Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plant profile: Artemisia

Artemisia is a huge genus of plants with between 200 and 400 species belonging to the daisy family. Amusing common names for various species in the genus include mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush. It's one of our dry garden stalwarts, and the leaves have a distinctive scent.

Latin name: Artemisia (pronounced "art-eh-MEES-ee-ah)
Common name: Wormwood
Originally from: Temperate climates of both hemispheres, usually in dry or semiarid habitats.
Blooms: The flowers aren't the point here - they're usually yellow and insignificant.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 30"-60" x 3'-6'
USDA Zones: 5-9
Where to find in P. Garden: In the front bed, left bed, and many large clumps at PRG

In the garden, we use Artemisia plants as tough, drought tolerant border edging. The beautifully feathery "Powis Castle" edges a lot of PRG. We also have three Artemisia arborescens (Large Wormwood) just planted in the brights bed. They should reach 4-6' tall and wide - let''s see if they do well.

The aromatic leaves of some species are used for flavoring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste. A. dracunculus (tarragon) is widely used as a culinary herb, particularly important in French cuisine. Artemisia absinthium (absinth wormwood) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine).

The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, "wormwood") is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood. The awfully potent spirits absinthe and Malört (Swedish for wormwood) also contain nasty, bitter wormwood. It really doesn't taste good - even the people who make it say:

"Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort after the first "shock-glass." During the lifetime of our founder, Carl Jeppson was apt to say, 'My Malort is produced for that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.'

It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts - seemingly forever. The first shot is hard to swallow! Perservere [sic]. Make it past two 'shock-glasses' and with the third you could be ours...forever" 

This plant grows quickly and tolerates relentless hot sun and parched soil quite happily. You can cut it back almost anytime and it will bounce back into lovely mounds of silver fronds.  And it's cheap and easily available - if your mound gets out of control or the middle starts looking scraggly, rip it out and throw a new one in there. No worries.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

More Weeds Sunday & Potrero Boosters Heads Up

My mom, Debbie, clearing a big
grassy patch in the dog area
Before I get into the very brief post about our Sunday at Pennsylvania Garden, let me tell you all about Tuesday.

Tuesday is the Potrero Booster's monthly meeting per usual, but the developer of the parcel adjacent to Pennsylvania Garden will be giving a presentation on what things will look like with condos there.

Annie, Matt and I will be there and hope to see many neighbors there.

Starting to look like someone cares ; )
Sunday my Mom, Debbie, was visiting and we headed out to the gardens for some weeding and trash pickup. Someone had dismantled the doggie bag holder (!) so I'll add that to the 'to do' list for things that need to be replaced.

Nice color at PRG
Otherwise it was the usual, us gardeners trying to get the upper hand on all of the grass in the garden, and today we attacked the dog area. We also added a quick sign announcing the next workday (Saturday May 7th 10-12) so the newbies know when to be where to keep their neighborhood looking good. Hope to see you all at the workday too!

Earth Day, cont'd.

Yesterday we weeded from the north end of PRG, taking home a tubtrug of trash and pulling weeds up to the rain garden. Boy that is a weedy mess.

Today Matt and I went back for more, filling 4 bags of trash, a tray of needles, and load after load of weeds. 

After I picked up the needles, a gust of wind blew them over into a shrub and I had to pick them out again. Damn I hate picking needles up!

Keep your dogs OUT of the planted areas people, that's all I can say, unless you want them to get stuck by a needle - or you, if you're a conscientious owner who picks up your dog poo.

The North end is clean! South end is clean after last week too! Just the middle remains... and we will be out there working on it in the coming weeks.

I used the 311 app to submit two requests to the city - one for a trash pickup, one for the needles, which are sitting in a plastic tray next to the trash: watch out.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day in the garden!

Kevin, pruning
Today I brought employees of 3D Systems to the garden for a pre-Earth Day special! Thanks Peter, Tina and Kevin for helping out.

Kevin artfully cut back an Artemisia that was creeping over the pathway - it barely looks pruned: very neat job and much better than just hacking it straight across and waiting for it to grow back a bit and look natural.

Peter and Tina, weeding
Tina cut back a huge Calandrinia and took lots of cutting we will use for the other garden up the street, PG.  She did get poked by an Agave spine but the guys across the street at Hilti gave her a band-aid.

Peter ably hacked down loads of the evilest weeds known to Potrero Hill gardening - fennel - and threw the hacked fronds over the fence to mulch down out of sight.

The 3D Systems crew

Loads of trash was collected, and about 8 tubtrugs of weeds got pulled but my goodness - there are loads more! Anyone want to do some more weeding this weekend?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Avast! There she blows! There she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!

Something is about to blow here - can you spot it? Oh dear.

Gardening. A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Here's our lovely big Agave americana, that we named "Moby Dick" thanks to its spouting form, whale-like heaviness during planting, and epic profile in our fledgling garden.

It has grown here since 2009, and now it is flowering. Which means it will die. And yes, I'm a bit sad, but at the same time we can replace it with another epic Agave. And anyway, dying plants? I am past scorching; not easily can’st thou scorch a scar.

It's always hard work digging Agaves to move them, and usually someone gets scratched, stabbed or otherwise lightly maimed.  But you have to laugh.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.

So we got 7 good years out of this plant, and the flowering will take 3 or more months in a great, final display.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.

A cookie to the person who can spot all the Herman Melville quotes in this post! Call me to let me know - call me Ishmael. :P

Sunday, April 10, 2016

After the rain, the weeds

Matt and I headed up to the garden to do an hour of weeding today. The garden is in full bloom!

You can see a lovely Kniphofia flowering in orange here, with an Echium in blue, and an Agave gypsophila and some red Dyckias in the foreground. 

I pulled all the weeds on the steps, and we planted a Yucca whipplei there, with the three others.
Matt pulled weeds all over the garden - we hauled 5 tubtrugs full to the compost bins, which are very full and need to be turned.

I cut back a Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) at the bottom of the steps , and the Leucadendron salignum "Golden Tip" and the Lycianthes rantonnetii (Blue Potato Bush) at the top of the steps.

There's so much weeding to do - come on out to the Friday April  22nd Earth Day volunteer event to help us weed this place up!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Buckets and buckets of weeds

Chris keeping pathways
clear and weeds out of sight 
The recent rains have made everything germinate and grow, and our gardens are being slowly overrun by a number of weeds! Fortunately John, Chris, Annie, Matt and I were at the gardens today, and put a big dent in the weed population. Way to go team!

Annie and John set off for PRG, while Matt worked in the brights bed. Chris and I took to cleaning up the pathways near the archway. Chris did a great job trimming back the Dipogon lignosis aka 'Cape Sweet Pea' which covers the arch; be sure to check it out and enjoy the scented blooms that are starting to appear in beautiful drifts. 

Matt hard at work in
the brights bed
Honestly, even with everyone working super hard there are just too many weeds for one workday! Everyone did a great job, and I look forward to rallying more volunteers at the next workday to remove even more weeds and keep the gardens looking good. Hope to see you all then!

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