Saturday, May 30, 2009

Step on up! Or down - your choice.

Big project today! The steps at the back of the garden that Ron, Matt and I had created were sadly coming apart - the front bricks kept falling off at inopportune moments. I decreed they much be made more solid, due to fear of litigation.

This project took the time and resources of a number of volunteers, but it was well worth it.

On Friday night I went to Home Despot armed with a materials list written in minute detail by Gary. Using money donated by Dorothy I bought:

- 24 3/8" rebar stakes, 24" long.
- 2 landscaping timbers, 8' long.

This is in addition to:

- 60+ bricks (donated by Ron)
- 4 landscaping timbers I bought, previously doing duty as edgers for the Canna bed (now we really need some branches)

Then on Saturday morning, we took the materials to Gary. He brought out his Serious Power Tools and had those bits of wood sawn and drilled in no time flat. Then he showed us (left) how to do the first step using his fiendish calculations for riser height/step depth/average stride length of an average height European female gardener weighed down with garden tools, and all sorts of other details, as well as his level and hammer.

Today, I got into the garden at about 11am, and was dismayed to discover the people have been cutting off Opuntia pads (aka nopales in Mexican cuisine) from the front cactus. Gah! Then I talked with Alison about Mission Bay plantings, and Ron about his artistic vision for sculpture at P. Garden. I'm fussy about art in gardens - I think Ron makes beautiful stuff though so maybe I need to loosen up!

Matt came back from his softball game and we met fellow gardener Emily at the garden. She weeded like a dervish for about an hour and a half, totally cleaning up the left bed, which I was simply amazed by. Quick, somebody mulch it before the weeds come back! (Thanks Emily!) I gave her a bucket of horse poo for her garden. I think I know who got the better end of the deal (me!) ;)

Then two of our neighbors whose names, I am ashamed to admit, I can't remember at this second, dropped by with a great big lavender bush and a Penstemon x mexicali "Red Rocks" for the garden. Sweet! I immediately planted the lavender in the new lavender hedge up top (as well as two small lavenders I picked up at Home Despot) and the Penstemon in the red bed. All I can say is thank goodness for the Texas toothpick (aka digging bar) because the dirt ain't soft up there...

Also John came by with plants. Oooh, where does he get his plants? He's like a crack dealer. He always calls and says "I don't know if you're going to want this (insert plant I've never heard of)" and I always say "yes please!" and it always turns out be to something awesome. Today, it was:

- 4 Yucca flaccida "Garland's Gold" in one huge pot
- 1 Doryanthes palmeri (15 gallon pot, kids!)
- 1 Agave shawii (above left - yeah!)
- 1 Sempervivum arachnoideum (Cobweb Houseleek) (above right)

So, that was exciting. I had to plant the excellent, spiky Agave and succulent right away, along with a Portulacaria afra (Elephant Bush - variegated) to picked up at Home Despot. Just too beat to plant the others but I know where they're going.

While Emily weeded, and I watered/weeded, Matt built the steps with unparalleled fervor. Wow, they look good - 5 are finished, 5 need bricks added but the bulk of the heavy work is finished. See below!

So, a BIG thank you to Gary, Ron, Matt, Emily and Dorothy. I hope you will enjoy the steps for many years to come!

It's now almost 7pm and we have just come in the house in a state of exhaustion - almost 8 hours of nonstop gardening (we even had lunch in the garden!) Thank goodness Matt has just brought me a glass of sangria... :D

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Left: Dasylirion wheeleri. Right: Aeonium "Kiwi"

Last night as I was weeding the steps and removing bricks in preparation for Sunday's big stairway project, my phone rang. It was John and he wanted to know if I was available to receive some plants. Oh, let me think about that.... Yes!

As usual he was there in a flash and we now have the exciting, unusual, unlikely task of deciding where to plant not-one-but-two LARGE Dasylirions (above left, below right.) Let me tell you, these things grow slowly and are usually very expensive, so for us to have two is a big deal. They are like strips of razor wire so I doubt they'll be stolen... in fact I think they need to amend the exasperated saying: "if I told you to put your hand in a Dasylirion, would you?" They need to go somewhere special to show them off properly, and out of the way of legs and dogs that might be lacerated. Hmmm...

Left: Senecio scaposus "Silver Spider" Right: Dasylirion wheeleri

Aside from the Dasylirions, John also brought us a bucket o' Aeoniums, three Aloe branches, two big fat chunks of cactus (San Pedro?) and a very cute Euphorbia cactus that looks like a bunch of pickles that have been run through with spikes. Oh the glee! I am so spolit. I dragged them all into the house for potting up, along with some Conicosia pugioniformis (Narrow-leaved iceplant) I got in Morro Bay - I expect they'll make their debut in the garden in about 6 months, when they have grown some roots.

Thanks John!

I have also, in my "spare time," been writing up the required planting and maintenance schedule for Caltrans. 9 pages done so far... hope they approve it all!

Gratuitous flower picture at left: Lavender, Tulbaghia, Osteospermum

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Plant profile: Dietes

The genus Dietes has six species, five African and one oddball from Lord Howe Island between Australia and New Zealand, D. robinsoniana. We have two types: Dietes bicolor (light yellow) and Dietes iridioides (white.) They're lovely, elegant plants with pretty little flowers that look like miniature irises.

Latin name: Dietes spp. ("dye-EET-ees")
Common name: Various names, but most people call them Fortnight lily, Moraea, or African iris.
Originally from: Africa, mostly.
Blooms: From Spring to Fall, every couple of weeks (hence the common name) you'll see a new flush of white or pale yellow iris-like flowers, with yellow, lilac or dark purple/brown markings.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Drought tolerant, but does best with some water.
Drainage: Excellent to average
Height x width: 30-40' tall and wide
USDA Zones: 8-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have many clumps in the left and top beds.

Dietes are a municipal gardening cliché in San Francisco for good reason. They flower all the time, require little water, and grow happily on poor soil. Ours are just starting to bloom - I think they might want more water. We'll see.

UPDATE: Tough as old boots - this plant cannot be killed by 5 years of drought and benign neglect. We have loads of clumps and now we have three clumps of a variegated form too. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday night fix

Above: the front border showing three pics of before, during and after, from two angles. Befores are December 08 or February 09, afters are today!

I rushed home to plant the rest of the plants from the weekend's Pacifica haul, and managed to get the following in the ground:

2 clumps Plectranthus tomentosa (I think - smells like lemon!)
4 clumps Echeveria "Sun Dancer" (probably)
3 clumps Crassula corymbulosa “Red Pagoda”

Of course lots of little bits fell off, as is the way with succulents, so I scooped them up and took them in the house. They are potted in 4' pots now - we have 2 flats full. Yep, house is starting to look a little Sanford and Sons-esque again...

I also chatted with my charming neighbors and their dogs, and a stranger who crossed the road to tell me that the garden fills his heart. Well, gosh! *blush*

This morning I brought out a bucket of water for the Cardoon (floppy) and emptied our compost bucket into the bin. There's some good compost brewing in there!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Plant profile: Cordyline

Cordyline australis
Cordyline is a genus of about 15 species of plants related to asparagus. Not cabbages, not palms, and not yuccas - despite looking a lot like some of them, and having a misleading common name (Cabbage Palm)!

Latin name: Cordyline spp. ("KOR-dill-ine")
Common name: Cordyline, Cabbage Palm, Cabbage Tree
Originally from: Western Pacific Ocean region, from New Zealand, eastern Australia, southeastern Asia, Polynesia and Hawaii.
Blooms: Weird twigs full of little white flowers show up on mature plants.
Light: Full sun to part shade.
Water: Some of them like the occasional sip in hot weather. Others need a lot of moisture, but we don't have any of those species.
Where to find in P. Garden: One in every bed - see below.

Clockwise from top left:
C. australis, "Red Sensation,"
"Torbay Dazzler"
As mentioned above there was a Cordyline australis in the garden when we got there which must be 10 years old (top right.) We removed some tips from it to propagate, but they proved unwilling - not as easy as yuccas, it seems!

Aside from that one, we have several of the various color forms available in the garden. Two Cordyline australis "Red Sensation" which are burgundy-colored live left bed - one in the middle, the other by the arch.

"Electric Pink" with
"Sundance" in the background
We also have a C. australis "Red Sensation" (might be "Red Star" actually...) and a C. australis "Torbay Dazzler" in the middle back bed, and a C. australis x banksii "Electric Pink," a C. australis "Sundance" and a C. australis "Kiwi Dazzler" in the middle front bed.

In the brights bed we have "Red Sensation," "Torbay Dazzler, ""Coral" and "Sundance" in a group, and lastly we have a "Torbay Dazzler" by the steps.

UPDATE: we lost the "Electric Pink" "Kiwi Dazzler" and "Sundance" in the middle front bed, sadly, due to the drought, and the plain green C. Australis in the middle back bed too. But we got a few others to replace them in the brights bed.


Up at 7am to water. Done at 8.30am. We really soaked everything well, as they probably won't get watered again until next Tuesday. I also sprinkled red California poppy seeds at the front edge of the "red bed."

We water by putting the "wand" at the base of each plant for a 5-8 second soak. Hopefully this waters deeply, encouraging the roots to dive down and get water from deeper soil layers. This is considered less wasteful than sprinklers, and also prevents all the roots being at the (hot, dry) surface.

Of course we also mulch heavily - recently we mulched the Cinerarias and Cannas, and always mulch a new plant thoroughly. This prevents moisture loss through evaporation really well.

We have also been watering only once a week, unlike others who sprinkle 3 or more times a week. It's true that some of the less drought resistant plants won't do as well with weekly watering, but I feel it's more important to conserve water than common plants. After this summer we'll see which plants can manage with less, and which ones will never look good and can make the short trip to the compost heap, or go live in a damper garden.

The jury's still out on whether or not we'll install a drip system into some beds. Matt says he doesn't mind rewinding the hose we now use but I hate that job! It'd also save a lot of time to have a drip go on with a timer, but that does require equipment and setup... and one great thing about watering each plant by hand is that it gives you time to really look at them and see how they're doing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


It's hotter than a hot thing. Hotter today than yesterday - feels like 90 degrees in the garden!

Matt, John and I went to Pacifica to a plant sale. Picked up loads of massive pots of succulents that need to be divided and planted. Don't know what half of them are, but the prices were reasonable.

Among them:

Half a dozen orange Calendula daisies
4-5 Echeveria (the pink, ruffled kind)
Several Crassula corymbulosa “Red Pagoda”
Opuntia of some sort
Sedum rubrotinctum "Jelly Beans" or "Pork and Beans"
Aeonium "Zwartkop"
Euphorbia tirucalli "Sticks on Fire" (Red Pencil Tree)
Assorted little Aloes and suchlike.
Crassula lycopedioides (Watch Chain)
Kalanchoe tubiflora (Chandelier Plant)

So we planted some of those, as well as the little fuzzy Opuntia microdasys albata "Angel Wings" which split into two so there you go. So hot, so sweaty, so full of cactus spines - I'm knackered. And I still have to water! I think I'll work on propagating more Lavenders from cuttings in the house for a while...


So far I have 36 Lavender cuttings in. 72 cells of Aster seeds, about 50 Gazania and some Foxgloves and assorted other stuff - all from a friend in Tasmania! I've had mixed results with Lavenders (I kept them too dry) and seeds (too wet) in the past, with my main successes being sunflowers and Gaillardias.

Matt came back from his softball game and we went over to meet Emily at the community garden at 22nd and Connecticut. She saw the sunflower strip we planted, and emailed offering a massive 15 gallon tub of red Cannas, and more than a dozen paperwhite (Narcissus "Ariel") bulbs. Sweet! Two of my favorites! We admired her plot at the garden, and enjoyed talking with a fellow enthusiast. Thanks Emily.

Then we went to Flora Grubb Gardens for a bit of eye candy. Phew - it's like Whole Foods for plants! Managed to get away with only:

- Gazania rigens "Talent" (Treasure Flower)
- Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon) (I had been admiring our neighbor David's specimen just yesterday!)

So, quickly we planted the above, plus Cannas and paperwhites. The former in the "red bed" and the latter all around the bench area for a fragrant Springtime effect.

It's dark now - too late to water. We're going to get up extra early and do that before it gets hot, allegedly...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hot in the city, hot in the city today...

If Billy Idol had been at the garden this week, he'd have joined me in a lip-curling snarl. Someone stole the dog poop trash can (a very large plant pot) and a few members of the local dog owning fraternity decided, as usual, to dump their dog crap bags either where the trash can used to be, or at the entrance to the garden. Disgusting.

It's not in my contract with Caltrans to pick up dog crap. Also, leaving your dog crap is against the law. So, if I see someone doing it they'll get one polite warning from me, face to face, and then a ticket. And that's a promise.

The crap continued to pile up this week, until, a little bird told me, lovely dog owner Diana cleaned it all up. And then another lovely dog owner, Dorothy (from Alterpop - or as she joked, Alterpoop) donated two wooden barrels to use as trash cans. One's in use as of today, one's stashed for the next time someone steals the poop can.

The generosity of both of these ladies is just wonderful. Thank you both so much for going out of your way to make the garden cleaner and nicer to be in. *Applause*

Anyway, with that annoyance behind us, I decided to spruce up the top area a bit today. I had been hand weeding the area (groan) but on walking out to the garden I saw Jim had beaten me to it - he was weed-whacking all the weeds for us! Thanks Jim - what a back-saver you are :)

I decided to add a Lavender hedge to the perimeter (left.) This will provide somewhat of a visual barrier to the traffic, will smell nice, and should be very easy to maintain. Today Matt and I planted/moved 7 assorted Lavenders, and there's room for about 17 more which I will buy or propagate as time goes on. They could not go right up to the edge of the kerb because there's about a yard wide stretch of concrete along the garden side of the kerb, but the placement is also good for the line of sight of traffic exiting the off-ramp.

We also planted the following:

2 Cuphea hyssopifolia (False Heather)
2 Iberis sempervirens (Dwarf Candytuft) (and moved another to join them under a cherry tree)
1 Opuntia microdasys albata "Angel Wings"

We moved a few crocus bulbs to the fronts of beds, mulched the bamboo area, weeded, and bought a manure fork for turning the compost heaps. Had a nice chat with Annelle and Gary, watered in the new plants, and called it a day - phew, it's hot out!

Above left: Malcolmia. Right: Flanders Poppy. Left: Dietes

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lots of new flowers in the garden!

L: Lotus berthelotii (Parrot's Beak, Coral Gem)
R: Agapanthus with Nasturtiums and California poppies behind

L: Kniphofia uvaria (Red Hot Poker)
R: Hemerocallis (Day Lilly)

L: Alstromeria (Peruvian Lilly)
R: Buddleja (Butterfly Bush)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yellow things in bloom

A couple more flowers sprouted in the garden this week - both yellow.

First, I present Hymenocallis "Sulphur Queen" (Peruvian Daffodil) as planted by my mother just a few weeks ago. Wow! Quick work, and quite a look there - we could use lots more of these bulbs I think. Smells interestingly like fabric softener, too... Sadly the flowers don't last very long, but I'll pick up more of them when I see them on sale, and perhaps next year we'll have a little patch of them.

Next we have a flower on one of three plants that have been growing bigger, and bigger, and... suspiciously bigger... for weeks, in the front bed. I had thought they were weeds, and my hands itched to pull them out - they were simply doing too well to be normal plants! However, as they were arranged in a straight line, I stopped myself - someone (me? Matt?) must have planted them on purpose. And, voila! They are Evening Primroses (Oenothera biennis) and should smell fantastic. They must have some from Matt's dad, Kendrick :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Plant profile: Aeonium

Aeonium haworthii
with A. arboreum "Zwartkop"
in the background

Aeonium arboreum
Aeonium is a genus of about 35 species of succulent plants that are very easy to grow and propagate, require little water, and are common in Bay area gardens.

Latin name: Aeonium spp. ("ay-OH-nee-um")
Common name: Aeonium
Originally from: The Canary Islands, Madeira, Morocco and in eastern Africa.
Blooms: Yellow, cream or white cones of flowers are produced - the bees love them. After blooming, some species die. With a bit of luck you have plenty of others growing at the base though!
Light: Full sun to part shade.
Water: Don't need extra water, although some of them like the occasional sip in hot weather.
Where to find in P. Garden: Along the cactus wall, and in both of the round middle beds.
Aeonium davidbramwelli
Aeonium leucoblepharum?
A. percarneum?

These are fun, easy plants. We have the following types:

Aeonium leucoblepharum? percarneum?
Aeonium arboreum "Atropurpureum"
Aeonium canariense
Aeonium davidbramwelli
Aeonium haworthii
Aeonium haworthii "Kiwi"
Aeonium arboreum "Zwartkop"
Aeonium nobile

Aeonium arboreum
Aeonium arboreum

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weed, mulch, water. Repeat.

Images left to right, top to bottom:
Looking towards the entrance - 2 angles
Echeveria pulv-oliver

Happy day: today Leah left us a big tub of plants, and John came by with almost instant gratification: our Purple Smoketree. The sun was out, so we busily planted everything and watered for the week.

- Moved the bricks up to the bench area.
- Planted Oxalis, Viola, Cotinus coggygria (Royal Purple Smoketree), Melianthus major (Honeybush), Chrysanthemum.
- Moved 3 ferns (Didymochlaena truncatula) and 2 Clivias to deeper shade.
- Weeded, mulched, watered (the never-ending triad of tasks.)

It seems like we should be running out of space for new plants, but really, when you look at all the daffodils (and remember how they will die down soon) there's a lot of space to fill!

We need a drought-tolerant ground cover for under the ornamental cherries for those between-crocus-and-daffs times. We have a patch near the evergreens that's empty, one by the steps and another by the trellis. Where the bricks used to be needs a soft (not spiky), extremely dog-and-drought-resistant shrub. We're on the hunt...

Images left to right, top to bottom:
Rose of unknown sort
Arctotis stoechadifolia "Pink Sugar" (African Daisy)
Trailing Ice Plants (Lampranthus spectabilis) and Agave

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Into the belly of the beast

Today Matt, John and I ventured to the East Bay (this is pig latin for "beast" so we often refer to this area as "The Beast") to what was supposed to be a succulent wholesale sale. Turned out to be not much selection, and almost retail prices. However, we did see a lovely garden attached to the "nursery" and the owner was nice. She had a stunning tree in her front yard that I admired: John said it was a Cotinus coggygria (Royal Purple Smoketree) - must get one!

But back to business. We procured:

Echeveria pulv-oliver
Arctotis stoechadifolia (African Daisy)
Aeonium "Sunburst"

After that we had to visit The Dry Garden in Oakland, a renowned plant shop for drought-tolerant species. Amazing place. Drool! Matt finally found his Euphorbia lambii, and also picked up a pampas grass - flashback to the 70s! In total, we got:

Sedum spathulifolium "Cape Blanco"
Tradescantia pallida
Cortaderia selloana "Silver Comet" (Pampas grass - variegated - hope this means it is not as aggravating as the regular kind)
Echium simplex
Euphorbia lambii (Tree Euphorbia)
Euphorbia polychroma "Blackbird" (Cushion Spurge)
Euphorbia (what sort? Tall, thin type...)
Lotus berthelotii (Parrot's Beak, Coral Gem)
Festuca idahoensis "Siskiyou Blue" (Blue Fescue)

After we got home, Sage helped us plant our haul, and Gary helped fix the wheelbarrow and weed along the sidewalk. Matt mulched the cannas, and I watered the new plants in. We tasted the fresh batch of limoncello and enjoyed the sun. Aaahhh!

Then we went inside and John called on his way home from a plant sale. He got a Cotinus coggygria (Royal Purple Smoketree) for the garden! Yeah!!! :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ways to get plants

Since becoming a "gardener" I have learned there are many ways to get plants. They are as follows:

1. Seeds.
Cheap, unpredictable, confusing, tempting, time consuming. They are like an annoying boyfriend (not like Matt!) that you keep going back to. Every now and again they surprise you, but most of the time you're fooling yourself if you think they will make you happy.

2. Cuttings.
The plants you wish for most will inevitably wither and die no matter how carefully you pot them or how often you mist them, pamper them, sing to them and pet their weak leaves. The rest will root prolifically, lying bare on roasting hot concrete, just to spite you.

3. Buying potted plants.
Bought plants always look superb on day 1, and on that day make a critical decision whether to continue to look splendid, or to gradually (or dramatically) fade into a sad, brown, crispy, twig. There is no way to predict what choice the plant will make in advance, though it has been noted that the more you pay for them the less likely they are to thrive...

If you actually paid good money for Crocosmias or Agapanthus, like I did, the eventual result will be a good deal of gritted teeth and muttering as the ones you paid for look sickly and weak, and the ones you got for free go on an absolutely mental growing spree.

4. Free plants.
The price is right, so if they fail you can be blasé about it. They tend to look a tad ragged at first, and/or require hours of back-breaking digging to extract them from their former homes. Some of them need to be potted up in the house and add to the general air of disorder there, but the satisfaction of getting plants for nothing is immense.

5. Volunteers/Orphans/Weeds/Natives, or "wait - that wasn't there before!"
Plants that show up unannounced, subcategorized depending on how they got there, and how they behave. These can either be random sprouts of cool things that you can allow to grow in situ, or move somewhere better ("volunteers,") or they can be mysterious plants that people leave in your garden, looking for love ("orphans.") If they are unattractive, they are known as "weeds." (If unattractive and noninvasive, they are called "compost") Similarly, anything that grows in the wild nearby (a native species) can also be called a weed. But not always.

Interestingly some plants can fall into more than one category, or change categories. An orphan can become a weed if it takes over. Similarly, a volunteer that keeps volunteering inappropriately, necessitating a horticultural smackdown, has become a weed. A weed that has pretty flowers and nice leaves can be elevated to volunteer status, although of course this is a painfully rare occurrence. We have a few natives/weeds we like to encourage: California Poppy, Blue-Eyed Grass, Douglas Iris, Ceanothus, Mimulus, and Phormium (oops, no, that's just so ubiquitous is seems like a native...)

6. Plants you already own.
Houseplants kicked out of the home and left to "figure it out on their own" at the back of the plot like recalcitrant teenagers. Sometimes they will make you proud by continuing to live or even flourish, but 199 times out of 200 they will start doing drugs, hanging out with crab grass and shame you thoroughly when someone asks you what that "dormant" plant in the corner is, and you have to tell them it's a dead rubber plant...

Another category of "plants you already own" is trees etc planted on the lot before you started gardening it. Someone is sure to admire them sooner or later. My advice: smile and take the praise while you can. Any minute now they're going to notice the rubber plant...

In other news, last night I planted a few things from Lloyd:

- 6 Aloes
- 2 Agaves
- Several Cereus cactus branches planted flat on the ground with sprouts going up
- Clump of bushy succulent with oval leaves and yellow flowers whose name I don't know
- Dug a hole for his big Jade plant (Crassula)

The top succulent bed is quite full, aside from needing small things for the front edges. I did some weeding, tidied some pots up and called it a night.

This morning, I watered the sunflowers with the 8 gallon bucket. They look perky! Got to get a sign on them this weekend asking people not to crush them, and finish mulching them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Phantom weeder - revealed!

This morning as I was surveying the lie of the land, the mystery weeder was revealed to me! While I won't give his exact identity (I don't know, maybe he wants to out himself?) let's just say he is actually a staunch supporter of P. Garden! A nice person! Who thought he was doing us a favor!

The way he put it, he was actually pulling out weeds. And what can I say? He was! Poppies, Blue-Eyed Grass and Corn Marigolds are in fact weeds to some people... we cannot fault his logic - they grow wild! (How the Ceanothus came to be pulled is still a slight mystery)

So I showed him how some small, baby plants are very hard to distinguish from weeds at that age. Take, for example, the baby Gaillardias, which even I would pull out except that I know what they are. And I told him we're growing some California natives because they don't need much water, have pretty flowers, and the local wildlife appreciates it. Which brings up the interesting definition of what a weed is to different people. And what a flower bed should look like: neat rows, or a mass of colors?

Happily, he's offered to "weed between the lines" - in other words, anything growing in the paths is a weed for sure. I am really grateful for the help there!

For one, I now think it's hilarious because he really was trying to do us a favor (let's face it, we do have weed-weeds!) and for two, I am very relieved that there isn't some nutter on the loose ripping up plants in the night. Thirdly, I'm very grateful that he told me about his nighttime gardening, otherwise I'd have been stressing and worrying and restless about it all (see yesterday's post for general angst.) And finally, I have to say "thank you" because he was doing some well-intentioned dirty work for P. Garden. You cannot fault a man like that.

Top: Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata) growing well, and a red Watsonia (not an orange Crocosmia as we thought when we planted it!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mystery weeder - you're NOT helping

This morning, for the second time, I went out to find a pile of weeds had been left on the sidewalk in front of P. Garden. OK, last time that was sort of helpful - although they hadn't been removed by the roots, at least it slowed weed growth. This time though whoever did it also ripped out a lot of California poppies, a clump of Corn Marigolds (Chrysanthemum segetum) and a Ceanothus...

I replanted the last two and thought it must be a kid, as there seems to be a lot of orange candy sprinkled wherever there is damage in the garden...

*sigh* I have to weigh the positives against the negatives. I'd estimate that for every 100+ positive comments, helping hands, mystery plant gifts, donations and so on, I get one instance where someone does something negative - destroys or steals a plant, doesn't pick up dog poop, lets their dog pee on a plant until it dies, tags the wall or gardening equipment etc.

Some of the negatives are easily understood - lots of people don't know that dog pee can kill a plant just like poison. Taggers are just kids with too much time and not enough guidance from their parents. But what about ripping out plants in the middle of the night? Could be a combination of unsupervised kids or mental illness. US jails are some of the biggest mental health facilities in America, so I predict this problem is not going to improve, since people are often punished, not treated, for mental illness...

How do I deal with this? So far I can only come up with one solution: try to care less. This feels at odds with the very idea of creating a community garden, of putting effort into something for everyone to enjoy. If anyone else has suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

However, I don't want to take away from the positives. Last night I came home and found a big Aloe, some little pink succulents and Mexican feather grass clumps - must have been Leah! Then I went out to El Cerrito and picked up a big pile of succulents that craigslister Lloyd left for me. Thanks Lloyd and Leah - I can't wait to get them all planted!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plant profile: Echium

Echium fastuosum
"Pride of Madeira"
By popular demand (i.e. Matt pestered me) this week's plant profile is the Echium (ECK-ee-um), a smallish genus of 60 species of flowering plant, which I had never heard of before. Matt is a big fan though, and we have collected half a dozen types. They self seed easily too, so I expect we'll see a lot more of them at P. Garden in the future - sweet!

Latin name: Echium spp. ("EK-ee-um")
Common name: Viper's Bugloss, among others. Dangerous sounding!
Originally from: Native to North Africa, Southern Africa, Europe, Madeira and the Canary Islands, as well as parts of East Asia.
Blooms: Usually blue/purple, but can also be white, pink or red. Some species shoot up one tall (12'!) spike, others create a bush of multiple spikes about 4-8' tall.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Don't need extra water.
Where to find in P. Garden: We have* a variegated one (pictured) in the bed with Moby Dick (our biggest Agave), several types on the bed next to the cactus wall, and a red one in the very top bed.
Watch out for: The leaves, whose hairs might irritate your skin.
Echium fastuosum
"Pride of Madeira" variegated
The hummingbirds, bees and the butterflies love them - and so do we. The Echiums of P. Garden get no extra water, and will put on a thrilling display of flowers, after which some of them die. Such drama! We have the following:

Biennials with perennial tendencies:
- Echium gentianoides "Tajinaste" (blue)
- Echium russicum (red)*
- Echium fastuosum "Pride of Madeira" (blue/purple)
- Echium fastuosum "Pride of Madeira" variegated (ditto)*
- Echium simplex (white)

Echium pininana
"Tower of Jewels"
Biennials, or maybe triennials:
- Echium hybrid "Mr. Happy" (one tall, pink, column)
- Echium hybrid "Snowtower" (one tall, white, column)
- Echium pininana "Tower of Jewels" (one tall, blue, column)
- Echium wildpretii (one tall, red, column)
* UPDATE: The Echiums with an asterisk failed in a spectacular way for us. Echium russicum just didn't thrive. The rest all grew SO fast, and SO huge that they fell apart due to their own excessive weight: the columnar ones just keeled over, and the shrub-type perennials lost branches until there were none left, or just split in half. What we learned from this is that Echiums need to be grown in very poor quality dirt with no water at all, and hate to be deadheaded - they won't flower next year if you remove spent flowers this year it seems.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More rain

Great for the sunflowers - I don't have to go water! :D

I stayed inside and potted succulents today. Ordered 125 more daffodil bulbs for fall delivery (cannot have too many daffs - that's my theory!) and washed used seed flats for next time I feel a burning urge to tend to hundreds of baby plants for months...

Later on it cleared up and the sun came out, so Matt and I went out and:

- Planted 3 Yuccas, moved another one
- Planted 2 Agaves
- Moved an Aloe and a Sedum (Hab Grey)
- Planted dozens of Aloe nobilis along the storm drain (all done!)
- Took a wheelbarrow load of mulch down to the sunflowers and spread it
- Brought up a long pallet and made a third side for the weed pile compost heap
- Weeded, deadheaded

On the way back from lunch I knocked on the door of the woman who lives in the house up the street with the amazing tree in the back yard - a Wigandia urens. I have always loved this tree, and have never seen it for sale. I asked Pat if I could have a sucker and she let us in to look for one! Sadly, no luck... we did get a big cutting but I hear they are very hard to root... Lastly, Leah dropped by and took some pots - hurrah!

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