Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Another awful Californian day

Horrible California - glorious sunshine on February 1st! Ugh! I jest of course.

Matt, John, Chris, Saba and Waris joined me in the garden for our volunteer day and we got right down to business in the warm summer winter sun.

John weeded with gusto, clearing out pathways and beds with his classic, cheerful style: always fun, always working hard.

Chris took down geraniums behind the wrong way sign and composted like a trooper. His project to fix up the bed behind the wrong way sign is coming along beautifully.

Matt did more tree stump removal, and started a big cleanup project at the kiosk at the front of the garden. That old agave has to go: maybe next volunteer day we will finish that task!

Saba and Waris!
Meanwhile, Saba and Waris (friends of the inimitable Mikey!) absolutely transformed the Aloe nobilis hedge along the bottom path, weeding it clean and planting 16 new Aloes as well!

I planted some plants too. Quite a few actually! Matt helped. The final tally including the Aloe hedge additions was:

2 Agave gypsophila
16 Aloe nobilis
4 Cereus repandus
2 Euphorbia rigida
1 Furcraea (or Agave vilmoriniana... I can't remember) 
4 Salvia leucantha
1 Strelitzia reginae

Then when everyone went home we realized we had two big Agaves to plant... so Matt and I put them in down at PRG. Whew!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Moar planting! When will it end!

Matt sawing
Matt and I took another weekend trip to PG and PRG to plant some plants - it's that time of year, and all the plants we have accumulated in the last 9 months need to get planted!

We had a great time and lots of new species went in - lots of them thanks to Jamie who donated Grevilleas and Leucadendrons galore recently. I hope they do well!

While I was busy planting three Agave potatorum "Cameron's Blue" at the top of PG, Matt took our chainsaw and cut down a tree. Yep! One of the dead cherry plum trees is GONE! It finally succumbed to years of drought, but lets face it they're not very long lived trees anyway, and it was about 15 years old. Oh well, more sun for the other plants. Thank you, next!

Matt CHAINsawing!
He also removed the stump of a Pittosporum and generally tidied up a lot of things. More to go - I don't think the remaining cherry plum trees are looking that great... *cackle*

What else got planted? Quite a list:

2 Grevillea gaudichaudii
2 Westringia “Blue Gem”
2 Grevillea sp 
2 Leptospermum scoparium prostrate
1 Agave americana medio picta aurea

Most of those were from Jamie - thanks Jamie! After that, we headed out for lunch, and after THAT we planted at PRG. Here's the list:

3 Agaves and a Leptospermum
1 unidentified Manzanita
1 Yucca elephantipes
1 Agave geminiflora 
2 Salvia  canariensis
1 Furcraea of some kind
1 Cortaderia selloana “Silver Comet”

And by then we were knackered, so we went home. Hope you like the new plants! Come to the Volunteer Day on Saturday and find out more about 'em.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Plant Profile: Salvia "Anthony Parker"

Latin name: Salvia ("SAL-vee-ah")
Common name: "Anthony Parker" Sage
Originally from: A cross by Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina
Blooms: Covered in spikes of deep blue-purple flowers much of the year
Light: Full sun to part shade..
Water: Winter rain is enough, but in some areas a little irrigation might help.
Height x width: 4' x 4'
Zones: 9a-10b
Where to find in P. Garden: One in the brights bed.

This Salvia is a cross between two species we know and love: the incredibly tough, xeric Mexican sage, Salvia leucantha (throw a rock at PG and you'll hit one) and the very much less drought tolerant Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage) with the lovely red flowers and incredible pineapple scented leaves. We had a S. elegans back in the day, and it was epic, but required more water than we were willing to give.

Would you expect a cross between those two Salvias to create a dark, midnight purple flowered plant that's possibly even more tough than Salvia leucantha? I would not, but "Anthony Parker" (or "Tony" as I like to call him) is flowering away like a fool right now in January, and I haven't shown him a drop of water in years. Take that, pineapple sage!

This cross was discovered in the garden of designer Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina and was named after her grandson in 1994. No guarantees on the parentage then - a case for 23andMe?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

More planting

Leucadendron "Jester"
Last weekend Matt and I went out and I watched Matt plant some new plants, because I've been sick with a flu/bronchitis thing for a couple weeks now.

First thing we planted was another Leucadendron "Jester" and a Leucadendron "More Silver" in the middle back bed.

Now, we have had many Leucadendrons over the years, and they have often failed and dropped dead for no apparent reason too.

Leucadendron "More Silver"
However,  I think I know what's up now: they can never be watered. So, these two, a gift from Jamie, were put in and will be studiously ignored.

Fingers crossed at least the "Jester" will be as impressive as our other "Jester" which is really one of my favorite plants in the garden, and a very impressive 8' tall and wide by now.

Brahea armata
Next up was a plant I will water as needed to get it solidly established. A Mexican Blue Palm, Brahea armata. This is a nice 15 gallon specimen I hope will do well in the brights bed... again, fingers crossed... one day it will hopefully be a very impressive palm tree.

I added about 8 one gallon pots of Blue Chalk Sticks (Senecio mandraliscae) in the middle back bed, around the red Yucca "Blue Boy" group as well - I think they will contrast nicely, and hope they'll suppress weeds a bit there too.

Lastly, I noticed some lovely flowers. A snowdrop (Galanthus) and a group of paperwhites (Narcissus), which smell amazing. Get out there in the garden and see if you can find them!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Plant profile: Dyckia "Naked Lady"

Dyckia "Naked Lady"
Latin name: Dyckia "Naked Lady" (genus: "DYKE-ee-ah")
Common name: Dyckia
Originally from: Arid and high-altitude regions of Brazil and the central part of South America.
Blooms: Orange flowers are held above the foliage in spring.
Light: Full sun to part shade.
Water: This xeric plant needs no extra water in San Francisco.
Height x width: 24"x 24"
Zones: 9a-12
Where to find in P. Garden: We have two in the brights bed, near the steps.

Dykias are wonderfully tough plants. They look like some kind of starfish, with leaf edges that curl under, covered in backwards-facing spines. They need very little water and seem almost indestructible. They grow wonderfully in a pot, but in ground they like rocky, sunny areas and have a natural tendency to clump which leads to large groups of plants.  However, if weeds start to grow near the base and pop up between the leaves, watch out while weeding - those spines will hook your hands worse than any Agave and you might live to regret it.

Top: "Naked Lady" Bottom
left: a regular spiny Dyckia
They're in the bromeliad family - just like pineapples. But the genus is one of the most ancient in that family. Named after the Prussian botanist, botanical artist and horticulturist Prince and Earl Joseph Franz Maria Anton Hubert Ignatz F├╝rst und Altgraf zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck  (1773–1861). So if you're in any confusion about pronouncing the genus name, just think: it could have been so much worse...

According to San Marcos Growers "This plant was discovered by Vivienne Doney (1904 - 1988) at her Monrovia succulent nursery. The name Naked Lady was suggest to her by Aloe hybridizer John Bleck during a visit to her nursery with Robert Foster in the mid to late 1960s. It began showing up in catalogs with this name as early as 1978. There has been speculation that this plant is a hybrid between Dyckia encholirioides and D. brevifolia.  It has also been called "Nude Lady"."

No teeth here!
"Naked Lady" grows in clusters with individual plants reaching 1 foot tall and 1- 2 feet wide with bright green plastic-looking leaves that curve backwards quite gracefully end in a sharp tip. And unlike any other Dyckia this plant has absolutely no spines along the leaf edges. In spring plants grown with plenty of light produce tall wands of bright orange flowers. You can also plant in bright shade or morning sun - you'll get the best leaf color that way, but don't expect many flowers.

We got our "Naked Ladies" from Mat of Farallon Gardens in early 2020 - let's see how they grow!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Surprise guest and a lot of plants

Hilary, Chris and Bill
I've been sick in bed for almost a week, so to be honest the thought of dragging myself from said deathbed and going and doing some energetic gardening was pretty unappealing. But duty calls, and what if loads of volunteers showed up and poor Josh had to show them what to do all on his own? I mean, come on...

Then I got a text from Josh saying that Mat McGrath and his wife Mali would be joining us. If you don't know who he is, Mat runs Farallon Gardens, is a highly knowledgeable xeric plant professional, recently donated a stunning Aloe thraskii, and is an all around great guy and plant enthusiast of the highest order.

Mat and Josh
Suddenly, I had a panic and knew that the double whammy of duty and visiting guests meant WE HAD TO GO. Screamy Munch face.

I hauled myself and Matt from our unkempt lair, loaded up the truck with perhaps 2/3 of the plants we'd originally planned to put in (due to lethargy) and slowly drove our sorry selves to the garden, swigging Robitussin and eating Ricola like the candy it basically is.

Dyckias and Aloe
Happy day, we had a wonderful crew and I was delighted to see them all: lovely Bill, sassy Chris, dear Hilary, John the Cone King, Mat, Mali and of course JOSH!!! And happy day, Mat and Mali brought us some plants - some really cool ones!

So, I basically wandered around aimlessly, coughing loudly, while everyone else did the following:

John, Josh, and Hilary planted 20 Agave parryi in the new bed along the path to the composter. Added a dozen Agave desmettiana variegata to the opposite bed, along with 6 Cotyledon orbiculata var oblonga.

Aloe "David Verity"
Josh put in 5 Agave celsii "Multicolor" with a lovely Aloe "David Verity" (A. arborescens x A. salm-dyckiana) that Mat donated near the bench.

Mat and Mali put in two big donated Dyckia "Naked Lady" (What!? Amazing plant!) and two other reddish Dyckias near the top of the steps, as well as a lovely Dasylirion wheeleri at the top of the garden. Mat then went berserk on an Echium behind the bench and really cleared the area so an A. arborescens underneath it all could get a chance.

Mat and Mali
Meanwhile Chris and Bill were stripping the uncool Pelargoniums and underperforming Calandrinias from behind the wrong way sign in preparation for better things, soon joined by Hilary - many bags were filled for 311 to take away.

Josh planted a nice offset of Agave difformis marginata aka Agave funkiana "Hakuro Shiro Fukurin" (Japanese for "frosty white edges") that I brought from home, and a spare Artemisia "Powis Castle" while John took out an uninspiring Phormium and replaced it with a Beschorneria albiflora which will look much better on the lower path.

After everyone left Matt and I went home and went straight to bed, where I have been ever since and may stay tomorrow too. But it was worth it!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Xmas gifts!

On xmas morning Matt and I popped out to plant some plants. Merry holidays to everyone on P Hill! Here's what we put in:

3 Agave desmettiana variegata
3 Furcraea selloa
7 Agave parryi
37 Aloe nobilis - yes, thirty seven!

We made a new bed on the way to the composters with most of these, and planted about 8 plants opposite them. We have lots more plants to plant, so come to the next workday if you enjoy that type of thing :)

Matt brought along the chainsaw to cut down a tree stump but for whatever reason it would not start (unlike yesterday when it worked perfectly...) so we gave up on that.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Rain means new plants

Aditi planting
Yesterday’s workday promised rain so Matt and I packed up some plants that needed to be put into the ground and assumed that nobody would show up to help plant them. Which is OK! Nobody likes working in the rain. Except us

However, we were wrong. Chris, Josh, and Aditi showed up to help us out. It's always so nice to see your friends show up to help! With our excellent core team we managed to get a good list of plants in the ground:

4 Nassella tenuissima
6 Salvia leucantha
2 Salvia canariensis
4 Furcraea selloa variegata
2 Cortaderia selloana “Silver Comet”

Other jobs were taken care of too. Chris also moved an unknown agave (any ideas on the species?) and worked on revamping the bed behind the wrong way sign - his personal project. Josh planted pups in our pup farm, I picked trash, Aditi changed out the dog poop bags, and we all noticed tiny weed sprouts... everywhere...

Matt also felled the Agave americana flower spike by the arch - after a year of flowering and seeding, it was finally done.

Despite my predictions, it didn't hit any cars or people when it came down (aaaahh!) and Matt got it all chopped up and put in bags for 311 to remove right away. We brought the dried up top home to use as a Christmas tree.

We only had one quick shower during the workday and it was great to see plants responding to the rain. Grow on!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Plant Profile: Dasylirion longissimum

Latin name: Dasylirion longissimum ("daz-ee-LEER-ee-on lon-JISS-ee-mum")
Common name: Mexican Grass Tree, Longleaf Sotol
Originally from: The Chihuahuan desert of northeastern Mexico
Blooms: A light yellow stalk of flowers grows 8-10' above the plant in summer.
Light: Full sun.
Water: No watering, just rain - don't let them get soggy or they will rot!
Height x width: 6-12' tall x 6-8' wide
Zones: 8b to 10b
Where to find in P. Garden: We have one up at the top of PG, and a clump of three small ones at PRG

You may have noticed our big new plant at the top of PG recently, and I blogged about how we got it from Craigslist and planted it too, which was a huge job. Why all the fuss? Well, for one it was hard work for the team and that deserves a mention, but it was worth it because this plant is unusual, and usually very expensive to get in a large size.

Long included in the Agave family (Agavaceae) this genus is now considered to be in the Nolinaceae family with Nolina and Beaucarnea. We have another in the same genus - D. wheeleri - in the garden too.

The name for the genus Dasylirion comes from the Greek words 'dasys', which means "dense" , "rough" or "shaggy" and 'lirion' meaning "lily" because of the long, rough leaves. However, D. longissimum doesn't have rough leaves. They're amazing - blue-green in color, 4-6' long, fairly stiff but not rigid, and smooth, with a point at the end. They radiate out from the core symmetrically, and the effect is like a giant koosh ball or a fiber optic lamp.

Show off that trunk!
Eventually (over decades) the plant will grow a woody trunk and the whole thing can get to 12' tall. In order to show off the trunk (and make it look longer) older, bottom leaves can be trimmed off to expose the trunk. Lots of ones for sale are trimmed so hard that no leaves are left on with an angle of less than about 60 degrees. It looks pretty unnatural but the plant appears older so probably commands more money.

The name for this plant in reference books has gone back and forth between Dasylirion longissimum and D. quadrangulatum. The reference books say D. longissimum is right, but other sources say it should be D. quadrangulatum. Either way, the name is as long as the leaves on this amazing plant!

We have a Dasylirion longissimum at PRG too, but this one was a much smaller plant when it arrived. Then it suffered damage by being crushed by someone, and I thought it would die. Nope, it grew back with multiple heads. It looks very scruffy, but perhaps one day it will recover fully and be as outstanding as the one at PG.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Dasy planted!

Digging another hole...
Matt and I woke up quite sore and stiff from the previous day of digging, but we knew we had to get that Dasylirion in the ground. And out of our truck, whose rear door wouldn't shut.

Happily, both John and Josh volunteered to help us, so we met them at the garden at 10am and got to work...

A suitable location was found at the top of the garden, a good 8" of wood chips removed, and a hole dug.

Dragging the giant plant...
The guys dragged the plant out of our truck, and hauled it up to the top of the garden on a tarp. I stood by and admired their efforts, smugly, while not sweating.

Then we filled the hole with water so the bone dry earth would not hurt the roots of the plant. After that, the plant was positioned in the hole and the hole back filled when the plant was upright. There was a bit of adjusting, but we got it straightened up.

I trimmed off the lower leaves that got damaged in transit, then watered it in thoroughly. After that, we all admired our gorgeous new giant koosh ball aka Dasylirion longissimum.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saw it, wanted it, got it, needed a nap

Wrapped and ready to dig up
Browsing craigslist the other night I saw someone offering up a 7' wide Dasylirion longissimum free to anyone who would dig it up.

Actually, the ad described it as a "large yucca succulent like thing" but I knew right away it was one of my favorite plants - the Mexican Grass Tree - a species of flowering plant native to the Chihuahuan Desert and other xeric habitats in Northeastern Mexico.

I emailed the owner and he replied right away saying he'd love for lots of people to enjoy it at PG, so we arranged to head down to San Carlos today at 9am to dig it up. I was pretty sure he'd overestimated the size of the plant, as most people do, but brought along lots of tools and of course Matt to help.

Digging bar bouncy action
The owner and his wife watched as we wrapped the plant in plastic and started digging... and digging... they kindly brought us some water, and no doubt congratulated themselves on not having to DIY this task.

Eventually we had a moat dug through the rock hard clay dirt around the plant, and it was time to start using the 25# digging bar to pry the darn thing out of the earth. It did not want to come.

Three punishing hours later, it was out of the ground, wrapped in a tarp, and we had to get it down a dozen stairs and a log driveway and up into the truck. Less fun than it sounds - in other words, negative fun.

Body bag?
At last we got it in the car and drove home with the back door tied shut with a rope because the plant is too big to close it. It's literally 7' wide and a couple hundred pounds and we are both utterly shattered. Too tired, in fact to get it out of the car, so it's just gonna stay there.

Tomorrow John and Josh have agreed to help us plant it at 10am, so if you're around and want to help, PLEASE DO!

Thank you everyone who makes donation to the gardens - be it plants, time, or actual cash money: we are all making Potrero Hill a better place to be.

Friday, November 8, 2019

BRCs get beautified

Suzanne, Will and Bill
Sarah, Amanda, Josh, Chris, Matt, Gina, Janice, Bill, Will, and Suzanne - these are ten local (and visiting!) heroes who joined me at Pennsylvania Railroad Garden in the gorgeous November sun.

It was a real family affair!  Bill and Suzanne brought their son Will and dove in like experienced gardeners. Gina brought her mum Janice and well - they too know what they're doing! It's geat to see families working side by side like this - especially when they came to sort out our BRCs.

BRCs? Those are the bio-retention cells. Those four parking spot-sized bulb outs that catch storm water in the winter and divert it back to the water table.

The BRCs are full of extremely well-draining dirt which we added, and plants that love that type of lifestyle. So much, in fact, that they have enthusiastically overgrown the BRCs.

Janice and Gina
In case you're looking for planting ideas for your own garden or street park project, the species we used that are total rockstars in this location (full sun, no water except rain, fast draining dirt) are Phlomis fruticosa, Salvia leucantha, Agave weberi "Arizona Star", Agave americana variegata, Santolina chamaecyparissus, Cortaderia "Silver Comet" and Calandrinia spectabilis.

And yes, each of those names are links to a Plant Profile I've written about each species so you know how to grow them. Read more Plant Profiles here.

The BRCs got completely weeded, cut back and trash picked in just two hours - thank you for making a big difference team! Your work is noticed and appreciated by everyone in the neighborhood!
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