Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday night plant attack

Today I zoomed over to the garden after work to meet "John from Craigslist" who came with his other friend John to give me a rooted yucca tree. "Oh and by the way," he says, "here are a couple extra branches you can root." I am thrilled with this - thrilled, I tell you! I am going to have to consider the placement of this fine specimen very carefully...

As John is about to leave he said "oh - you have a sago palm" and I replied "no... I wish!" and turn around and look: there's a dinky little sago palm in a pot with a note that says "I like sun!" sitting in the middle of the echium seed bed. I do the Scooby Doo face, and suddenly realize the plant orphanage has a new member! Funnily enough today I was just wishing for a sago palm but they are too expensive. Voila - someone read my mind! So the sago palm-let has come inside the house for an assessment before being planted. Much too cute and stealable to be left in the garden alone ;)

Anyway, I rudely rushed off to see my chiropractor appointment leaving John to fold his tarp on the side of the road (sorry!) and on the (out of my) way home from that, stopped by 14th x Kirkham to see if I could pick up some free canna roots that were being given away. Craigslist lesson #1; never go pick up something unless the owner has confirmed you can have it, and #1b; never go to get something that's been left on the side of the street of all and sundry to pick up. Naturally the canna roots where long gone, despite the ad still being up... *whine*

So all in all, I'm in yucca heaven with a sprinkling of sago joy. Canna schmanna!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pictures from inside

It's very chilly today. Here are some pics from inside the house. First, an unidentified succulent, rooting. Next are some plum prunings I brought in and put in a vase - they burst into bloom and are extra pretty. And finally an Aeonium (?) also rooting:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cleanup operation

This week our project is to remove the trash that has built up at the back of the lot (the homeless encampment) and Leah will return to prune the loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) etc back there so that problem doesn't come back, hopefully.

There's a beautiful Cordyline back there that we may be able to snag a sprout off to propagate too, and the entire back area is a veritable festival of dog poop. I want to make a hole and scoop a lot of it into there and let it decompose, though that area will probably always be the dog zone, so I don't plan to plant it up extensively.

If anyone is available to help with this task, let me know!

Also, those of you who have acquired dog poop stations, poop bags, signs etc. now is the time to install them! We can meet on the lot next weekend to discuss placement, or I can just pick 'em up and place them for you, if you like. The dogs of Potrero Hill thank you in advance.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Picture time

Today we planted Leah's succulents, and tidied cut branches from the Big Prune of 2009. We also sowed lots of seeds Leah gave us, and convened with our lovely neighbor Jess who is having a sign made for the "hard of dog poop"...

Some pics of the work done this weekend:

First up, Gary's wall, with newly installed yuccas, Crassula ovata (Jade Plants), cactus and Agaves (2 views) donated by John. My Official Favorite Part of the Garden at this time:

Mystery plant alert! It came to the garden overnight, it's very small and pretty, and we think it's wonderful. Grow big little plant! UPDATE: it's an Echeveria, allegedly.

Cactus and agave, looking yummy:

The Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess plant) after her radical haircut. Don't cry! Someone who Knows What They Are Doing performed the surgery (i.e. Leah):

The top succulent area before - small plants, not looking great, Matt with spade poised:

And after: a big Aloe, an Aeonium and I think a Senecio serpens (blue chalksticks) - thanks to Leah. We do need a lovely big rock or two to accent this area. Right now we have a lump of old concrete, which may be pushing the envelope of urban/industrial gardening a smidge too far:

Our house, with Matt's Sanford and Son-style plant propagation windowsill. Many Agaves, an unidentified palm seedling, a Yucca tip, and 3 Opuntia cactus pads, all busy rooting, we hope. It brings us glee:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rain stopped - play!

(To borrow and re-punctuate a phrase from Wimbledon)

We got a lot done today, and the rain held off. Leah came over and spent all day helping us! We are gobsmacked. She is a trained arborist and pruned the cherry-plum trees and others and they are about to burst into bloom looking "shipshape and Bristol fashion", at last. (Matt suggested that that area is so nice now that we should put a bench there to enjoy it.)

She taught me a lot about tree pruning so maybe next year I can have a go myself, and she also pruned the Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess plant) because a) it was in desperate need b) I don't have all sorts of cunning Japanese saws and so on and c) let's face it, I would have done it all wrong! So fingers crossed, that plant will get it's act together soon.

Leah also recommended moving a few plants as I put them in too close to others, so I did just that. Then later on she gave me even more plants and seeds when I dropped her off at her house, so I get to plant even more stuff tomorrow. *rubs hands together gleefully* We are reeling from this generosity - thank you Leah!

Another person who came by was John, a craigslister who responded to my begging ad for plants and garden stuff. He said he had some Yucca cuttings, and I thought "yeah sure - why not try cuttings... they can only die on me." What he brought over was in fact 8 gigantic pieces of yucca (some over 6' long!) as well as rooted and not-rooted prickly pears (Opuntia) and a potted agave! Matt and I planted the Yuccas along Gary's wall, interspersed with the Crassula ovata (Jade Plants) I'd rescued recently (they'd started rooting!) and the effect was instantly exotic. Wow.

Lots of people met today, I have to say. A gentleman who lives directly across from the lot, John, dropped by to give encouragement. Robert Poyas the landscape designer came to say hello as he's involved in doing up the triangle area above our lot. And on the way back from lunch we met Max's neighbor, Tommy, who welcomed us to use their yard to store tools.

Later in the afternoon we were surprised to see craigslist John drive up again. Get this: he brought us a big bag full of agave plants/runners with roots! Matt put them in between the Yuccas and Jades and this is now my absolute favorite part of the garden. When the other Agaves and prickly pears have rooted (in the house), we'll add them too. As Leah noted the blueness of the Agaves works perfectly with the grey of Gary's wall. It's stunning. I'm in succulent heaven!

I also found a palm seedling and brought it in the house to grow on, discovered another uprooted spider plant, and removed many bags of dog poop left on the lot. Yuck. But all in all, it was a long, rewarding day on the lot. I'll take some pics tomorrow as it is dark now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pruning decision

Jim found and planted the rescued Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess plant), which was the inspiration for the garden. However, this tibouchina is a scraggly lady! She leans at a precarious angle, and is much too leggy. With a bit of prudent pruning she could become a nice bushy specimen, though. At left is a pic of my chopping options: some people have told me to cut the red lines. Some say the yellow lines.

I certainly think I can get her standing up straight using the pole Jim inserted, and gradually pulling her into a more dignified stance!

Matt got me some pruning shears so I am going to perform the surgery at the weekend. Please keep her in your thoughts: she should sprout and look wonderful come Spring, but I can't help wondering if this will kill her...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's that I hear?

It's raining!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Plans for the weekend. Plans of all sorts!

Today we have a new president, and this Saturday the 24th we have a Special Guest Gardener coming (Leah) so I have informed the plants that they will need to grow some leaves and stand up straight/look bushy. Hah. I made the landscaping timbers less messy (it's all relative,) raked the mulch around ineffectively, and considered* asking the homeless guy in the bushes to become the official Pennsylvania Garden Guardian today, while wondering what on earth I can do to get this place looking inspiring by the weekend.

We need about 20 more landscaping timbers, some sand and garden pavers to make paths and steps, a lot more plants, a herd of energetic people who enjoy gardening to put them all in place, a watering system to get the plants established, and someone (or a goat) who loves weeding to remove all the ivy and so on. Oh, and what about the awful soil? Unfortunately all that falls into the realm of fantasy so we are just going to have to make do. Or... are we?

This week I decided the project needed a boost. I am spending so much money on it, and breaking my back. I need help. So I spoke to the Community Plant Bank (they are giving me some free plants on the weekend!), CalTrans (I think I can adopt the area now, and the sprinkler system might be turned on if it works), people from the ENPB Fund (who might possibly be able to fund some real, live landscaping) and people from the Potrero Hill Garden Club (who had previously been interested in the area, and who might still want to join in.) To cap it off, Leah is giving us some bricks and pavers! **

So there you go - a few emails and calls and there are all sorts of possibilities are turning up. It would be so great to sit on a bench in the garden on a warm SF summer evening (OK, the warm SF summer evening), surreptitiously sipping a glass of wine while enjoying the scent of jasmine and the company of the neighbors. Wouldn't it? I have a dream...!

*Instead I asked my friend Scott, who used to be homeless, what to do - be scared and stay away, or risk having needles thrown at me? I'll post his reply here when it comes.

**Update: Community Plant Bank plants were accidentally given away to someone else, ENPB fund is only for non profit orgs, and Potrero Hill Garden Club members are interested in a different piece of land. But I did get the bricks and pavers from Leah - hurrah!

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's MLK Jr day...

....and I'm using that as my excuse to buy a few plants! As if I needed an excuse...

Anyway, I was in a rush to get from the barn to the chiropractor (he said "try not to ride the horses too much and avoid bending and lifting in the garden" so, naturally...) and I popped by Home Despot and acquired 6 landscaping timbers (they got in the truck my magic, I swear!) and also:

2 Euryops (yellow bush daisy)
1 Euonymus "Emerald 'N' Gold"
1 Cuphea hyssopifolia (false heather)
1 Iberis sempervirens (Dwarf Candytuft)

Just as I was hurriedly planting the above, I saw two people walking across the street with their "ears pricked" in my general direction. They turned out to be Denise and Max who live right across the street and have been observing my gardening from a(not very)far. I asked them if they'd like to plant a thing or two and they happily dug in. Muahahah! Now they're invested! This is how gardens suck people in - look at me: happy to ignore the plot for 5 years until I struck spade to dirt, and now I'm addicted.

No doubt they will shortly fill their cars with mud and pickaxes too. Sorry guys! ;)

Anyway, this marks the end of my saying yellow and white are out for this garden - these days I just like plants that are alive. Standards lowered, no doubt everyone will be happier.

The landscaping timbers will need to be placed properly. Max said I could put them in his back yard which would have been extra handy if I hadn't had to zoom off to the chiro, but maybe I will take him up on that tomorrow. Thanks!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Time for some pictures

Such a beautiful day today: let's have some pics!
First up: Aeonium - doing well.

Next we have the Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima), society garlic (Tulbaghia), Princess tree (Tibouchina) et al:

And an African daisy (Osteospermum):

Here are two panoramas - the second shows various areas within the garden so far, which are:
a) Gary's wall - what to put there?
b) path along storm drain
c) bed
d) existing cherry plum trees
e) bed
f) bed
g) compost pile
h) bed

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Someone stole a rosemary plant yesterday, and uprooted some spider plants.

Pretty pathetic thing to do. I'm looking into a security camera and I already have a motion detector light. I hear some people attach barbed wire around the roots of plants too, which would give a nasty surprise, and probably tetanus, to anyone dumb enough to steal more plants.

But no doubt all the neighbors who live in the houses facing the garden will see it if it happens again - I know several people who have the number to call in case of people littering etc.

UPDATE: I found the rosemary plant, thrown off to the side, and rescued it. Not sure it will survive.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Signs of life

This morning before work, as I was digging holes for the plants I got at the weekend, I accidentally dug up one of the daffodils we planted.

It had roots and the beginning of leaves sprouting out of the top!

Of course this should come as no surprise, but I am absolutely thrilled :D It's official: Spring is on the way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I will not be denied!

I had decided not to spend more money on plants because who knows if they'll survive, and it's all been somewhat expensive so far, fantastic donations aside. However, today is my birthday so I get to break the rules: to Flowercraft we went, and to heck with the 'flu!

1 Kniphofia "Dwarf Yellow"
3 Dianthus "Fire Star"
2 Tulbaghia (Society Garlic - Variegated)
1 Pennisetum alopecuroides "Moudry"
1 Juniperus horizontalis "Blue Chip"

Aside from the juniper they were all in the 50% off section, and not looking... black tie appropriate, shall we say... but with a bit of luck they'll perk up.

I was very tempted by Breath of Heaven (too pink), Fatsia japonica and variegated gingers (need too much water) and loads of clever little junipers and massive stripy agaves (too expensive to risk.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

This weekend

Here's the plan for this weekend: we're both recovering from the 'flu so not sure how much will get done, but...

1. Move mulch to wall*
2. Put up poop bag dispenser (update: Gary's doing this!)
3. Sow poppy seeds - done!
4. Water anything that needs it - done!
5. Eradicate ivy!
6. Plant Mexican feather grass (Nassella) (3 clumps) and white Oxalis (5 clumps) donated by Leah - done! Thanks Leah!
7. Plant narcissus that are done flowering inside - done!

I was thinking of going out Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Anyone care to join me?

* I am having a hard time making a dent in the compost pile, one shovel at a time, so I thought I'd call up the SF Tool Lending Library so I could borrow a wheelbarrow. Dammit, they are closed right now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Getting more plants with less green

It has occurred to me that I am a bit obsessed with buying plants recently, and am on a 12 step program to quit. OK, actually it's just one step: stop.

Anyway, I need my fix so I decided to look into planting more seeds. Bought some California poppy seeds - works with the orange/purple theme perfectly!

However, they require patience to see results, something I am generally short on. So today I decided to try cuttings. They're better in theory because they're a) free and b) already look like a plant (I'm easily fooled) and c) if they don't work oh well. So, on the way home from work I passed by Jackson Park where a tall chain link fence supports several massive Orange Clock Vines (Thunbergia gregorii) These raucous plants appear to think it is their mission to bring a dose of orange tang to life year round - they are constantly partying, with new flowers nonstop. I guess that's where the name comes from: "What time is it? It's time for more FLOWERS, people! Woohooo!!!"

I snagged 5 short cuttings (no harm done - in fact someone needs to prune them a bit!) which I hope will root quickly. Then I will need to find something for them to climb up...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In which people help people with dogs

Today we watered a bit, and moved as much compost as we could to the wall side. I also was at Home Despot in Daly City and bought two yummy little pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata) plants, and a bag of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seeds.

My lovely friend Erin gave me a gorgeous wooden dog poop bag station, and some bags! I need a post to attach it to...

What I also need is for someone to paint me a nice sign asking people to use the bags, and deposit them in the public trash can up by the bus stop at 18th st. - perhaps I will ask my friend Jessie as she offered recently... hint hint! We can add the "pick up your poop" signs that Jim & Carrie have and see what happens.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Weeding and seeding

Today Matt cleared a 30' long strip next to the street, behind the "Wrong Way" sign, dug in compost and planted orange daisy seeds. I cleared out half the storm drain, made a path alongside, picked up rubbish, weeded next to Gary's door, removed mulch/trash/weeds along maybe 25' of his building, and applied compost. Oh how I wish I had a wheelbarrow, but I've nowhere to store one...

Jim and Carrie dropped by and said they'd spoken to a nice DPW lady who gave them two signs reminding people to pick up dog poop. Awesome! We agreed the best thing would be to put up signs, a dog bag dispenser, and direct people to the public trash can by the bus stop to deposit their bags. Jim even had the idea that Pawtrero Bath House might sponsor the dog bags or something, which would be perfect!

Yesterday I found some big Crassula ovata (Jade Plant) branches someone left on the street up the hill. I propped them up against Gary's wall with their toes in compost - maybe they will root. I'm not holding my breath, but I thought they deserved a chance.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To do list:

Things I need to get done in the garden, instead of buying more and more plants...

1. Move mulch that has trickled down the left side slope to areas that need it more.
2. Weed out some ivy before it takes over *glances nervously up the street to the nursing home with their ivy-takeover garden...*
3. Move compost heap to the top of the hill, at the left side of the dog area (wish I had a wheelbarrow!)
4. Procure a small cabinet or shed-like structure that I can put my gardening tools in, instead of having them live in my car.
5. Put landscaping timbers or some other structure around the beds so they are better defined, and don't get walked on.
6. Put up a dog poop bag station.
7. Clean all the pine cones and trash out of the storm drain, and also pick up more trash elsewhere.
8. Apply compost to the area between the storm drain and wall, so it's ready for some plants.
9. Find some broken concrete sidewalk slabs to make pathways with.

All this makes my back ache just thinking about it.... (I made a chiropractor appointment for Friday as I overdid it recently with all that digging! Oops...) does anyone want to help? :D
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