Sunday, October 30, 2011

Terracing: it's not for wimps

Emily and Dee
I once saw a sign at a garden in a rocky and mountainous area that said "Flat land farming is for wimps" and today I thought of that sign often as we worked on the newly terraced area in the far back of the garden. Yes, it was hard work, but luckily we were working mostly in shade today.

Emily, Jim, John, Dee, Carlin Matt and I worked for 4 hours (!) and as is usual with our dedicated PG volunteers we got a LOT of work done, and done well.

Carlin weed-detailing
We weeded the entire area, stubborn fennel included, removed the bamboo that has been struggling due to lack of water and set to work fixing up the hardscape. We need to get this area completed and photos of the work done sent in to our granting bodies to show them that we spent their money wisely, so the pressure has been on to get this job done, and done right.

John's steps
John worked on the brick steps, setting the bricks in sand and swapping out broken for whole bricks. The result is so professional! Now we just need a nice low-growing and very xeric plant to grow along to sides to stabilize the edges - what shall we pick?

Jim and Matt and The Rock
Matt and Jim worked on the terrace pathways, smoothing them out, adding gravel (we need a few more yards of gravel to be delivered and added) and removing one HUGE piece of dumped concrete that was ruining the line of the top pathway. I honestly didn't think that lump of urbanite was coming out, but Jim was determined and who am I to stand in the way of a man with a digging bar and a mission?

Matt on a new path
Carlin, Emily and I chipped, raked and brushed the paths and steps to smooth them out and prep them for gravel. They look 100% better now - walking on the gravel will be a real treat.

Yes, we still have lots to do, but the area is now ready for planting and at long last will be usable by the public. I hope to get the planting all done in the next two weeks - I have a load of plants waiting at my house for the chance to spread their roots in the (rocky, shaley, kind of unpleasant) dirt at PG. Can't wait to see how they like it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


...left two boxes of Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalksticks) cuttings at the garden yesterday!

Sweet: I will use them in the middle front bed around the edges. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


There is something really nice about pottering about in the garden. I often go at lunchtime and get a pair of pruners and a trowel and walk around the beds trimming this or that, pulling a few weeds. If you do it often enough things stay looking reasonably good.
Yesterday I pottered a bit. I cut back the Scabiosas in the left bed - they are pretty much done flowering, and the way to cut them back so they grow again looking bush is to trim back all the dead stems, and any finished flower stems all the way down to the "crown" - the mound of leaves at the base. Cut the sticks all the way down so none are sticking up, and it looks neat.

I also watered in the two new Scabiosas Emily got for that spot, and cut all the dead branches off the Lupinus arborius there too. That lupine is seasonally deciduous in that location: it doesn't get enough water. I think we should remove it now, and replace it with something that can establish over winter, otherwise we'll have a dead-looking plant again from about June onwards and will have to look at the gap in the bed until October/November... I think a big yellow variegated Phormium would be a nice contrast for the Scabiosas. Right now the lupine and Scabiosa foliage are too similar.

I trimmed up some Calendulas by the brick path, watered the newly planted lamb's ears, Euphorbias, Scabiosas and Ratibidias, and noticed some lovely butterflies. The top one is unusual - haven't seen it before. I hopped over to and discovered the bottom one is, as I expected, a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) but the top one? No idea!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Better late than never fall planting

The garden has had some recent new additions, and I am late in blogging about them.
If you're a keep observer you may notice these new inhabitants in the garden:

Echeveria subrigida (1) 
Helleborus orientalis -1 "Red Lady", 2 "Metallic Blue"
Ratibidia pinnata (3)
Agastache cana "Purple Pygmy" (3)
Linaria purpurea (3)
Ursinia anthemoides

Hopefully they are all enjoying the rain we had last week and sending out lots of roots followed by inevitable top growth and flowers.....ok, flowers much later! I can hope. Check out the photo of what the Helleborus will look like this Winter!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Donations of all sorts

Euphorbia rigida
(Donkey Tail Spurge)
Last week Jason from Flora Grubb emailed me to say he had a donation he'd like to make to the garden. I was all atwitter, naturally, since FG is to PG what HD is to TV! Well, sort of.

Yesterday morning I was scratching at the gate of Flora Grubb as they opened, mouth slightly frothing in excitement.  After a brief hunt, the salesperson and I were about to give up looking for the plants Jason hid somewhere for me, but luckily Matt was there and he spied them in a corner. They were:

2 Guadalupe palms (Brahea edulis)
1 other palm... what is it? Darned if I can remember.
1 exotically spotted Mangave, complete with one slug plus one snail (for some reason they love Mangaves, and I hereby swear I will do my utmost to protect this one from their hungry mouths)
1 Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

We also bought some lovely Euphorbias:
3 Euphorbia "Blackbird"
3 Euphorbia "Silver Swan"

Here's what Jason said about the Guadalupe palm:

"Brahea edulis is an unarmed fan palm from Guadalupe Island, off the coast of northern Baja California, where it grows in habitat with Monterey pine, ceanothus, and other signature members of the California flora. Guadalupe Island is considered the southernmost outpost of the California Floristic Province and we consider the Guadalupe palm to be the "true" California native palm due to its cultural preferences and ecological associations. Here's a blog post I wrote on it:
Here's a set of marvelous photos of Guadalupe Island, an ecological recovery story in the wake of the removal of goats that had been devouring the native plants for 140 years:"

We went home and marveled at our haul - it's always fun to look up plants online to see what they'll do, plan where to plant them, and just admire their shiny-newness. Thank you Jason and Flora Grubb!

Later on that day  I popped out to the garden and installed the new dog poop sign.  Donna helped make that sign happen, and it's quite a sturdy item. I had to place it way up high on the light pole to deter theft, and luckily Nate happened to pass by just as I was contemplating climbing on a trash can to reach.

Today I went out to plant the Euphorbias and ran into Jim, Gary and Emily with Bentley. We all chatted and after everyone left I planted three Euphorbias in the left bed and decided to save the other three for later.

I also transplanted some little lamb's ears on the lower path, watered everything in, watered some of the potted plants in the back, and noted with a mixture of joy and annoyance that we've had two more donations recently.

The first is a couple bundles of very desirable branches for twig border making from a nice, anonymous neighbor - thanks!

The second is a bag full of someone's yard waste. No thanks!

Not nice.
I just know that this bag was left in a kindly spirit, but we already have a huge pile of that stuff, and built the new composter in order to make usable compost (vs the weed-filled pile). We're desperate for our huge pile to go away so bringing your yard waste to PG and dumping it is not something we want. Please put it in your green bin: the city can really use it.

Now, if you have kitchen food scraps, different story - put them in the open composter bin. They'll very quickly turn into something useful. Unlike your yard waste which will inundate us and take forever to break down. Yes, two of our bins are already full - that only took a couple weeks!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Planting at McKinley Square this weekend

This just in in case you feel the need for dirt under your fingernails this weekend:

McKinley Square Hillside Planting
October 16th, 2011
10AM - 12Noon

Come join your fellow local community members and SF Park & Recreation
Planting 100s of native /sustainable plants and improving trails on the McKinley Square hillside.

Plants are supplied by SF Park & Recreation, and donations from the local community.
To RSVP or for more info email
(RSVP not required but helps us know how many plants to supply)

If you can't make it, donations for more plants are welcome.
MSCA is fiscally sponsored non-profit 501(c)(3); donations are tax deductible.
Please mark calendars and forward to groups that you consider will have interest. Thanks!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rank and stumpy...

There was an old Monterey Pine stump at the entrance to the garden, covered in ivy and really not doing anyone any good. That is, until today's volunteer day!

We all removed the ivy from the stump, then Jessica, Nate, Paloma and I created a new twig border to run around the stump, enclosing it in the middle front bed. That area needs a few wheelbarrows full of dirt to be added, and the plants rearranged, and it'll be ready to rock.

We'll also drill out a basin in the top of the stump and plant an Agave or something in it, to speed decay and get rid of the stump the natural way.

In the meantime, Emily, Leslie, Carlin and Peter weeded, watered, deadheaded Cannas, Agapanthus, Rudbeckia and more, and filled up the second of the new compost bins to the top.  Seems like we'll need to water the bins and keep them turning over if they get filled at this rate!

Big shout out to Paloma today - she got stung by the not-dead yellowjackets that are still alive under the box that the pest control guy left in the middle back bed after supposedly spraying them yesterday. Emily added caution tape to the area, and the pest control guy is coming back to fix that problem once and for all I hope. Please be careful in that area - some angry insects around... I can't believe how stoic Paloma was!
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