Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Roasting

Agave attenuata - extra tough
Unless you were out of state last weekend you'll know it was punishingly hot over Labor Day weekend. So what did we do? Volunteer Day!

In fact, it turned into three days in a row, with Matt and I returning on the following two days to keep up the good work and get things tidy. There's lots more to do though - it's time to make a schedule to get everything done.

A mason jar to direct water
The garden is possibly drier than this time last year. Always the most parched time of the year, we haven't watered anything since last September when a number of plants died.

We replaced them with plants we thought would be much tougher... and now THOSE plants look weak. Quite a shock to see Cordylines wilting, and even some of the Yuccas and even Agaves looking a bit worse for wear.

Stacey and Hilary
So, out came the hoses and we set up sprinklers in a few key areas to save lives. Emily, Matt and I were ably assisted by Stacey, Chris and Hilary, and we all got to work weeding, trimming, clearing and tidying.

Stacey deadheaded all the Agapanthus, and Hilary cleaned the steps out thoroughly.   Emily, Matt and I planted a lot of potted plants Emily has donated to the garden too - Yuccas, Agaves, Crassulas, Cotyledons and other succulents - they look great!

Jungle!
A lot of plants looked fabulous though - these are the ones you want to plant if water is an issue. Agave, Opuntia, Yucca, Dasylirion, Hakea - those are the drought-proof winners. You can see a big jungly mess of them in the photo left. Matt and I thinned a few branches out of the Yuccas and you couldn't even tell what we removed afterwards, they are growing so thickly.

Agave hedge in training
I removed some pups from the Agave "Butterfinger" at the front arch and planted them, plus another from home, along the very top edge of the garden. We'll add more Calandrinias and Euphorbias between them to make a great edge.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to cut back Stachys and Euphorbia


It's about time to cut the dead flowers off your lamb's ears! These tough dry garden plants are fantastic to fill in around bigger plants with their soft, silvery leaves.

They send up tall spires of honey-scented flowers in a lovely lavender shade, and when the flowers set seed if you leave them for a while, they will seed around and you'll get baby lamb's ears growing everywhere. Bonus!

After all that though it's time to cut back the flower spikes because they start to look ratty. And it's very easy to do, but be sure to do it right. The top photo here shows a small plant that has flowered - the flower spikes are tall.

The second photo shows the plant cut back - but someone left stubs of flower spike! It looks bad - those stubs will die back and remain as little dry sticks, spoiling the look of your plant for the rest of the year.

The last photo shows the plant properly cleaned up. Take those spike ALL the way back so the stubs hide under a leaf. Magic! You're done.

Euphorbia characias and similar species can be cut back just the same way - DON'T leave sticks poking out while deadheading - they'll just look like a mess of sticks instead of a nice small green shrub. Cut them all the way back. Got it?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Volunteer day action!

Yesterday's volunteer day was super busy and super effective. We had a great gang, and everyone made a big impact on our rather dry, August garden.

Emily weeded the top area and moved lots of mulch around to uncover some buried Santolinas.

Matt took on the task of hacking fennel. Some of the ones on the back slope had gotten out of control and needed a chop so badly. They really need to be dug out completely to do the job right, btu when you're pressed for time cutting them to the ground is almost as good.

Marcus took a crash course in pruning from me, and proceeded to cut back the Fuchsia boliviana var. alba by 1/2. That ought to slow it's heat stress a bit, or kill it - either way I'm happy! Then he went on to cut back the Brugmansia just as severely, and the same results there will make me equally delighted. Either it dies and we will replace it with something that LOVES a hot dry garden, or it springs back looking good. Lastly Marcus deadheaded the Aloe striatula, then cut back some branches overhanging a nice Agave angustifolia.

I gave the branches to Hilary who came to help again this month, and she set about cutting back Chasmanthe, weeding and replanting a couple of tired looking Agaves that got moved for the last mulch dump. They should pick up again soon - they are such tough plants!

Chris loves to cut down plants, so I think I made him happy by asking him to cut down the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) - it is finished flowering and will be back in about a month with some lovely new growth. He then moved on to the Phormium on the lower path which has never had a real trim. It lost every leaf that looked dry, so quite a severe haircut!

Next to that is a Coprosma australis (variegated) that's had some ill-considered trims over the years. Really it needs to be cut to the ground and started afresh, but he took out quite a lot as an interim measure, and we'll see how it responds by next month.

I weeded the front sidewalk, and showed Aditi how to cut back Euphorbia characias correctly, She went on the clean out the whole front border and donated an unknown Agave to us, which she planted in the front bed.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UCSF Making A Difference

I can't thank Danielle enough for organizing such a fun workday for her department at UCSF! Danielle and her department of twenty energetic and capable volunteers descended on the garden for  a Thursday afternoon work party that kicked ass! Chris and I were on hand to guide their work, where so much was done.

  • Weed, weed, weed! Both Pennsylvania Garden and the Triangle Garden received some much needed attention
  • Archway trimmed, paths swept
  • Mulch spread around the pathways and in some beds
  • Agapanthus flowers cut back
  • Major snuggles by dogs that stopped by!
Your crew is welcome back anytime. Like.. next month?


Plant profile: Dasylirion

On the right, under the red Cordyline
Latin name: Dasylirion wheeleri (pronounced "daz-ee-LEER-ee-on WHEE-ler-eye")
Common name: Desert Spoon, Sotol, Spoon Yucca
Originally from: Northern Mexico, in Chihuahua and Sonora and in the southwestern United States, in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, and also in New Mexico and Texas.
Blooms: A very tall, long spike emerges infrequently.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant and very tough
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 3' x 4'
USDA Zones: 6-11
Where to find in P. Garden: In the cactus wall, the middle back bed, and at PRG.

Here's a nice tough desert plant for the garden. I wouldn't call it cuddly, but it's not going to be bothered by deer or human invaders and it makes an impressively pointy pom-pom for the totally dusty dry garden.

This plant sits around on rocky hillsides and grasslands from 3,000 to 6,000 feet in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico west Texas and south into Sonora Mexico. The alcoholic drink sotol, the northern cousin to tequila and mezcal, is made from the fermented inner cores of the desert spoon. It is the state drink of the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila.

Used for food and fiber, its flower stalk can be used as a "fire plow" - for starting fires.

The Tarahumara and Pima Bajo peoples of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua weave baskets from the leaves after they strip off the spines from the leaf margins, which seems like a lot of work. They also make large artificial flowers as holiday decorations using the leaf bases.

We use them to repel all boarders: the leaves have spines facing opposite directions along their length that will just rip your skin if you dare reach in there to pull a weed from between the leaves.

The color of the flower determinate the gender of the plant, being mostly white colored for males and purple-pink for females. We've had one flower at PG and I think it was white.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Street Parks Workshop: my plant recommendations

On Saturday July 22nd I'm speaking at the Parks Alliance's Street Parks Workshop on the topic of water wise planting. Join us if you're interested in learning how to make your own street park!

The plants I'll be recommending that are tough as nails in this area are:
  • Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
  • Aeoniums 
  • Agapanthus  
  • Agaves 
  • Aloes  
  • Artemisia 
  • Bromeliads - Puyas and Dyckias  
  • Calandrinia spectabilis – Rock Purslane 
  • Chasmanthe  
  • Cordylines 
  • Cortaderia – Pampas Grass  
  • Cotyledon orbiculata 
  • Cynara cardunculus - Cardoon  
  • Dudleya 
  • Echiums  
  • Euphorbias
  • Ice Plants
  • Leonotis leonurus – Wild Dagga   
  • Limonium perezii – Sea Lavender
  • Natives 
  • Opuntias
  • Phlomis
  • Romneya coulteri - Matilija Poppy
  • Salvias
  • Santolinas
  • Stachys byzantina - Lamb's Ears
  • Stipa tenuissima - Feather Grass 
  • Yuccas 

Of course there are lots more, but these are some of my easy to grow, zero water favorites. Read the Plant Profiles of many of these plants by clicking here to learn more about them.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Neighborly Business

Marcus + cardoon
I wasn't expecting a big workday due to Impending American Holiday on the 4th, but the day was sunny and warm so I trundled over to the garden expecting to work alone. Then, funnily enough, the first person to show up at the garden was a Brit - Marcus who lives in the building next to our place on 17th.

He got down to work on the Annual Weeding of the Bottom of the Steps, which is a treacherous undertaking due to brambles, cacti, Agaves and other spiky stuff lying in wait on a steep slope. usually it involved getting a bit scratched up, and minorly inconveniencing the brambles who are impossible to kill. but we do need to stop them getting too cocky on a regular basis.

Achillea (Yarrow)
We were soon joined by Amanda and she got down to some Chasmathe cutting-back and clearing dead leaves off the Amaryllis belladonna bulbs - watch out for the bit pink flowers popping out of those soon. I didn't get a pic of Amanda but here's the Achillea she was weeding around so neatly.

I noted again that the compost bins are beyond overflowing. It's time for a debris box so we can start over with turning the compost every single workday otherwise compost doesn't break down quickly enough and we end up with just heaps of weeds.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Genentech Gives Back to Pennsylvania Garden

What an amazing crew turned out for the 2017 Genentech Gives Back event at Pennsylvania Garden! We had over a dozen rough and ready folks turn out to get the garden into shape. It was a warm and lovely day, perfect for a  for a solid three hour workday in the morning. Chris and I were on-hand to lead them through the day's activities.


  • Weeding the dog area, seating area, and cactus wall pathway
  • Mulching the seating area
  • Trimming back the overgrowth on numerous pathways
  • Having a good time!!
The three hours went by quickly and we had a mountain of debris to show for all of our hard work. Thanks to Genentech for coming out to the gardens (for 4 years now?), and you are always welcome back.

Monday, June 5, 2017

All sorts of improvements

Leslie
Saturday's volunteer day was great - we had a dedicated and skilled crew on hand so a lot of wonderful things were accomplished.

Leslie is a stalwart regular and she worked on the middle pathways and beds, ably removing all sorts of weeds, of which we have a surprising number, unfortunately. 

I weeded as much as possible too - we have a good sized pile now  and with a bit of luck can get a debris box for an upcoming workday in order to remove that AND the contents of the compost bins to start afresh.

Hilary
Hilary is new but I could tell right away by her botanical garden tee she was a pro! She got stuck in cutting back Chasmanthe and Euphorbias, as well as the large and somewhat wilty looking Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"in the brights bed.

That Salvia looked pretty dead after the Big Drought, but it came back with a vengeance. Of course looking wilted in early June isn't a great sign, but being cut back means it might conserve some energy and make it through.

Chris
Chris loves ripping things apart so I was able to direct his energy towards the now-defunct Euphorbia lambii (victim of too many windy nights) and an overly-enthusiastic Echium madrerense, both of which are now gone and the garden is much better for it.

I think he had a good time with that. You can see him here posing with an ex-Echium.

In the meantime, Matt closed off one side of the bottom paths with stones etc. Our HUGE Agave attenuata at the front just past the arch is sure to bloom soon, and it's really in the way of that path. Si closing that for now will prevent the Agave being dinged up, leaving another path and the sidewalk as two ways to get to the top of the garden.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Small but Intense May Workdays

Realized I'm behind in posting about our workdays  - and there have been many! - so here is the brief wrap up.
  • Many thanks to Annie, Matt and Aditi for our regular Saturday first of the month May workday. So much weeding and maintenance of the gardens was done, and it was sorely needed!
  • Also thanks to Chris, my partner in crime, for our every week Thursday workdays from 2-4pm. Slowly but surely we are making a dent in the chores to free up more fun projects for Saturday crews. 
  • Everyone is welcome to join us either on Thursdays from 2-4pm or our regular first Saturdays 10-12!

Annie and Aditi getting the
dog area ready for more mulch

Friday, May 5, 2017

Prepwork

Chris and I met up to get some prep work at PRG before the garden workday this Saturday. Heaps of weeds and fennel were removed as best we could. Hope to see you all Saturday!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursdays are a Win

 

Many thanks to Robert, Chris, Brynn and Debbie for coming out on Thursday to spiff up the gardens! Everyone set out to tackle a special project, and a ton of work was done in a short time. Robert weeded and fixed the irrigation at the triangle garden. Chris reinforced the wooden archway, hopefully giving it a few more years of life. Debbie and Brynn weeded the dog area. I chose to tackle the pathway along the cactus wall, which had become impassable due to the sheer abundance of weeds/shrubs and a leaning tree in the way.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Successful Weed-A-Thon and More!

Sarah, Amanda and I cleared
weeds from the Triangle Garden
Many thanks to Annie, Matt, Josh, Chris, Amanda and Sarah for coming out and making the gardens look so much better! Even Nate stopped by for a bit just to say hello after the Mission Bay Easter Egg hunt. So many projects were undertaken, it's hard to keep track of them all, but the gardens are looking so much better and a mountain of weeds were cleared.

Beautiful plants were revealed
 once the weeds were removed
We were also fortunate to get a visit from Crima's horticulture class from City College of San Francisco. Crima has been bringing students by to learn about the gardens for years, Annie did the tour and lecture this year, which is always a special event. Previously, we have even hosted interns from CCSF, which was a lot of fun for me to teach and come up with special projects. Many thanks to Crima and CCSF for visiting and supporting the gardens!

Hope to see you all at our regular workday on Saturday May 6th from 10-12.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Weedathon starts tomorrow!



Join us at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden (100 block of Pennsylvania Ave) for an Easter Weekend Weedathon!

We need your help with this to do a real spring clean of the area, so we start at 10am and go till 3pm.

Join for an hour, or all day!

Def stop by at noon for some pizza though - we'll be taking a break and seeing how far we got :)

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

April Fool's day - for weeds!

We had a lovely sunny volunteer day on Saturday and the weeds at Pennsylvania Railroad garden couldn't take a joke! So we pulled them out.

Last weekend Matt and I stripped all the weeds off an area at the bottom of PRG, and this week, cheerfully joined by hardworking Aditi, Chris and Carrie, we expanded that weed-free zone significantly.

How great that feels! There are TONS more weeds though - please join us on April 15th for an Easter Weedathon! We will start at 10am and go to 3pm, with pizza for everyone at midday. Come for the whole day, or even just for an hour, and help us get this weed situation under control!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Leadership Public Schools Digs In

Many thanks to Shyanna, who brought her class all the way from Hayward, where they attend Leadership Public School, to volunteer with us in San Francisco!

A group of nearly 20 high school students descended on the garden, and after getting a brief tour and introduction to the day's work, they really did dig in. The dog area was the initial focus for the group, and once everyone was settled in I started special projects teams in different areas of the garden that weeded or pruned things into shape.

We also took a small group over to the triangle garden, and did our best to clear out the grass that has quickly taken over the area. We didn't have enough time to finish the job, but the students were hard working and we made a big dent in the weeds.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rain showers means weeds

Agave gypsophylla flower
Last weekend's volunteer workday was light on volunteers (me, Matt and Chris) but we eradicated tons of weeds. Pennsylvania Garden is looking great thanks to regular weeding sessions almost every week recently, but Pennsylvania Railroad garden down the street is a weedy mess.

Chris worked away in the left bed while I got into the midst of the top bed and many weeds met their fate.


Agave salmiana (?) flower
Matt set to work removing weeds from the rain garden at the bottom and 6-7 giant tubtrugs of weeds were whisked away, as well as lots of trash. But there's SO much more... I think it might be time for a weekend weedathon!

A couple of Agaves are flowering right now - check them out. They will flower for about 6-12 months, then die. Exciting, but also sad!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cherry Blossom Time

Just a quick note to thank Chris and April for joining me to spiff up the garden on Thursday. Pathways were cleared, weeds pulled and the area around the wooden arch prepped for us to fix the arch next week. Yes! We will get it done. Hope you all are having as much of a 'get it done' week as we are at the garden and enjoying the cherry blossoms while they last!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Little Rain and a Big Improvement

Most of the Saturday Crew
Many thanks to everyone who made Saturday's workday a big success!
Jimmer from SF Public Works brought us tools, and Matt cleared the Hakea that fell over in the last storm, and Chris cut it up into manageable pieces before it was used as a "mulch" in the beds. Annie set out to rid the area by the steps of weeds.

Up in the dog area, Debbie, Kathryn, Aditi, John, Victoria and I (Emily) all worked together. We've been clearing out the dog area of weeds for weeks, and today was the last big push to prepare it for the big pile of mulch. Many thanks again to Trees Company for their generous mulch donation!
We couldn't have done it
without your tools Jimmer!
 Our team weeded furiously, even when it briefly poured rain everyone just put their hoods up and kept working and chatting. Good company and a getting a job done was enough to keep us going through the rain, and we were very glad it was a brief rain! After clearing weeds we laid down cardboard (thanks Center Hardware!) and piled the mulch on top.

It isn't often that my birthday falls on the first Saturday of the month, and it was a treat to hang out with everyone and make the garden look even better. Hope to see you all around the garden soon, and please get in touch if you'd like to volunteer during the week by emailing me at emily@psgsf.org.




Thursday, February 2, 2017

Preparing for Mulch Workday

Jean-Claud, Debbie, and
puppy helper Xena
I am super fortunate to be able to set aside time during the week to garden, and I am even luckier, that I get to hang out with Chris, Jean-Claude, and my mom Debbie! We spent a solid two hours weeding at the garden on Wednesday in preparation for the mulch that is happening at our Saturday workday (this weekend!). So many buckets of weeds were removed from the dog area, I can't wait to get a good layer of cardboard down and wood chips on top! As an added bonus, Jean-Claude was dog sitting, Xena, a super lovable pup. About every ten minutes she would come to check on you to see if you needed a snuggle, or would throw a stick. Loved it!


Debbie helping out
with the wood chip delivery
Trees Company came through today with a small load of wood chips, and I am hoping they will be able to make a more drops for Saturday. It's for free, so I am happy for what we get!

Hoping to see you at this Saturday February 4th for our workday, 10-12!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weekday Garden Love

Chris weeding in the dog area
Big thank you to Chris and April for coming out to the gardens on Thursday. There is always something that needs to be done, and they both dug in clearing weeds and making things a bit better!

If you ever want to join in on a special weekday, please contact me at emily@psgsf.org.


April hamming it up
In addition to lots of weeding, pathways were swept and cleared of some over enthusiastic Agapanthus that we potted up. Chris gave the arch a nice trimming too. Robert, a botanical enthusiast that works nearby, was on a walk in the garden and we had a good conversation about South American sub-tropicals and herbs. Was also glad to hear he enjoys the garden!

Chris insisted on taking my photo
Hope to see you all at our big Saturday workday, February 4th from 10-12!
 
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