Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cactus delivery

John messaged me recently and asked if we wanted some big columnar Euphorbia ammak (or trigona...?) cacti. I said yes before really thinking it through as usual because John always has the good stuff.

Off we went to John's neighbor's place in Glen Park and lo - two GIGANTIC Euphorbia cacti planted int he ground and needing a new home. And I mean, gigantic. So, of course, we decided to dig them up whole instead of trying to cut them apart and re-root smaller sections because, well... like I said, not thinking things through.

With John's help, Matt and I attached each specimen to a tall ladder for support with bungies and rope, padded with drop cloths, then dug it up, lowered it to the ground, and carried it down a flight of steps (!) to the truck where we had to hoist them onto the roof and tie it down with even more rope. 

Fun times - did you know cacti are mainly water and as such... HEAVY?

Then we drove slowly along back roads (vs the freeway) home to Pacifica to keep speeds down and avoid the beasts falling off the roof. Once home, we enlisted a friend to help unload them onto our driveway - said friend was a bit daunted when he arrived because Matt didn't sufficiently describe the task when asking for help...

The next week we planted the smaller one at our house, and last weekend we managed to hoist the bigger one BACK onto the truck with just the two of us, drive back to the city, and with the help of Josh and Jim we planted it at PG. It is a realistic 15' tall and it was HARD WORK, but it's done and it looks magnificent!

We will keep the guy line on it for quite a while as it didn't have much in the way of roots and needs the support. If it falls over I will cry.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Dry garden is dry

Well we turned the corner into June and despite a light sprinkle of rain (!) this week the garden has never looked so dry so early in the year.

Despite that we had a great workday last weekend. Chris, Bill and Leslie joined Matt and I, and we deadheaded Euphorbias, cut back remaining Chasmanthes, gave a lot of Salvia leucanthas a haircut, watered anything recently planted to get it through, and weeded away like maniacs. 

The Gazanias that someone left in a pot at the garden were planted by the front kiosk. They're currently flowering and look lovely - I should get some more for the garden. I forgot how tough they are, and how cheerful.

We have two compost bins totally full of green waste but it's so dry that it's not composting down. We added some water so fingers crossed by next month we can turn the two bins into one and it will be well on the way to nice dirt.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Fencing complete

A while back someone down at PRG had a bonfire that involved the wood fence on top of the retaining wall. 20 fence boards and their supporting structures were burned, and a number of plants were damaged as well.

Last weekend, Matt and I replaced the boards. Not perfect, but solid and will last... until next time they get burned down? At least that long.

While we were working a security guard down on the railway tracks stopped and told us we shouldn't be removing the fence. We explained who we were and he watched us for a while... then got bored and left. Glad someone said something, at least.

I picked up all the trash I could find at PG while we were there, and noticed that someone has been weeding along the edges of the path on the street side - thanks!

Then we went up to PG and watered the plants that were recently put in. The whole garden looks very dry early int he season this year - it's going ot be a long tough summer for some plants.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Plant Profile: Hardenbergia violacea (Purple Vine Lilac)

Latin name: Hardenbergia violacea ("har-den-BERG-ee-ah vy-oh-LAY-sha")
Common name: Purple Vine Lilac or Purple Coral Pea Vine
Originally from: Australia
Blooms: Masses of small purple pea-flowers cover the plant in late winter.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Vining to 12-16'
Zones: 10a -11
Where to find in P. Garden: Far in the back, by the compost bins, covering the fence.

Back in 2009 we were looking for very tough, drought tolerant and evergreen vines that would cover ugly things like fences at the garden. This one fits the bill! I don't think I bought this plant though - someone donated it. And it was pretty scraggly... it limped along for a while in a very tough spot getting no water because I thought it was doomed and the hose didn't reach all the way there... 

Well, somewhere along the way it found its feet and sprang into life, covering the chain link fence it was suppose to cover (and which the Bougainvilleas planted at the same time failed to help with - in fact they died, which tells you how tough the Hardenbergia is)

This evergreen vine has really pretty purple flowers with a chartreuse spot in center covering the plant from winter to early spring. It enjoys sun or light shade in hot inland areas, and tolerates (and even prefers) heavy soil so long as it drains well. 

Happily for us it requires little water once established, and if we could be bothered it would respond well to pruning - hard pruning can reinvigorate older plants. 

The species is widespread through much of Australia and can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Tasmania where it grows from the coast to up into the mountains. 

Having a long, carrot-like root, it was reportedly used as a substitute for sarsparilla by Australian aboriginal bushmen. As a result, it also has the common names Australian Sarsparilla and False Sarsaparilla. The Australian aboriginal name for it is Waraburra.  

Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt first described the plant in 1793 in Icones Plantarum Rariorum based off cultivated plants that were thought to be from seeds collected in the Sydney area. Originally in the genus Glycine (the genus of the related soy bean Glycine max) this plant was later combined with Hardenbergia, a name Bentham used in 1837 when describing Hardenbergia ovata

The name for the genus honors Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, sister of the Baron Karl von Hugel, a 19th century Austrian patron of botany who collected plants while on an expedition to Australia in 1833. I can't find a photo of Frenziska, but I did find a pic of George Voorhelm Schneevoogt looking smug.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Worst weeds, ranked!

Last volunteer day we did a lot of weeding, and I asked each of our valiant volunteers what was their favorite, or most hated, weed. Well the results are in!

Chris has no fondness for Fumaria capreolata, or White Ramping Fumitory.  This weed is delicate and ferny, but man does it grow quickly! Turn around and it's smothered the plant it "ramps' up onto using it's little tendrils. 

In some ways it's not that bad because it's an annual, and it comes out pretty easily when you pull on the roots. On the other hand, it's awful because it grows and sets seeds so lightning fast that it's impossible to eradicate, and if you grab the stem it's so soft that it breaks off easily.

Jen pulled up this beastly Malva parviflora (read the Weed Profile here) and as you can see this weed is truly awful no thanks to its huge roots. If you don't get the root out, you can expect this one to come right back too. 

Another hateful thing about it is that it seeds quickly and those seeds can sit dormant in the dirt forever. Ugh.

Leslie told me about her most hated weed in the world, but as it turns out we don't have that weed at PG! Miracles. But her second most hated weed is ivy.

Way back when they were building the freeway, ivy was planted at this location on purpose as a ground cover. And I would say it's a great choice - as long as that is the only plant you want. Its ropey vines are impossible to remove completely, so we simply give it a haircut whenever we see it, with no hope of getting rid of it for good.

And John? John's favorite weed is Oxalis (read the Weed Profile here). When I say "favorite" what I mean is he actually likes it. John likes the acid yellow flowers and the cute shamrock leaves I guess? John also likes to pull my leg... so maybe he was kidding...

Oxalis, the bane of many gardens, is impossible to get rid of because it produced millions of tiny bulbs underground... just ugh!

Friday, March 4, 2022

Weed profile: Oxalis pes-caprae (Sourgrass)

Latin name: Oxalis pes-caprae ("ox-AH-liss pez-CAP-rye")
Common name: Sourgrass, Soursob, Oxalis, African wood-sorrel, Bermuda buttercup
Originally from: South Africa
Blooms: November to April
Worst feature: Dreadful replicating bulbs
Best feature: It's edible!
Height x width: 6-12" x 6-12"
How best to weed: Just pull the tops off... you won't find all the bulbs
Don't mistake it for: Any of the ornamental Oxalis cultivars that people buy and plant ON PURPOSE (!)

Oxalis is a genus of the devil. I mean I would call the entire genus an invasive, noxious weed but as it turns out there are a few ornamental Oxalis species and cultivars that people like to grow for fun, but when I see them for sale I either laugh or resist the urge to dump the pots in the nearest trash can.  Even I, as a newbie gardener, planted Oxalis about the place. SMH.

What makes it a bad weed is the fact that it's very successful at reproducing thanks to all the little underground bulbs it makes - they're impossible to dig out, and when bringing in new soil to your garden, unless it's guaranteed to be free of them can easily be contaminated with little bulbs. 

And you may ask "is that where one of the common names (soursob) comes from - the noise gardeners make when they see it growing?" No. The sour part is from the sour taste it has - due to large amounts of oxalic acid in the plant.

Is it all bad? Well, it contains large amounts of vitamin C. You can eat the leaves and (boiled) roots - it's "reasonably" harmless to humans and livestock, which is really all you can ask for in a foodstuff. In South Africa it is a traditional ingredient in dishes such as waterblommetjiebredie ('water flower stew')) and a yellow dye can be made by boiling the plant too.

On the whole thought I think you can tell I don't love this plant. I do find it a useful social litmus test though. Do you find acid-yellow a nice color? Do you like to see fields and gardens full of that shade?  Then, with notable exceptions (John...) we cannot be friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Mmm, steamy deliciousness

Matt and I went to PG today because WEEDS. I turned the compost and found the two bins we filled to the brim last week had reduced in volume by half as predicted. I turned bin 1 over onto bin 3 and it was steaming hot inside, as you can see from the photo - a sign of active composting on the go. 

I can't explain how satisfying this is - to have pulled weeds and see them composting down in to usable soil for us to use just fulfills something deep within. This article in the Financial Times says it's "...a form of ‘welldoing’ as well as wellbeing" and I have to agree.

Aside from this task, we also pulled weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. In fact we almost filled a bin, though the garden still looks very weedy!

Lots of plants are flowering right now - get out and enjoy them! Here's a pic of the cherry plum flowers, so lovely.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Weeds get whacked - by hand

Our February volunteer day was fantastic! We had a nice crew out there to help get rid of weeds, and they were amazing! Jen, Chris, Bill, Matt, Leslie, John and Joe were joined by Kresh and Kai (superstar mini-weeder in his new gardening gloves!) and while I turned the compost bins, they filled the empty ones really quickly.

I took lots of photos this time, and I'm going to do more Weed Profiles and also asked each volunteer what their most hated weed was. Everyone has one! I'll post that stuff in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, see if you can find these three plants in the garden right now. They're flowering and SCENTED!  Have a sniff - it will change your day. 

They are, from the left, clockwise: Narcissus, Philadelphus, Eriobotrya (Bronze loquat)

Also shown is the before and after shot of the top of the garden where Jen worked her magic and cleaned out SO many weeds. Wow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Weedy madness

Well the weeds are getting the upper hand again! We hired someone to weed PRG and the Triangle Garden which took 2 full days but they weed whacked vs hand pulling which is frustrating... the weeds will be back.

This weekend Matt and I popped down to PG and weeded and planted. I cleared a section at the front along the sidewalk, and planted an Agave impressa there.

Matt planted a Dodonea viscosa (Purple Hopseed) at the top of the garden - a nice purple leaved shrub that's very tough. He also removed a dead tree and in it's place planted an Erythrina crista-galli (Cockspur Coral Tree) down at PRG.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Agaves being smothered

Our workday last weekend was lovely - the sun was out, and Matt and I were joined by Aditi, Kresh and Kai.

Since it has rained so much, weeds have been growing a lot. And when they grow up around Agaves they can make a very damp, fungus-prone environment. Absolutely not something your average Agave likes at all. So, we spent a lot of time weeding around Agaves to make them happy.

We also planted a lot of plants!

6 Agave celsii "Multicolor" 

3 Agave macroacantha

3 Agave "Sharkskin"

1 Tanacetum haradjanii (Silver Tansy)

1 Cynara cardunculus (cardoon) 

1 Erythrina crista-galli (Cockspur Coral Tree)

Some of these went up at the top of the garden, some went by the bench. They're all plants that Matt and I have been growing for PG for years now, waiting until they were big enough to be planted out. Please keep your dogs out of the beds so they don't damage the new plants, or worse, poop on them.

Our littlest weeder Kai was very successful in filling a huge tub trug of weeds for us, wielding a little trowel and just getting stuck in. Yes, it's possible that at 18 months old he didn't do that ALL himself. Yes, it's possible his dad Kresh pulled some weeds too. But, who cares ;)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Wildlife Profile: Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

Common name: Swallowtail, Anise Swallowtail 
Latin name: Papilio zelicaon - "pah-PILL-ee-oh ZELL-ee-con"
Size: Wingspan ranging from 52 to 80 mm (2.0 to 3.1 in)
Description: A pale yellow and black butterfly with striking blue and red spots.
Geographical distribution: Western North America

We regularly see this lovely butterfly at the gardens - it's a common butterfly of western North America. It's has a striking look - you might call it a black butterfly with a yellow stripe or a yellow butterfly with black edges. Both the upper and lower sides of its wings are black, but the upper wing has a wide yellow stripe across it There are bright blue spots on the rear edge of the rear wing, and it has tiny tails pointing down from those wings too, giving it the swallowtail name.

Bright yellowish-orange to red eyespots near the tails of each wing each contain a black pupil. This pattern is thought to be a form of mimicry where a spot on the body of an animal resembles an eye of a different animal to scare off predators, or even draw a predator's attention away from the prey's most vulnerable body parts (in this case a butterfly would rather get pecked wings than a pecked body.) They might even make the butterfly look inedible or dangerous.

The Anise Swallowtail likes open areas - bare hills or mountains, fields and roadsides, in towns and in gardens or vacant lots. From British Columbia and North Dakota at its northern extreme, south to the Baja California Peninsula and other parts of Mexico, it's occasionally also seen in the southeastern United States, but its normal range does not extend east of New Mexico.

Adult females lay eggs singly on the undersides of host plant leaves. The caterpillar starts out dark brown, almost black, with an irregular white band at its middle. After that, it becomes more green at each successive molt until it's almost all green, with markings in black, orange, and light blue. And guess what it likes to eat? Members of the carrot family, including fennel - our most hated weed - as the common name suggests. So I have to say we encourage that... more swallowtails for everyone!


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Winter weeding week

Look - a butterfly! Wait, what was I going to say? Oh yes. Every year around the holidays Matt and I try to get as much garden work done as we can.

This year we have been weeding, pruning, and also planting. And this week we planted the following:

1 large Agave tequilana "Sunrise" to replace the Agave weberi "Reiner's Selection" that flowered in the brights bed.

1 Agave mapisaga "Lisa" to replace the Agave weberi that flowered by the sidewalk. Per the photo it looks really small now... haha... but it's one of the biggest Agaves in the world so WATCH OUT!

6 Santolina chamaecyparissus at the top of the garden

3 Artemisia "Powis Castle" in the middle left bed

2 Yucca guatemalensis at PRG

I also cut back the Salvia canariensis at the top of PG and ripped out piles of weeds... how satisfying!

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