those waiting on the terraces, I popped back there and chose a variegated Yucca and an Agave of species to be determined and planted them on the steps.

Happily, it's a great time of year to plant those species as they need no water to get started at all.

(Remember folks: we're in a bad drought - year two of it in fact.)

On the way home I deadheaded a dozen Euphorbias at PRG and weeded there too. It's all looking pretty spiffy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Genentech Workday Wow!

Shrub takeover thwarted
 in the dog area
First off, if you came to the workday and you're reading this, take a moment to congratulate yourself on all that you did today. Entire pathways were cleared, huge piles of branches removed and areas of mess and mayhem in the garden were reclaimed as beautiful and orderly places. Your work today was phenomenal as anyone can see by looking at the photos. not to mention the full debris box! A quick shout out to DPW and Recology, without their donation of a bevy of equipment (thank you!) and a debris box (thank you!) this workday would not have been such a success. I also want to point a few really special things that happened today, apart from the physical changes at the gardens.

Listening to the World Cup and
turning the compost on a sunny day.
 Can life get better?
+30 people in total came to the workday and after a very brief overview people got right to work. I'm talking instant action here - people identified themselves as leaders, split into groups and took on big, difficult tasks involving sharp implements, wheelbarrows and spiky branches. Volunteers from legal, research, HR, manufacturing, process development, you name it, they were digging in like seasoned landscaping professionals. I think in under 10 minutes everyone was plowing through their work and happily talking with colleagues. WOW!
Enthusiasm was running rampant
 all over the gardens today
Even PRG was worked over;
trash removed, weeds cleared
and trees watered
If I had to build a bridge across a raging river, I'd want to this crew, they get things done!

In addition to instantly engaging themselves fully in their work, everyone was keen to identify new tasks, learn skills, and use the appropriate tools (and keep track of them!). For me as a coordinator it is a joy as I'm helping a group of volunteers finish up some gardening to see that other volunteers have already neatly stacked tools, paired gloves, and other supplies thoughtfully put away in the shed.

Sparkling pathways! I love a clean pathway.
I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story, and you can view the entire album here. If you'd like to add photos to the album please send them to me at .
Also, many thanks to Genentech for organizing the 'Genentech Gives Back Week', providing opportunities for us employees to get out into the community and volunteer.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Garden More Glamorous After Workday

A meditation group that also
 volunteers together monthly, how awesome!
Maybe I've been checking out Annie's Annuals website too much, where a lot of colorful descriptors like 'glamorous' are used, but I do think the garden looks more glamorous after our volunteer workday yesterday! Grass has been a big problem up at Pennsylvania Garden this year. Having all the grass around really detracts from the beauty of some of the plantings, obscuring other plants form and color, the things that make them glamourous. Think of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL sitting in a field overgrown with weeds and barely visible, compared to the appeal it has on a showroom floor.

Eric, Michael and Nathan keeping
the grass in check
Anyhow, I whole bevy of new volunteers came today (yay!) to help us glam up the place, and many old friends too. Annie and Matt set about to do some specialized gardening as befits their vast skill and knowledge, and Carlin did a fantastic job taking care of the path along the cactus wall. Nathan weeded around pretty much chatting and working with everyone; what a nice guy! I got Michael and Eric started weeding the front order, and setup the team of Elana, Serina, Joanne and Chandnka wedding the middle back bed and eventually the back border. So much grass had grown up through the beautiful succulents, and they did a great job carefully picking weeds out. Janet and Mary worked at the Triangle Garden, removing loads of branches.

Please pardon our mess in the dog area;
the debris box is coming in a few weeks!
When you visit the garden there is a noticeable difference in how good it looks, but you will also notice a big heap of all our green waste in the dog area. Don't worry, we haven't gone crazy! Genentech is hosting a large garden workday later in the month (!) and we will
be further cleaning out the gardens and moving the green waste into a debris box provided by Recology. So please pardon our mess in the dog area.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunny Faces and Workday Announcement

On vacation visiting the gardens
Our volunteer workday is coming up next week, Saturday June 7th, and of course you're all invited! We have lots of gardening to do before summer really heats up the garden. Many of the shrubs need to be pruned back and it is always great to get a jump on the weeds so that over summer they do not go to seed.

My Mom and I were able to walk the neighborhood a bit this afternoon to put up some volunteer fliers announcing the workday. We ran into a few garden volunteers, including Ana, who will hopefully be able to make the workday for a bit (yay!). We also ran into some ladies on vacation from Sonoma that were checking out the gardens. It was nice to hear that they considered Pennsylvania Garden 'a collectors garden' which I am sure Annie will be pleased to hear!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Garden Miracle and Other News

Team silver!
First off, a big thank you to whomever removed the huge pile of debris from the dog area at PG and the branches from the Triangle Garden. It was quite the 'garden miracle' when I went today to water and found all the debris had disappeared. I'm suspecting it was DPW, but if you happened to see a work crew there today, and remember who it was, please email me so I can personally thank them.  With that pile of debris already gone we'll be able to get even more pruning and weeding accomplished at our next workday on June 7th (10am-noon; you're invited!) so I am very excited.

In other news on Monday Nathan and Ryan took a serious look at the runnels in our DG pathway with the goal of figuring out how to put in some additional drainage controls, ok actually add drainage controls, to be fair. To summarize, I'm going to need to find a landscape architect or similar to advise so that whatever we do next to spiffy up the path is a guaranteed fix and not a 'maybe'. I ran into an architect with her lovely dog Buster today at the garden, so you never know who will lend a hand on the project.

Eventually our Kniphofia northiae
will look like this
In other, other news, Annie's Annuals was having a sale over the weekend that I could not resist. The back bed in the dog area was fairly wild, and a nice variety of plants were available that should do well there, so I diagrammed it out and
then set about to putting them in. After removing a ton of weeds from the area and finding a few very toasty plants that were not rooted underneath all the weeds (oops!) the area was cleared and ready to put these lovelies in:

Eriogonum grande rubescens "Red Buckwheat"
One representative already in place and doing well despite total neglect, so I decided to add more

Kniphofia northiae
Really gorgeous (photo credit Annie's Annuals).

Glaucium flavum "Yellow Horned Poppy"
Orange version is just around the corner in the brights bed and flowers like crazy almost year-round.

Marrubium supinum
Silvery, soft and with purple flowers. A good low growing option for the dry shade that is towards the back of this bed.

Sideritis cypria
Also a silvery and soft with a similar habit as Marrubium but can handle the sun in the front of the bed. I can't wait to see the green flowers on this Canary Island native.

With everything in the ground I watered the area in thoroughly and have my fingers crossed that no dogs will go crashing back there until things get established. Garden miracles can happen!

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