Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday party

This just in from the San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA):

Season's Greetings, Park and Open Space Advocates!
We at the San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) hope you're having a relaxing start to the holiday season.
In the spirit of celebrating, extend an invitation to you our park advocates and your families to join us for the SFPA Annual Holiday Open House.

Our staff will be providing desserts and drinks for our guests - we hope you consider bringing along a savory appetizer to share with other park advocates, volunteers, staff and board.

The Details...

Friday, December 2, 2011
5:30 - 7:30 pm
SFPA Hayes Street Office, 451 Hayes Street, 2nd Floor (b/w Gough and Octavia)
Please RSVP so we can be sure to have enough food and drinks for all of our attendees!

We're proud to be partnering with Community Partners United (CPU) and the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association (HVNA) for this special Friday evening event. Both CPU and the HVNA will be hosting choral performances in Patricia's Green, right next door to our building. Come and enjoy great music in our park and then join us at SFPA for community, light snacks and a warm beverage.

We hope that you will be able to join us. Please share this invitation to other park advocates and your list servs! – we want to celebrate this season with all of the amazing volunteers and stewards making San Francisco a beautiful, lush place to live.
For our parks,
PS: If the link above does not work, please feel free to contact Vickie Bell, Stewardship Manager via email or phone ( or 415-621-3260) to RSVP!

Victoria Bell
Stewardship Manager, Neighborhood Parks
San Francisco Parks Alliance
P.O. Box 170160
San Francisco, CA 94117-0160

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Amtrak at work

I was down at the Mariposa Center Garden today, opposite Center Hardware, when I saw Steve Anton of Regent's Cab Company walking down the street. We'd both just noticed Amtrak workers on the other side of the fence working feverishly to cut down the huge field of fennel and other weeds growing back there. You can see from the picture that they really cleared out that mess!

I investigated further, and asked a guy on the other side to stop his weed-whacking for a minute. Would they, I asked, please fix the hole in the fence along Mariposa that has been reopened repeatedly by homless people? (Shown in the pic too)

He said yes. He also said they'd evicted 6-8 people camped in the weeds the day before. Wow. I felt pretty happy, thanked him, and went back down the street. Then I thought to myself about how many times I'd asked them to fix that fence in the last year and a half, and how many times I've tried to do it myself, and failed. So, being a pitbull on the pant leg of opportunity, I stopped another guy a bit further down and asked him for the name and number of the Dude In Charge so I could ask him to please, for the love of dog, fix the fence.

He gave me the number of Steve Broyles. As I walked back to work I called Steve, and he asked if I had time to meet him at the spot. Turning on my heel I walked quickly back to Mariposa and met Steve, pointed out the hole, whined and wrung my hands pathetically and generally let him know we needed a Big, Strong, Hero to Save the Street! *blink rapidly*

I don't know whether or not he thought I was insane, but I do think he's gonna fix that fence. If not, I have his cell phone number, and I'm not afaid to use it...

Parking meters in Pennsylvania Ave?

According to neighbor Jim:

"SFMTA is proposing to install parking meters on Pennsylvania between 17th and 18th streets and along 17th street itself among other places in Potrero Hill as part of their "Mission Bay Parking Management
Strategy" (read revenue generation for the city with no regard for our neighborhood) (see figure 13 in the document linked to below). These meters, if installed, will be active between 9am and 11pm, effectively requiring residents to pay metered parking when they get home from work (if you drive). I don't know how you feel about it, but I am going to attend the public hearing at SFMTA. I do not yet know when it will be, but will keep you posted. To offer input on this "proposed plan" and find out more info, please email Our supervisor is Mahlia Cohen. She can be reached at We need to get the word out to the rest of the neighborhood."

Here's the document: click here to read a PDF.

I have to say, if they put parking meters on Pennsylvania Ave a lot of people are going to be a lot angry...

UPDATE: Jim created a petition. Sign it, everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

OK, I made it

Glaucium grandiflorum
Back from Mendo with lots of plants!

Matt's dad has been taking care of a load of plants for us up there, and this weekend we brought some back to plant in the garden. Some? "A whole load" is more like it. And we also brought a few items from our patio, currently undergoing a planty renovation. Here's what went in the ground:

In the middle front bed:
Aeonium "Kiwi" (3)
Aeonium canariensis (2)

In the middle back bed:
Lantana "Samantha"
Phormium "Alison Blackman"

On the terraces:
Aeonium arboreum "Zwartkop" (a dozen)
Agave americana "Lemon Lime"
Agave angustifolia variegata
Aloe "Goliath"
Aloe sp.
Graptoveria (a dozen)
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi (3)
Kalanchoe pumila (3)
Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass)
Yucca whipplei

In the meantime Matt was busy in the middle back bed, rearranging some plants. After planting the Phormium "Alison Blackman" and the Lantana "Samantha" behind the Agave filifera, he removed the Echium that was there. Another Echium bites the dust - a casualty of root rot. Gah!

Next Matt moved the Cordyline "Red Star" from the corner back to the other green Cordyline in that bed, making a nice grouping, and rearranged the Aloe arborescens too. I cut back the lavender and rosemary there, and I think once we add another Cordyline and sort out the crusty-looking Opuntia and a few other items we might have a nice look going on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Cordyline "Sundance"
Well I'm off to Mendocino for Thanksgiving, and before I left I thought I'd better get that new Cordyline australis "Sundance" in the ground. A quick dig in the wet dirt and it's next to the bigger Cordyline "Red Sensation" in the middle front bed.

The plan is to add another type ("Torbay Dazzler"?) to make a group of three at varying heights and of varying colors, which I think will be a great tropical look in a bed that gets no water except rain. The "Red Sensation" is about 10' tall, and it was a tiny 4" pot size back in December 2008. Not a bad rate of growth!

After that I weeded a bit, and cut back some rosemary and the two Sedums in the middle back bed. Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii "Hab Gray" and Sedum spectabile "Neon" got cut back right to the ground, where you can see the new growth coming up in the "after"picture.

They ought to grow right back in and will be flowering again from about July onwards, but in the meantime they have yellow flags on them to stop them from being stepped on accidentally.

...and after.
These two Sedums have looked nice this year, but after seeing those of my aunt in Virginia this summer, I realized that Sedums need a lot more water than I thought to look spectacular, like hers. So should these two plants stay or go? I think I'll move them to a damper spot and give them another try.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Resistance is futile

Cheerfulness on a stick.
This year I have resisted buying more daffodil bulbs. We have enough - and they multiply easily. No need for more. Not even the nutrageous "Tahiti" with the orange and yellow double flowers. Nope.

But the Welsh person in me wants more (MOAR!) of our national flower... and last night I was at Lowes and as I walked in the sales assistant directed my attention to a rack laden with bulbs and told me "They're a dollar a bag..."

After I finished hyperventilating, picked myself up off the floor and managed to stop my eyes from rolling back in my head I started grabbing bags of daff bulbs. 8 or 12 bulbs for $1 - I mean, come on people! Normally they're $1 per bulb. They were mostly mixed bags, but also separate bags of the varieties "Cheerfulness" and "Golden Ducat."

The sales assistant went to find me a cart, and Matt shook his head and walked away...

222 bulbs: $21.
Knowing spring will be that much more cheerful: priceless.

We also got a big enough Cordyline australis "Sundance" for the middle front bed for a low, low price. Another item I've been shopping around for. Yeah!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We got some rain

Well it's fairly cold and wet in the Bay area right now as a strong cold front passes through. Nice for the garden though - a little rain, even though it didn't penetrate more than 3" into the bone dry dirt, is better than nothing.

Today Matt and I had planned to be out of town but due to an unforeseen set of circumstances, ended up coming home early. A spot of gardening was in order, so we popped out and accomplished a few tasks.

I weeded the steps area and planted a few specimens that had been waiting for a while:

4 Leucophyta brownii (Cushion Bush)
4 Euphorbia amygdaloides "Purpurea/Rubra"

I also sadly noted that almost all of the Sisyrinchium californica (Yellow-Eyed Grass) and Calla lilies by the steps are gone - probably weeded out by a volunteer who mistook the former for grass and the latter for...dead stuff? I also found three piles of dog poo in the steps area - disgusting. Come on people: keep an eye on your pets and pick it up! The majority of dog owners are cool - it's the one or two lazy ones...

I cut back the lamb's ears (Stachys) and the yellow Crocosmia in the left bed, and Matt transplanted a Verbascum from behind the wrong way sign to be with the other Verbascums in the left bed. He also weeded the area behind the wrong way sign, and moved two of the Asphodeline lutea to be next to the third one, as they were being engulfed by Artemisias.

Matt also moved an Agave filifera to the front of the middle back bed (digging up the remnants of the deceased yellowjacket colony) Lastly, he worked on flattening the new shed area, which is (slightly) easier to do when the ground is wet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Plant profile: Tulbaghia violacea

Got a snake problem? Cute little Society Garlic to the rescue!  It's a tough plant, growing in hot, sunny areas with very little water, and usually has plenty of pretty violet flowers.  It's low maintenance and reliable, and comes in a plain strappy green leaf, or a nice variegated, stripy leaf. It's like a miniature Agapanthus with pinker flowers. Each clump is about 2' tall and 1' around - they can be divided to make more clumps when they get large enough. But snakes? Read on.

Latin name: Tulbaghia violacea ("tool-BAG-ee-ah vye-oh-LACE-ee-ah")
Common name: Society Garlic
Originally from: Africa - the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, to as far north as Zimbabwe.
Blooms: Little violet trumpets wave 18" above the clump on thin stems almost all year round.
Light: Full sun, part sun.
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: The middle back bed has a few clumps of the cultivar "Silver Lace"

How did this plant get it's name? Nothing to do with snakes. The slightly fleshy leaves and bulbous base smell like garlic when bruised (and both the leaves and flowers can be used in salads and other dishes) so that takes care of the "garlic" part, but "society"? Not many societies approve of the smell of garlic lingering about.

Oh wait - the snake problem? According to

"The crushed leaves may be used to help cure sinus headaches and to discourage moles from the garden (by their strong smell). The smell repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes when crushed on the skin.

The fresh bulbs are boiled in water and the decoctions are taken orally to clear up coughs and colds. The bulb has been used as a remedy for pulmonary tuberculosis and to destroy intestinal worms. Wild garlic may prove to have the same or similar antibacterial and antifungal activities as has been scientifically verified for real garlic. The leaves are used to treat cancer of the oesophagus.

The Zulus use the leaves and flowers as spinach and as a hot, peppery seasoning with meat and potatoes. They also use the bulb to make an aphrodisiac medicine. Wild garlic is a very good snake repellent and for this reason the Zulus plant it around their homes."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garden variety bees

This just in:

"The Xerces Society is happy to announce the release of Garden Variety Native Bees of North America - a perpetual calendar. The calendar is produced by the same team that brought us the last two calendars, bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin and nature photographer Rollin Coville. Each month introduces you to a different bee genus, with a gorgeous full-page pin-up photo accompanied by notes on preferred plants, nesting needs, and guidance on how to identify the genus.  

Garden Variety Native Bees of North America is both a guide to some of our more common native bees and a gardening calendar that never goes out of date. The perpetual calendar includes the dates in each month, but not the days of the week. Use this calendar to keep month to month, and even year to year comparative garden notes. It's a great way to record your observations of the bloom times and other characteristics of the bee-friendly plants you include in your garden, along with the numbers and different types of bees that visit them.     

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this gardening calendar will be donated to the Xerces Society, but Xerces will not be directly selling the calendar, so please do not send calendar payments to Xerces.    
Click here for more information on how to order the calendar. Please note that you will be redirected to a website hosted by California Lithographers, the printer producing the calendar on behalf of Celeste Ets-Hokin and Rollin Coville. California Lithographers is solely responsible for calendar sales and shipping.   "

Monday, November 14, 2011

Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project

Our project has just received a Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project grant in the amount of $10,000!
We're delighted, needless to say. Thanks go to Emily for writing up that grant.

In the meantime, we have been hard at work, getting rounds of landscape architect drawings drawn and accompanying narratives written for PUC approval, and researching structural engineers and permits for DPW.

If anyone knows a structural engineer who can do a drawing for us, please let us know.

As those of you on the street will know, the area has never looked worse in terms of dumping and vandalism. Hopefully on day soon we can start work on cleaning it up for good.

SF community gardens

I recently found this list of community gardens in San Francisco. You might find it useful:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another marathon day

Today Matt and I set out to plant as many plants on the terraces as we could, since we need to prove to the people who gave us grants that we've spent their money as we said we would by November 15th. Eeek!

We worked from 10am to about 3.30pm, and we planted a lot. Here's the list:

1 Aeonium arborescens "Atropurpureum"
3 Aeonium haworthii
5 Aeonium sp. 
1 Agave lechuguilla (Shin Dagger Agave)
4 Agave parryi
1 Agave sp. (smooth leaf edges and long apical spine - ideas?)
1 Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave)
7 Aloe brevifolia
1 Aloe polyphylla
4 Calandrinia spectabilis (Rock Purslane)
1 Crassula lycopodioides (Watch Chain Crassula)
6 columnar cacti, unidentified
1 Echeveria rgida
3 Euphorbia characias
4 Euphorbia lambii
3 Euphorbia "Silver Swan"
1 Furcraea sp. (variegated)
3 Gasteria acinacifolia (Giant Gasteria)
1 Hesperaloe parviflora
2 Opuntia subulata
Lots of Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalk Sticks) cuttings
5 Yucca sp.

That's at least 60+ plants, and we probably have almost as many to plant where the shed is. When we remove the shed and landscape that area. Oh yes, another big job coming up!

Matt also worked on flattening the path to the composters and added rebar stakes to the steps too.

Later on we went by Home Depot, Flowercraft and Lowes looking for tall Cordylines for the middle front bed.  No luck, but I did find some nice Australian natives for the steps area - Leucophyta brownii. A silvery, mounding shrub that's supposed to be tough as nails, and has little yellow flowers.

All in all a pretty productive day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Planting the terraces

Agave ovatifolia
Now that this area is terraced, weeded, handrails installed, steps and paths almost finished, it's about ready for visitors. Except it doesn't really have any plants in it...

I've been collecting and propagating plants for this spot for over a year now, and I have a good long list of plants that need to go in. We're planning a planting day soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd get one or two in the ground as a head start.

Recently I planted four plants:
Maireana sedifolia (Pearl Bluebush) - a very cool silvery shrub.
Agave ovatifolia (Whale’s Tongue Agave)
Yucca “Garland’s Gold” – the one I rescued after a vandal uprooted it last spring.
Agave “Sharkskin” – just a little pup.
Aloe striata (Coral Aloe)

Agave "Sharkskin"
Hopefully the Agave ovatifolia will develop the lovely whitish look of the ones I've seen online... and the "Sharkskin" will grow into a nice specimen quickly too.

I watered them in, plus all the other recently planted plants, and worked on drawing up a diagram the rest of the plantings. I have a group of plants to bring up from my patio to add, as well as lots of plants that Matt's dad in Mendocino is looking after for us to add as well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Photos from Mulch-a-Palooza

Here are some really excellent pics of Weed'n'Woodchip Workday taken by Eddy:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm watching you...

Jess spotted a visitor to the garden last week and took this great shot - I think it's a female Red-Tailed Hawk, because the females are larger than the males, and she's quite big. Pretty awesome, and apparently she hung out on top of the trellis arch for quite a while as Jess crept closer to her. Click the image to see a bigger versions of this photo.

I also took a photo of the garden from neightbor Sage and Barbara's window at the weekend. I don't often get to see the garden from this angle - talk about perspective.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

After the storm...

Matt moves an Agave
Yesterday was bonkers, and today I went to look at the garden and wow - it really looks great. A fresh layer of mulch is like installing new carpet in your house - and it smells great, too!

Matt and I went out to do some weeding, and ended up planting up the middle front bed with stuff we've been collecting for a while now.

We moved three Agave attenuata to cover the stump at the front, and stop them encroaching on the path at the right.  I moved the Leonotus leonurus back a couple feet so it doesn't get too rowdy as well, and a Knifophia uvaria "Wayside Flame" out from under the giant Agave, so we can see it.

Before and after.
A few Echeveria secunda glauca were uncovered and put in a better spot, and several Aeoniums too: A. canariense, A. "Zwartkop" and several others I need to ID.

We added a few new plants to the bed: several  Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Pennisetum setaceum "Rubrum", a spotted Aloe (need an ID), a nice big Agave parryi and a lot of Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalksticks) and Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga.

We also left room for three plants we'll need to buy: two Cordylines (I'd like an "Electric Pink" and a "Torbay Dazzler" and a nice variegated Leucadendron. They'll be fun to shop for.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weed'n'Woodchip Wonderland!

Bay View Greenwaste truck
Today's Weed'n'Woodchip Workday started early for Emily and I: we both got up early to put the finishing touches to the plans we'd laid. I picked up cookies and drinks, Emily and Ryan got coffee for everyone.

Last week we arranged the mulch delivery from Bay View Greenwaste, tools from DPW so we had enough, and all sorts of emails and fliers begging people to please come help. All we had to do now was wait and see if enough people showed up.

Adam from BVGW
dumps the mulch
And thank goodness, they did. We had a fantastic turnout and despite my worries managed to get the entire dog area weeded, lots of carpet squares laid down as weed barrier, and two, yes two 20 yard truckloads of mulch spread over all the pathways and the dog area in a record 2 hours. Jim even installed a lock on the dog bag dispenser. We totally blew last year's effort out of the water - volunteers - please take a bow!

Matt, Debbie, Ted, Nate, Jessica, Carlin, Dee, James, Jon, David M., David G., Patrick, Carl, Eliot, Chris, Eddy, Maile, Jim, Emily, Janet

... and of course the inevitable person(s) I forgot to mention, I thank you all!
Sadly I didn't get any pics of volunteers, but I know other people did so please send 'em in so I can post them here :)
The final, commemorative wheelbarrow load! (pic: Jessica)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weed'n'Woodchip Workday!

This will be happening on Saturday. Are you ready?
Our annual Weed'n'Woodchip Workday is this Saturday November 5th at 10am.

Every year we have 30 yards of wood chips delivered by Bay View Green Waste, and need as much help as possible weeding the dog area, then shoveling and wheelbarrowing the chips all over the dog area and around the paths of the garden.

This year we put up posters and sent out emails early in hopes of getting as many hands to help as possible - especially dog owners who are the main beneficiary of this effort.

Are you a dog owner who visits the garden? Saturday is your day. Please come help!

Coffee, drinks and snacks will be provided.

We're having DPW bring us tools too - please RSVP to annie at so we have the right number of tools for everyone!
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