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.
 
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