Saturday, April 6, 2019

Yuccathon!

Yucca "Silver Star"
Today's volunteer day was wonderful. The crew planted a dozen new yuccas at PRG and PG, the weather was great, and we welcomed some new faces to the mix.

Matt started off at PRG, planting lovely big specimens. He put in an Agave malpisaga "Lisa" which is one of the biggest Agaves in the world. This beauty will reach 15' wide eventually. He gave it plenty of room to grow.

He also planted 3 more Yucca aloifolias, and moved 3 Yucca  guatemalensis as well, to better spots.

Yucca rigida (Blue Yucca)
At PG, I was joined by John, Aditi, Chris, Josh, Katsura, Leslie, Marie and Katerina. The plan was to plant all the remaining large Yuccas, and weed as much as possible.

Marie, Katerina and Katsura started on the area by the bench, and carefully stripped weeds from the whole area. We added wood chips when that was done, and the result is absolutely lovely now.

Bench cleared, courtesy of these guys!
Meanwhile, John and Josh were busy planting three lovely and quite large Yucca "Silver Star" up in the top bed. The ground there is pretty rocky, but they made it happen - not without expending quite a lot of sweat I have to say. Well done chaps!

Chris and I
Chris worked on planting three stunning Yucca rigida (Blue Yucca) up at the top area too. This is a new Yucca for us, and quite gorgeous. 

A vast quantity of wood chips had to be moved to make it happen though, and Josh was called in for reinforcements after a while. The weather was pretty warm and the work was nonstop!


Leslie
Leslie worked away deep in the brights bed, clearing weeds around our Cussonia, which will really help it thrive, and I moved between projects hauling weeds and wood chips.

Whew - a lot of work done. Well done team!




Monday, April 1, 2019

Spring has sprung!

Echium fastuosum
Last weekend Matt and I headed to the garden to get some plants planted and assess the weed situation. The Echiums are flowering in their gorgeous blue now - go check 'em out! The bees love them.

Wow - have the weeds gone crazy at PG! Some of the pathways are really tricky to get through because weeds have almost cut them off.

Lomandra longifolia
"Platinum Beauty"
We got to work and cleared one particularly bad area, removing 8 huge tubtrugs of weeds there alone. You can see the difference in the before and after picture.

Matt planted three Lomandra longifolia "Platinum Beauty" in the middle front bed, and as very drought tolerant plants, I'm hopeful they will do well there. This is a new genus for us, and while it looks like a grass it's actually not. Hm, how does that work?

According to San Marcos Growers, "Matt Rush is a common name for Lomandra, a genus with 50 species of tufted dioecious perennial herbs with long narrow blade-like leaves that arise from a central stemless base (acaulescent) and have thick woody rhizomes and fibrous roots. Flower inflorescences are cymes, panicles or spikes with male and female flowers on separate plants with both sexes of flowers looking fairly similar."

Check out the before an after pics, and join us next weekend for our monthly volunteer day: let's get rid of some weeds!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Plant profile: Austrocylindropuntia subulata

Latin name: Austrocylindropuntia subulata ("OSS-tro-sill-in-dro-POONT-ee-ah sub-you-LAH-tah")
Common name: Eve's Pin, Eve's Needle
Originally from: The Peruvian Andes.
Blooms: Peachy pink
Light: Full sun to extreme furnace.
Water: Nope. Skip it.
Height x width: Up to 13' tall and as wide. If you let it.
Zones: Seventh slope of Hades, and up. (9a-10b)
Where to find at PSG: We have some at PRG, some on the cactus wall at PG, and in the very top bed too.

The genus Austrocylindropunia is useful to know, simply so you can rattle it off and impress people. The species name subulata comes from the Latin subulate, as in "like an awl" - in other words, something that can pierce leather. Yes, this is a very "cactusy" cactus. It's got that cylindrical shape to the branches, and lots and lots of long and perilously spiky spines ready to stab you. No hugs for this plant! Stay the heck away from it, actually.

It's very easy to grow - just suit yourself up in full body armor and grab a pair of tongs so you can pick up a bit of it, put it in the ground, and step back. You're sure to regret it one day.

I jest of course - it's a great plant for PSG because it's so easy to grow, obviously requires no water and awful soil is fine, it repels all boarders, and grows quickly for a cactus. It's also a great potted plant for a sunny outdoor spot.

As for the common name, Eve's Pin, you could totally use the spines as pins. I am guessing Eve was a destitute Peruvian dressmaker who discovered this one day, but I could be wrong.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Planting more plants

Matt and I headed out to PG last weekend to get more plants out of our yard and into PG. Chris had mentioned it was looking pretty weedy, and he wasn't kidding - an explosion of weeds happened! However, we had planting business to do so those weeds will have to wait...

First up we unloaded six 15 gallon Cordylines from the trailer. We got 3 "Torbay Dazzler" and 3 "Red Sensation" because they are the most drought-tolerant varieties out there. Matt grouped them in the left bed and the middle back bed, and they got watered in.

Meanwhile I worked on weeding one side of the steps. Again. Didn't I just do that recently? Ugh! I planted 10 Achillea "Coronation Gold" there - the toughest, least invasive kind. I also found two large pups of the Agave there. Whose name I can't remember.... OK well now we have 4 of them on the right side of the steps. Surrounded by Achilleas. I can't think of a tougher plant grouping, but time will tell - this area has been changed up so many times over the years, and very few plants make it there. We'll see!

Also worth noting that there are lots of very SCENTED flowers in the garden right now. In the picture, clockwise from top left they are: cherry plum, narcissus, bronze loquat and mock orange. Go have a sniff - they smell simply divine!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Workday with Juul a success!

Today we had a 3 hour corporate workday at PRG with local company Juul. They sent along about 30 very enthusiastic employees who worked their tails off to make our neighborhood a nicer place to be, and they far exceeded my expectations!

There was a lot of prep for this workday - pre-weeding, ordering wood chips, blocking off parking spots for the chip dump, picking up tools from DPW (and returning them), picking up drinks for everyone, packing the trailer and a thousand other details.

At 11am I had 10 cubic yards of wood mulch delivered by Miguel from Bayview Green Waste - a pile that was a bit daunting, if I am honest.

I was really grateful to get volunteer leadership help from Chris, John, and Gina today: thanks for answering a million questions and keeping everyone going with great cheer all day!

And the Juul team was full of energy! I divided them into two teams - weeding and mulching. All the beds needed to be weeded, then have a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch laid on top.

And of course while that was going on, trash needed to be picked up and divided into recyclables and non-recyclables.

The teams set to work as quickly as they could, but as the day wore on I was worried chips might be left in the pile - which means I'd have to move them myself somehow, as we cannot fill parking spots with wood chips. I decided to strategically bet John $10 that his team couldn't finish the task in the time allowed. Challenge accepted: John rallied his team and they plowed on.

I finally called time at 2pm, but the mulching teams kept wheelbarrowing mulch down the street until it was all gone. Troopers! I guess I owe John $10 now, but it's money well spent.

We filled 40+ bags of green waste, piled up and ready for Recology to compost up. That's a truly impressive result. Thank you Juul for sending your finest people over to make Potrero Hill gorgeous.

Have a walk down the block soon and enjoy the clean beds. We have a few weeds left over - we do need a few for our next volunteer day on April 6th and with GoodData in May, after all. Hah!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Preparing for a big workday

Agave vilmoriniana
"Stained Glass"
We have a corporate workday on Wednesday March 13th: we're excited to have 40 volunteers from Juul coming to PRG to help weed! If you'd like to join us, we're going from 11.30am-2.30pm.

This means lots of planning. I am ordering wood chips, organizing extra tools, buying more gloves, and need to get lots of beverages too.

In addition, I've been at the garden preparing. Which feels a bit like cleaning before a house cleaner comes, but I want everything to be ready to go. That means preparing for a huge amount of wood chips that, if they are dropped on the street, need to be moved OFF the street and into the beds in one session: we cannot leave piles of wood chips on the street!

Acacia melanoxylon
(Black Acacia)
So I've been taking a census of areas that a) need heavy weeding, b) need a light weeding or c) need no weeding before wood chips can be spread there. I've been working on weeding areas that only need a little work to be chip ready, and right now PRG is divided equally between those three categories.

Gonna see how much weeding I can do in the next three days to prepare! Yesterday I did the top area, and planted a dozen Nassella tenuissima too. Today is too rainy... try again tomorrow.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Plant Profile: Yucca "Blue Boy"

Latin name: Yucca desmettiana ("YOU-ca dez-met-ee-AH-nah")
Common name: Yucca "Blue Boy"
Originally from: It doesn't exist in the wild!
Blooms: It blooms July-August with large clusters of waxy, translucent white, pendulous blooms.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty.
Height x width: 4'-6' x 3'-5'
Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a group of these at PG in the middle back bed, around from the bench.

You know we love Yuccas, and this one is a fabulous new plant to the trade. While it's been called a
hybrid of Yucca desmetiana, it's also been described as Yucca aloifolia "Purpurea" and I am starting to wonder about that. I have some at home which I got from different places - one set has that very stiff, dagger-like leaf that Y. aloifolia has, although these are much smaller plants so far than the rest of my group. The rest of them have a softer, curving, leathery leaf that won't kill you. We'll see what happens...

The variety name is misleading too - it's not blue. But it is a superb maroonish-purple and that's unusual in Yuccas.

Over time, it reaches 4 to 6 feet high and up to 5 feet wide, with several stems - but it's a slow grower. In most climates the stems will grow straight upwards, but they may also swerve and meander a bit before turning upwards. We can't wait to see what ours do. Right now they appear like a huddle of Cousin Its from the Addams Family !

This plant thrives best in hot, dry climates, but it's adaptable. They say it's not bothered by humidity but I have noticed that the foliage color may vary with the weather, being more blue-green at the coast and yellowish inland. Deer steer clear of this perennial, and periods of drought will not faze it.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Rain didn't stop us!

John vs fennel!
Saturday’s volunteer workday was a surprise: it didn’t rain! Apparently I was super busy the whole time as I didn’t get many photos, but John, Josh, Chris, Matt and my parents made a big dent in the task list.

John weeded fennel. That’s a serious job - you can cut the tops off easily enough but you really need to dig them out, roots and all, to kill them. And boy do they have roots! John was not daunted.

Matt and Josh planted three gorgeous Nolina nelsoniis at the north end of the garden. This is a new genus for us - hope they do really well in that super-dry spot. I mean, super dry later in the year, obvs...

Nolina nelsonii
Chris cut down a whole tree (Acacia stenophylla) with a small handsaw. The poor thing was leaning right over and there was no way to straighten it up. Happily it had a sprout at the base, so he staked that up to regrow.

And my parents planted a couple dozen Artemisia “Powis Castle” and Euphorbia wulfenii in various spots.

I weeded away madly and pulled up as many Malvas as possible - the ground is so soft they’re coming up easily so it’s a great time to pull them out.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

New plant from John!

Yesterday after the volunteer day Matt and I sped off to John's house, where he needed to find a new home for a LARGE Agave attenuata in his front garden. Luckily it's a very soft and toothless kind, because this specimen is huge. Like, "is it even going to fit in the car?" huge. Like "It probably weighs more than me" huge. And if it had teeth, someone would have been hurt.

Using ropes, a reciprocating saw, two wheelie bins and a piece of wood we managed to lower the Agave onto the ground and nobody got killed. Then it got into our car - just.

Today Matt and I took it to PRG and planted it - with the help of a random passer by - and it looks amazing.

Hope you enjoy it! And thanks John for always thinking of us :)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Slightly cloudy with a chance of Agaves

Matt
Today's volunteer day was happily mostly rain-free, and we had a great group out to help weed and plant, and as a result much was accomplished.

John, Josh, Amanda, Aditi, and Hilary joined Matt, my parents (on a visit from Wales) and I at PRG and we all got stuck in weeding, weeding, and a bit more weeding.

Aditi
First order of business, with rain in the forecast to help them settle in, was planting the two Acaia steonphylla trees that Jamie gave us recently. Matt accomplished that, and staked them in well too, so they should take off quickly. What a lovely tree they are: extremely drought tolerant and very graceful to boot. They're one of my favorites.

My parents picked up all the trash on the street, and weeded too. A whole new area was cleared of weeds and 5 Euphorbia wulfenii and 3 Artemisia “Powis Castle” were planted as ground cover in two separate areas.

John and my parents
Josh and Aditi took on another area, moving an Agave weberi "Reiner's Selection" away from the path. Then they replanted a piece of columnar cactus that I found in the bushes, and rearranged a large group of Nassella tenuissima nearby - they also planted 7 of the same grass to make a nice design.

Josh
2 Salvia canariensis went in along the fence lines courtesy of Matt, and they were staked up as they are quite small still. Hope they grow really quickly.

These are ones we started 6 months ago from cuttings and I'm very pleased to have more of them to plant because they are incredibly tough and xeric.


Hilary
Amanda took on a section of the path to weed thoroughly, and John delved in with his usual fervor to help me weed in the rain garden at the bottom of the garden. We even had a visit from Kunaal and Coco the puppy - always good!

The garden is starting to really look good after all the winter work that has gone into it - thank you all for making it happen.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Surprise! More Agaves!

Clockwise from top left: Before, Vanzie,
Frosty Blue, after
Matt and I made a quick trip to PG tonight and planted three good-sized Agaves. If you're in the garden tomorrow take a look.

They are Agave franzosinii - one of the biggest Agaves in the world, and a stunning pale blue color. This one is a 15 gallon baby so far, but should get huge - over 6' tall and wide. No photo - it got too dark.

The other two are Agave ovatifolia "Frosty Blue" and Agave ovatifolia "Vanzie", which are now located in the brights bed, close to our other Agave ovatifolia which is just the regular species.

Again these are pretty big Agaves which can top out 5-6' wide, so this will be an epic display. They're near the Agave weberi "Reiner's Selection" and I think ti all looks rather nice, especially as I removed 5 tubtrugs of weeds there too...

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday trip

Dahlia imperialis in bloom
Today I met Chris at the garden and we accomplished quite a few tasks in a couple of hours. The sun was absolutely gorgeous and PG was looking very lush, with all sorts of things flowering right now.

First of all, Chris removed the arch at the top of the steps. It was so old and rickety, and despite his having fixed it up in the past, it's time had come. Out it goes! What will we put there instead?

While he was doing that I finished up weeding under the cherry plum trees and mulched the area. I planted three Artemisia "Powis Castle" there as ground cover.

Chasmanthe floribunda
Chris emptied the dog poop container, and replanted some Aloe maculata, then moved the Leucadendron salignum "Golden Tip" from the steps to the bed opposite - hope it grows a bit better there.

I started weeding the steps, cut back the Phlomis purpurea, and planted an Agave there too. I have some Achilleas to go in there, and more Agaves too - perhaps next week.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

More new plants

Yucca gloriosa variegata
This time at Pennsylvania Garden!  Matt and I packed the truck with new plants and set to work yesterday, getting things in the ground that will be OK with a week with no rain.

Matt kicked it of by moving an Agave parryi and two Agave attenuatas in the middle front bed to finish up the job I did over the weekend. Looks great, but I didn't get a photo!

Next up, he pulled out a huge, but sadly suffering, Phormium tenax from the left bed. Honestly, they did so well for us over the years but xeric they are NOT, so this one just had to go.  He replaced it with three spectacular Yucca gloriosa variegatas which will be very happy there. When I ordered these 15 gallon plants I hoped they would have a trunk and be taller - they were intended for PRG. But they were pretty short when they arrived, and being slow growers they will work in this spot better.

Agave attenuata "Boutin Blue"
While he was working on that I removed tons of weeds under the cherry plum trees and created a pile of them deep in the bed where they can compost out of sight (mostly).  Then we planted five Agave attenuata "Boutin Blue" there. Hopefully far enough out from under the tree canopy so they get enough light, and don't get covered in leaves, but we shall see.

Again, these were intended for PRG but we placed much tougher Agaves there - these ones aren't as resistant to foot traffic to be honest. But now they are in a more protected spot, and it feels right.

With all the weeds gone I need to get back to the garden and add more wood chips to prevent fresh weeds springing up soon. Stay tuned...


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Started to get the donations planted.

Banksia serrata
Yesterday I wanted to get some of Jamie's plants in the ground, as I knew rain was coming today. I started out in the middle front bed, where our big Agave americana variegata, affectionately known as "Moby Dick" used to live - until it flowered! The stump from that was so big we couldn't remove it, so Matt has been planting Agave attenuatas all around it.

That's been working OK, but I have also noted that the Leucodendron "Jester" in that bed has done incredibly well with no help, so it seems like a great spot for a related plant from Jamie's donation: Banksia serrata.

After weeding and clearing the area, that went in just fine, and I mulched it well with wood chips afterwards. It should make a large shrub or small tree, and has wonderful serrated leaves and big creamy colored cone-like flowers.

Cistus skanbergii
Next up, I added the Cistus skanbergii in the same area, and the two Teucrium aroanium as well. Hopeful the latter two will do well, but will have to keep an eye on them. The Cistus will be great. More mulch, away we go.

After that was done, I moved to the middle back bed and started weeding. I weeded around a lot of the Aloe maculatas, and moved one to fill a gap. They do look very tired in midsummer, but quickly spring back and get growing as soon as the rains start.

Leucospermum "Veld Fire" - back
The blue fescue grasses (Festuca glauca) that we'd planted there are not xeric. I finally admitted that, gave up and pulled the remaining ones out, and put in lots of mulch.

As the area behind them was empty, and was an area with lots of sand in the soil, the perfect plant to add was Leucospermum "Veld Fire". I'll add a couple more variegated Yuccas later, but overall when the Leucospermum gets going it'll be perfect there.

OK that's all for today - more soon!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

New donation

Today I picked up some plants from neighbor Jamie. They're all super tough and a lovely donation to the garden: we'll have to get them planted right away!

Acacia stenophylla (2)
Agave bracteosa
Agave geminiflora
Aloe ??? - need to ID this one
Banksia serrata
Cistus skanbergii
Dasylirion longissimum
Dyckia sp. 
Leucospermum "Veld Fire"
Teucrium aroanium (2)

Thanks Jamie!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The winter planting continues

Hesperaloe parviflora "Brakelights"
Matt and I spent some time at PRG yesterday, and at PG today, planting more new and interesting plants. Here's what went in:

At PRG we planted 5 Hesperaloe parviflora "Brakelights" down at the bottom of the garden. This almost grass-like succulent is also known as a Hesperoyucca - it really does have yucca-like leaves. This one also has lovely little flowers which you can see in the photo.

The small clumps should grow into a bigger grouping eventually, but very slowly. They are extremely drought tolerant and should do really well in the spot we placed them.

Furcraea foetida "Mediopicta"
Next up, we placed three Furcraea foetida "Mediopicta" further up the street.

This is a strongly variegated, but spineless type of Furcraea that's very decorative. They seem to have had some leaf damage but I'm hoping they grow out those damaged parts quickly.

We picked up trash all down the street, and noticed that all the green waste from a couple weeks back finally got picked up by the 311 folks. Yay.

Yucca rostrata "Blue Velvet"
Lastly, we put in two new Yucca rostrata "Blue Velvet" to go with the larger Yucca rostrata we already have on PRG which is doing so well - despite having been somewhat overshadowed by the large bush mallow shrub next to it.

This is a very slow growing but super tough Yucca, and hopefully these two will do well.

Yucca desmettiana "Blue Boy"
Today Matt and I went up to PG and popped in 8 plants there. We started out by thoroughly weeding the middle back bed on the street side, in preparation for adding 5 Yucca desmettiana "Blue Boy" in there.

This is a fantastic reddish-purple colored Yucca and having a group of them like this is pretty cool. We moved one of the Agave gypsophyllas and an Aloe arborescens to make it work, as well as digging out a huge slab of concrete buried in the dirt.

Yucca filifera
Next we put in three Yucca filifera in the top bed. These guys will very, very slowly before trees but it will be many years before that happens.  We have two more to add to the same spot.

This is a super, super spiky plant. Don't hesitate to stay the heck away from it, or you'll get stabbed!

Lastly, we picked trash and called in a 311 pickup for it.

So that's 18 new plants for PRG and PG - all of them brand new species for us. Let's hope they do well.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Another 40 plants go in at PRG

Chris + cactus = Chrictus
Today's workday was forecast to be wet and windy, so, expecting fewer volunteers than usual, I changed my plan to bring loads of new plants and just bought... about forty.

Luckily for me, our stalwart gang showed up and we planted them all! Josh, Chris, Hilary, Aditi, Matt and I put in a full 12 person-hours of work total, and managed to install the following:

20 Artemisia "Powis Castle"
6 Euphorbia wulfenii
8 Salvia canariensis
5 Salvia leucantha
1 Agave lophantha

"Take that, Santolinas!" - Hilary
Chris moved some columnar cacti into a nice group, and pruned and weeded and de-pupped agaves like crazy. Matt staked up all the new Salvia canariensis so they don't get blown over in the wind, and watered all the new plants with water he got from Fregosi paints, and moved some rocks around.

Hilary and Josh planted and planted and planted, then cut back Santolinas with a vengeance, and Aditi rescued a poor pitiful pampas grass from a thuggish salvia.

Josh gleefully whacks a plant
I picked up loads of trash, set the plants out to match the planting plan, and weeded away too. I used the 311 app AGAIN to ask them to please remove all the green waste that's been piling up. Hope they get on it!

We've got about 100+ more plants to get into the ground in January/February, so we will do some extra volunteer days: keep an eye on the blog if you're interested in joining in. We have a workday January 14th 3pm-5pm coming up - that's a Monday - so if you are available, drop by!
 
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