Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The rest of the long weekend

Area de-oxalis-ed
On Sunday evening we had a little garden party for the volunteers and enjoyed some wine and cupcakes and cheered on the idea that PG is 2 years old!

Kepa, Jo, Hilla, Francisca, Emily, Ryan, Matt, Jes, Susie, Nate, Tanya and Carlin joined me and we had a lovely time.

Then on Monday Matt and I had a day off so we went out and rearranged things in the front middle bed. There had been an explosion of Oxalis (evil weed) there, and it was time for them to meet their doom. I started out by moving the Crassula corymbulosa “Red Pagoda" to the front, and removing a Euphorbia myrsinites that perfomed amazingly last year, but for some reason rotted out this year.

OK, now grow!
After scouring the area of Oxalis I cleaned up the Echeveria "Blue Curls" and added a nice large Aeonium canariense (probably) that John gave us. I found an Aeonium haworthii "Kiwi" being crushed under an Aloe nearby and moved it over to the same area - hope it will come back to a nice shape soon. To add to the Aeonium collection I put a regular Aeonium haworthii in too.  A little clump of Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalksticks) and a rock completed the look.

In the middle back bed I weeded out an area by the Western Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) and added another donation from John - three large rooted chunks of Aeonium nobile. We're doing well on the Aeonium collection now!

Lastly I planted a group of three Penstemon eatonii "Firecracker" in the front bed to add some red color and height.

Later on Emily came by and planted her Dahlias in the red bed. We're on the lookout for a nice 3' tall shrubby plant to cover the area during winter when the Dahlias are dormant. Maybe Chasmanthes are the ticket? She also trimmed up the cardoon and weeded.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Red bed makeover
part deux.
After the last week of perishing cold, rain and hail, we are back to sun. Matt and I met Emily in the garden today and knocked a few tasks off the list.

First we removed all the plants from the south end of the red bed and rearranged them. We had too many red colored planted there (hazard of calling it the "red bed" I suppose!) and too many tall plants at the front/short ones in the back.

First we pulled out the giant clump of lavender Watsonias out - about to start flowering, their subtle color is lost in that bed. Matt took out a clump of Dianella tasmanica in the left bed and replaced it with the Watsonias.

Osteospermum and lavender
We brought a yellow variegated Phormium to the front, added a yellow Santolina virens, a lime green Euphorbia characias and a purple and lime green Salvia mexicana "Limelight" to one group. Next we uncovered a group of three Kniphofia uvaria "Flamenco" from the front middle bed for a dose of orange hues, and rearranged the purple bearded Irises there.

Blue skies and daffodils!
Next we replanted three Dianthus "Fire Star" and five burgundy Gazanias at the very front, and rearranged the Anemones and Ranunculus too. After Emily left I planted a Plectranthus argenatus and a Salvia curviflora too.

Matt propagated from Cortaderias and I mulched and watered things in.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Q & A: What to do with my silly Wisteria arch?

We're starting a new, occasional column where we attempt to answer questions sent in to PSG. And when I say "attempt" I mean that if we don't know the answer we'll ask our panel of experts. And when I say "panel of experts" I mean my dad, a Renowned Horticultural Professional who has Written Books and Stuff. Could be fun, eh?

Question: "We have a yard that is overflowing with green and my husband and I have historically been overwhelmed by taking care of it. We are planning to moderately redo our backyard so that it's less high maintenance for us. The original owner of the house was a sort of putterer, and he constructed this very silly archway out of metal pipe, and put wisteria, grapes and morning glories on it. Fast forward at least 50 years, and we have a tangle of beautiful vines that grows out of control.

I've been told that wisteria is very valuable and wanted to ask your opinion. I don't know where else to turn and know that you are an expert. Is this something I could sell? Do you have a recommendation for how to handle this?"

- Meredith in San Francisco.

Answer: A mature Wisteria that flowers (this can take decades) is valuable to the owner of that plant - they're very pretty as you know! But the reason Wisterias are expensive to buy is that they must be grown for many years before they bloom, which is an added cost to the nursery.

Sadly, Wisterias do not transplant well, so moving a large/old one that's attached to a structure is a huge endeavor that is likely to fail. Also, similar to large palm trees they're likely to cost more to move than they are worth in general. (The huge cost of buying a big palm tree is not usually a factor of their intrinsic value, but the great expense of moving them around!)

My suggestion is to enjoy your Wisteria, and if need be hire a landscaper to remove the arch and replace it with something nicer (this may or may not be possible). If you can't live with the arch or the mess or the expense, whack the entire thing down and start afresh!

Additional answer: Great question and on this side of the pond (UK), it is a very common one.

I am assuming you are growing an Asiatic wisteria (W. floribunda from Japan or W. sinensis from China ) as these are the best in gardens. The first thing to find out is: does the vine bloom well and are the blooms up to scratch? In the oldendays, wisterias were sold as seedlings and many of them were not garden-worthy. This was largely because they hardly produced any flowers or those they produced were chunky and drab and not the long elegant trails we love. Nowadays the best kinds are grown from cuttings and some have flower stems up to a yard long.

So if it’s a good’un why not prune it back maybe over two seasons then keep it in check by shortening back the long new growth in early summer so that it concentrates on making flowers at the base of the new growth. A high potash feed would help it flower better. But maybe you want an easier life and then you might be better cutting it off at ground level and planting something more restrained.

- A Renowned Horticultural Professional


If you'd like to submit a question to our Team of Experts, please send it to the Head Gardener in an email. Please note that this service is free, and the advice is worth probably at least as much as you paid for it! Should anyone disagree with these opinions please add your comments below and between us all we can help our dear readers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Rains Bring Spring Flowers

Heuchera micrantha
 I know that it can be a little dreary when it rains, but put on your boots and check out the floral display at Pennsylvania Garden. Just to name a few, in pictorial order we have flowering with Anemone coronaria, Heuchera micrantha, Ranunclus , Euphorbia , California poppies and Prunus cerasifera (fifth pic). Even the tree Dahlia is still putting out a few blooms!

So stomp in some puddles on your way to the garden and check out the flowers. There is also a new Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (also in flower!) added to the middle bed.

Anemone coronaria


Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

Prunus cerasifera

California poppies

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bonkers volunteer day. Bonkers, I tell you.

Jes was taking numbers
and kicking ass.
We had a lot planned for today and got a lot done with the help of LOTS of volunteers. Yes folks, once again the rule "many hands makes light work" was proven spectacularly.  We had 14 people working together in the garden, the weather was outstanding and everyone who came was cheerful, witty and good looking too! ;)

The main goal was a makeover of the red bed. Right away Matt, Nathan, Peter and Emily got stuck into the north end of the project, making a low retaining wall out of reclaimed asphalt chunks found in the garden. All the plants in that area were dug up and replanted in a better formation too.  

Nathan, Matt, Jes and Emily
Penstemons, Agastaches, Phormiums, Salvias and Lychnis all got dug up and swapped around. We added a bright yellow Coreopsis to set off the Phormium, and an Epolibium californica (California Fuchsia) too, and moved the low-growing Ceanothus "King Sipp" there to the front edge so it'll spill over. A nice coat of mulch and a deep watering completed the job: the entire area is totally remade.

Heather and Leslie:
detail work
In the meantime, Carlin, Gene, Heather and Leslie worked at the south end, carefully teasing sheep's sorrel (an evil weed) out from the base of several infested plants there.

Although sometimes a dull job, they really  performed this task with great care and attention to detail. This will prevent the spread of that nasty weed to other beds when we replant the iris elsewhere -  a great job done.

Jordan gets the job done.
While Peter moved on to prune a Salvia leucantha, Jes from Caltrans and Jordan from Royal Hawaiian Seafood cut back another S. leucantha and a Leonotis leonorus and swapped their position in the garden - pretty drastic stuff but I have to say Jes and Jordan were pretty well matched in the energy department so they powered through it in no time.

Peter finding spots for bulbs.
Janet later helped Jes plant some Salvia leucantha on the other side of the bed, while Peter was replanting Narcissus and Muscari aucheri (Grape Hyacinth) bulbs in the middle back bed.

By this time, Nathan had moved on to renovating the twig border along the front of the red bed.  Leslie and Riley helped him, and that was another task checked off in no time. Heather watered everything in thoroughly in the meantime, wrestling the hose expertly. I'm so glad I didn't have to do that!

Carlin knows what to do.
I don't think we have had a busier volunteer day: thank you all for your cheerful hard work. I hope you had fun and will come back again because we really enjoyed working with you! (Sorry we didn't get pics of everyone  - next time I hope I can do better.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Neighborhood watch

Since Pennsylvania Garden is on the block mentioned below, I'll be attending this meeting. You should too if you're interested in what can be done to reduce crime in the neighborhood!



A Non-profit Crime Prevention Education Organization working in cooperation with the San Francisco Police Department.
7:00 – 8:00 P.M. (SHARP) MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7TH, 2011 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's happening with the dog fence?

Euphorbia characias
Last night as I was pruning a Mexican sage in the twilight I realised I haven't updated folks on the dog fence situation.

We fundraised for the fence last year and paid Iron Maverick metalworker Ron Lester to build the fence. At which point Caltrans, the landowner, stepped in to say "hold it right there!" They consider such things as benches, a swing set and fences a liability they can't deal with.

A mixup in communications between SFPT, DPW and Caltrans left our plans and drawings, which we thought were approved, out in the rain.

Not one to give up easily I've been badgering the various parties nonstop. Please hold for further developments!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plant profile: Dudleya

Dudleya pulverulenta
(Chalk Liveforever)
You know me - I like a cute little rosette-forming succulent and I like native plants. Well, Dudleyas fit both criteria. Yes, I'm a fan.

The genus Dudleya is a group of 45 species named after William Russel Dudley, a professor of botany at Stanford in the late 1800s to early 1900s. They started out in the genus Cotyledon, and got shunted over to become Echeverias, but finally got their own genus thanks to the aforementioned Billy-Russ Dudleya.

Dudleya traskiae (Santa
Barbara Island Liveforever
Latin name: Dudleya ("DUD-lee-ah")
Common name: Liveforever, Bluff Lettuce
Originally from: Southwestern North America
Blooms: Spring brings stalks of small star-shaped flowers in yellow and orange shades.
Light: Full sun, part shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: The cactus wall has several species along the edge. We have a lovely big Dudleya pulverulenta (Chalk Liveforever) all ghostly white. We also have Dudleya farinosa, quite a few Dudleya cymosa (Canyon Liveforever) and a group of Dudleya traskiae (Santa Barbara Island Liveforever). We have three tiny, whitish Dudleya virens ssp. hassei (Catalina Island Liveforever) too.

Dudleya virens ssp. hassei
(Catalina Island Liveforever)
They get their common name "Liveforever" from the fact that they live quite a long time. Which is not forever, per se, and actually probably more like 15-20 years, but it can seem like it when you're waiting for them to grow to a large and impressive size (some up to 2' across, and witha  trunk up to 2' long!)

They hate to be soggy, so Dudleya should be planted at an angle. This prevents water from being trapped in the leaves, which causes rotting. They can also suffer from mealybugs but a good systemic insecticide with imidacloprid or the like with sort them out.

Dudleya farinosa
(Bluff Lettuce)
Biochemical factoid: Plants in this family have a specialized form of metabolizing - Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM), a photosynthetic adaptation to high light, low moisture environments.

The stomates (pores) on the leaves of this plant open at night to allow the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the form of an organic acid. The stomates then close during the day when the stored carbon dioxide is used for photosynthesis. Everybody got that?

February update

Last November we received word that the grants we worked so hard to apply for in July had been announced, and we'd received a total of $85k from the PUC and Community Challenge Grants.

Following several meetings with the PUC and a great deal of additional evidence which was requested from us to justify our need for the supportive structure, last week the PUC have however, applied additional conditions to the spending of their grant monies. Basically, they cannot fund the supportive structure. This critical element in reducing crime and creating community space on the street is also the most costly element in the entire project - we were lucky to get a quote for "just" $60k for this.

As a result we are currently $15k short of the funds needed to complete the project. We will be looking for additional sources of grant income to fill the budget and welcome your suggestions and help with how to get the $15k from you all.

In the meantime we're grateful for the continued strong support of DPW and SFPT who have continually shown their approval of our plan to the CCG and PUC, and have encouraged us along the way. We're looking forward to meeting with Mohammed Nuru (Deputy Director of DPW) to discuss our plans and fine tune the details.

Once again anyone interested in being part of the process is always welcome to contact us and join in: as some of you know this has been a significant amount of work that has fallen mainly to a very small group. If anyone is interested in getting involved, please send us an email. In particular we need help with fundraising and grant writing, quotes and suppliers, meeting with members of the granting bodies, writing narratives, briefs and project descriptions, laying out and printing materials.
page counter
Free Hit Counter