Sunday, August 30, 2009

Less scorching

20 degrees colder today - perfect gardening weather! I managed to get out there at about 8am and had to leave at 10.30 to go to the Potrero Hill Garden Club brunch, cruelly leaving Josh planting cacti. I came back later and he had picked up all the weeds and trimmings I'd left in the paths too - thanks Josh!

The afternoon session was about 3 hours total. In all, we planted about 30 cactus cuttings of various columnar types, several Aeoniums, an Opuntia with very long pads, and I deadheaded the Cannas, as well as managing to arrange all my tools in the locked shed, getting them out of the compost heap or strewn in the back of my car where they have been for months. Then I watered the cactus wall and the baby Arctotis, and sloped off home.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


First mistake of the day: deciding to start gardening at 11am when it was already 85 degrees out. Second mistake: not wearing a Camelbak of iced coffee!

Smart Josh started at 10am (!) when it was presumably a few degrees cooler, and weeded and mulched like a trooper. I barely walked to the top of the garden and had to have a sit down! I'm so grateful to Josh (and patient pup Cosmo!) for helping me in the searing heat today. What a guy!

I planted a bunch of Agaves, Aloes and Opuntias on the succulent slope, and the gorgeous Kalanchoe tomentosa  (Chocolate Soldier) that Dino and Jason gave me in the top middle bed. In order to make room for the Kalanchoe I moved a clump of grass I can't ID right now to the red bed. I also planted loads of small Arctotis I grew from seed my dad sent me by the Wrong Way sign. Good luck little guys!

I also pruned and watered the bamboo, sprayed the succulent slope, tidied the Kniphofias and did a bit of weeding. One of the red California poppies had its first flower - excellent orangey red color. Emily and her sister Sabrina (from tropical Portland) dropped by too - a pair of dyed-in-the-wool gardeners.

I didn't get everything done that I wanted to but I was overheated, and had to stop around 2.30pm. I'll start early tomorrow like a sensible person.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

For Pulgita

Today was a sad one - my little cat suffered a blood clot that cost her her life very early this morning. After we returned from the vet in a state of deep gloom I decided to spend a little recuperative time in the garden. I picked up some bright, sassy, not to say garish flowers to plant in her honor.

- Pelargonium x domesticum (Geranium) "Martha Washington" - it's very deep purple.
- Marigolds - 6 deep red ones
- Verbascum hybridum (Mullein) "Banana Custard"
- Lantana camera x monetvidensis "Gold Mound" - 2

Got them in the ground, threw a few buckets of water on them, and retreated to the house to ponder the mystery that is death.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Plant profile: Linum grandiflorum "Rubrum"

Well this is one flower you can't miss in P. Garden right now! I threw around a packet of seeds Joan gave me in the red bed back in mid-April. I waited and waited, then I gave up and got on with life. Suddenly clumps of feathery foliage came up and I recognized it as my flax before I weeded it out. And here we are in August and wow - check 'em out!

Latin name: Linum grandiflorum "Rubrum"  ("LINE-um grand-ee-FLOR-um ROOB-rum")
Common name: Scarlet Flax, Red Flax
Originally from: North Africa and Southern Europe.
Blooms: RED! And lots of 'em - each flower only lasts a day but there are so many you'd never know it.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Pretty drought tolerant.
Where to find in P. Garden: In the red bed, naturally. Hopefully they self-seed and next year they'll be all over the place.

This is a tough little annual - flax comes in a nice light blue, and yellow too (must get some) - and though I don't favor annuals here due to their short life and extra work, I can make an exception in this case as the results are so stunning.

The flax genus has 200 species, of which the common flax is used to make linen and linseed oil.

UPDATE July 2016: We had a few of these come back in the years following this initial post in 2009, but I think you'd want to chuck seeds out every year for a good display. Totally worth it - they're really easy to grow and make a lovely drift of red.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Donation moratorium

Today John came over with some plants donated by Channing. What great guys these two friends are - they give me plants and then thank me for taking them! No guys - thank YOU!

I am so, so backed up on planting but I put in 4 hours and managed to do the following:

- Planted 2 Kalanchoes, 2 Aeoniums, several small succulents, a dozen asters, two rows of Agapanthus and a Mock Orange (Philadelphus) "Belle Etoile."
- Moved several wheelbarrows of mulch
- Watered the cactus wall and steps.
- Weeded.
- Moved a couple plants around and asked them nicely not to die on me.
- Watered the lavender hedge.

And I still have 17,642 plants waiting to be planted. Aaahhh! So I have decided to call a moratorium on plant donations for a few weeks until I can get caught up. I feel really bad because I love getting donations and hate to disappoint people, but it's awful if plants have to sit around waiting to get planted - they do suffer. If you have a plant for the garden, just email me at djxjs at yahoo dot com and we can figure the best time to donate it so I can get it in the ground ASAP. Thanks :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's always sunny in Potrero Hill

Today didn't start very sunny, but it became sunny. It's always sunny here, eventually. I went round to John's house early, had a nosey round his garden, and he gave me plants! Good start to the day :)
Then Matt and I went to help the Potrero Hill Garden Club folks plant the "Triangle Garden" above P. Garden. Planted a dozen gallon containers and popped off for lunch. Left, from left to right: Me, Joni and Tally. Photo by Janet C.

After that I toddled back to P. Garden and planted the following, helped by the ever cheerful and hardworking flower gardener Emily, and later by John too! We got a lot done - I do enjoy gardening with these folks.

Lilliums (several)
Scilla bulbs (hundreds - along the steps)
Daffodils (dozens)
Astelia - one massive clump of silvery goodness (from John - below left)
Lavendula (Lavender) - a mystery plant left in a trash bag at the garden this week
Opuntia - a big cutting
Phormium - big, red, happy and spiky (from John - above left)
Phormium - small, multicolored one all shriveled up and desperate for love, rescued from a bad situation
Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) from John
And despite all that I am still behind in planting stuff. Ack! I may have to call a moratorium on plant donations until I am caught up.
In other news Kepa and Steve came by and I gave Kepa one of Dino and Jason's apple trees from last week. Then I saw Dino and also Gary and we had some nice chats. A guy called (I think) JC dropped by to give compliments and a $5 donation. Thanks!

And hey look! The ginger is flowering! I can ID it now - Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) It smells delicious, and it has two fat new shoots. I might move it closer to the front of the bed for next year so everyone can smell it

Friday, August 21, 2009

Garden Tour!

Take the Potrero Hill Garden Club Tour in support of Potrero Hill Library!

The Potrero Hill Garden Tour is coming up on September 13th, in support of the Library. P. Garden is on the route, so come on out and see what's happening! I'll be there to try to answer your garden-related questions* using my top-notch database of gardening inexperience.

Tickets are $25 or $40 for a pair, and you can buy them from me (email djxjs at yahoo dot com ) or at M&M Market on DeHaro Street, Christopher's Books or Farley's Coffee.

Click on the images above to see the route of the tour.

*Non garden-related questions too. Why not!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Plant profile: Buddleja

The roughly 100 species of Buddleja are mostly shrubs, a few being trees; the largest species get to 30m tall, but most species are much smaller.

The plant was named after a seventeenth-century amateur botanist and rector named Reverend Adam Buddle, who was honored posthumously when the first butterfly bush reached Britain in 1774. (Additional note from my Pa: "...the common garden toughie B. davidii was sent to Kew in 1887 from Shanghai by Henry, an Irish custom official and named after Pere David. Its success as a weed on neglected ground and on roofs of building and tops of walls is amazing. It does not need soil!!!!")

Latin name: Buddleja (pronounced "BUD-lee-ah") often spelled Buddleia
Common name: Buddleja, Butterfly Bush
Originally from: The New World from the southern United States south to Chile, and in the Old World in Africa and the warmer parts of Asia.
Blooms: All shades of purple and also white are commonly seen, with red, orange and yellow ones being available too. All are rich in nectar and often strongly scented.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Pretty drought tolerant.
Height x width: 6'x10'
Zones: 5-10
Where to find in P. Garden: There are two in the red bed: "Ellen’s Blue." above, and a lighter purple one in that Joan gave us (below).  An unusual Buddleja we have added is Buddleja x weyeriana "Honeycomb" - it will have round orangey-yellow flowers, and it's in the left bed.

Butterflies, bees and moths love this plant, and you can smell its scent wafting in the breeze. Lovely. Ours get cut back hard in the winter and come back in spring to flower on new growth.

Note that these are considered massively invasive weeds in some parts of the world so take that into account.

UPDATE December 2015:
After 4 years of drought and the ravages of the light brown apple moth (the only plants in the garden to be affected) these plants were looking awful. We removed 2 out of the three Buddlejas, and will remove the third too. With slightly more water than zero, these guys would be a super tough, butterfly attracting mega-shrub.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Many hands make light(ish) work!

Saturday was a volunteer day and I got a LOT of help, and a LOT done as a result!

First came Josh. He and I have chatted via email and he brought with him some great plants: Bromeliads (Aechmea), Aeoniums and poppy seeds of some exotic red/purple type! Not only that but he planted the bromeliads on the spot. Being the cheeky type I asked if he'd help me rearrange the rear succulent bed and boy did he ever! We removed about 8 plants and replanted them in better spots, as well as adding Opuntias and Agaves. It looks about a million times better, as you can see from the before and after, above. Then his partner Andrew came by with their parrot Dexter and dog whose name begins with a "C" but I can't remember it due to being bowled over by his cute spaniel-ish ways! After that, Josh planted a Mahonia aquifolium and did some weeding. Awesome.

Rick came by and ferried a lot of water down to the sunflowers, which I know is a real pain. I feel horrifically guilty for planting them down the block, and grateful to Rick for tending to them. They are looking amazing though... I must get some photos of them. I also prepared the rest of the lavender hedge area for his lavenders, and watered the entire hedge.

Next came Billie who got stuck in to the weeding and also Maria who did the same, both filling an entire wheelbarrow with weeds. Rock on! Finding knowledgeable weeders is hard: it's not fun work all the time, so I really appreciate anyone who can pull weeds :)

Stalwart plant hunter John also dropped by with some exotic Opuntias. I made him plant one right away as unless I do things like that I will never stop having plants to plant. On the other hand, what a nice problem to have!

So between all this, chats with Sage, Robert, and Gary, and watering, deadheading, weeding, and all that stuff... it was a busy day!

Sunday was a little quieter: I arrived in the garden to find some lovely big lavenders from Rick waiting in the shade of a tree! I had one Lavandula stoechas "Boysenberry Ruffles" (Spanish Lavender) from the Lowes sale rack and that, combined with the many Lavandula pannata var. buchii (Jagged Lavender) and other unlabeled (probably French) lavenders combined to make exactly the right number to complete the hedge!

I immediately dug holes and planted them and voila! (above) ! I must say I think it looks great, and when the lavenders grow it will be quite a sight (and scent) to behold. Thanks Rick for your fantastic donation!

Then I moved some mulch, deadheaded Cannas, Dianthus, Osteospermums, and admired our Scarlet Flax (Linum grandoflorum var. rubrum, left) , and was in the middle of planting a row of gorgeous ginger roots sneakily left in the garden the night before by Kepa (thanks Kepa!) when Dino and Jason came over to ask if I wanted some plants. I was reticent - I am backed up on planting but my simple greed and excitement overcame that pretty quickly as I remembered the amazing Haemanthus bulbs they gave me before.

Pretty soon they were wheeling handcarts full of containers over to the garden - and gorgeous big ones at that! I don't have exact IDs on all of them but they included a nice big Crassula "Golum", a large Kalanchoe tomentosa (Panda Ears or Chocolate Soldier)
Aeoniums, big tall lilies of some type underplanted with Muscari and daffodil bulbs and two actual apple trees. These last two sadly may need to be rehomed as I explained to them Caltrans' rules about trees and edibles, but the rest are fantastic and I am going to place them carefully for best effect. Thanks guys! What a treat!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coming up

This week has been pretty quiet what with moving house. I had some great help from Leah on Sunday though: she brought lots of plants and helped me plant them (plus some asters (Callistephus chinensis) grown from seed by me), as well as weeding, trimming and all the other stuff she's good at.

The Potrero Hill Garden Tour is coming up on September 13th, in support of the Library. P. Garden is on the route, so I'm going a little nuts trying to get everything tidy for that. Inevitably such a young garden is not going to look as good as a more established one but hopefully it still inspires people to give gardening a go! Tickets are $25 or $40 for a pair, and you can buy them at Christopher's Books or Farley's Coffee.

Also worth checking out is this note from a neighboring edibles garden:

Slow Food USA is sponsoring an Eat IN to support healthy food in schools on September 7th. These are happening all across the country, over 230 locations so far. Our little garden at 18th and Rhode Island will be one of them. I would like to invite all of you to come share lunch with us in support of healthy food in schools.

More info can be found at

Finally, this Saturday is a volunteer day. From 12-2pm you can come join in with a little weeding, mulching, digging, etc so come on out! I could use a hand. Or 6 :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Moon over P. Garden

Last night the moon and clouds converged behind the P. Garden arch to create a stunning picture. Sadly my camera phone was not up to the task of preserving the moment but you get the idea (left).

Leah left me some plants yesterday. I popped out this morning to see water some needy plants, see what she'd left and rub my hands together while cackling in glee. Aeoniums, Phormiums (variegated!), violets and some citrus fertilizer! Someone (Leah?) also left three lovely looking Kalanchoe luciae (Flapjack Plants) at the front. I have long wanted some of these, so thank you Leah and/or whoever you are!

I have a big backlog of plants to plant right now, and am still moving house late into the night each day. It has to end soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Escape to the garden

Between priming, painting, sanding, and other new-house-related DIY projects, I am a bit busy. I did make an escape to the garden last night so I could enjoy standing still for a minute, and breathing in the scent of roses instead of the scent of flat interior latex paint in "Tapenade"... (Did you know Fregosi Paint on Pennsylvania Ave will give you a 25% discount if you have a copy of the Potrero View with you? I made use of this - twice!)

Due to recurrent trips to Lowes for other DIY items, and the magnetic draw of their plant department, I had two light yellow Osetospermums to plant in the left bed. Tucked them in, had a chat with Gary. Reluctantly went back to painting...

Incidentally, while at Lowes I saw two shopping carts piled with flats of annuals, all crushed on top of each other. I asked an employee and found that they were being thrown out (underwatered, dropped, or otherwise shopworn plants) and they could not give them away. Even to a community garden. What a daft policy. If I had the time or energy I'd go dive in their dumpster to retrieve these perfectly good plants!

I did get two plants from their sale rack: a 1 gallon Spanish lavender and a 1 gallon Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape) so now I have an excuse to go plant them this week.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend mularkey

Let's see here... weekend roundup: I've been moving house so getting to the computer has been sporadic. Timelines may be a tad off here too!

Planted some Agave parryi, Agave filifera, and such on the succulent slope. Anna left me some Agapanthus - some are white ones. Hurrah! :)

Came outside to find both wine barrel planters had been tipped over, rolled into the middle of the street (dirt everywhere) and then rolled back. Attempted theft, abandonment, retrieval by someone else? Whoever it was then (probably) went on the steal all the wheels off a car parked in front - left it up on bricks. And likely put a chair that had been on the sidewalk up in a tree a few yards away too...

Went to Lowes for house moving supplies and wire rope and bolts to fasten the planters to the arch. Came home with a dozen Gazanias. Planted them in the front bed. Replanted the wine barrels and swept the street. Feh.

Went to Lowes again, but came home with a Pennisetum setaceum "Rubrum" for the left bed :) Planted an Arctotis "Peachy Mango" by the Wrong Way sign, and several succulents too, from Leah. Watered the cactus bed and front bed. Emily left me a lovely yellow Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos)!

The garden got some praise this week too: a random guy stopped me on the street to say how much he likes it, and our new neighbor started talking about the garden and saying how great it was before I interjected to tell her, blush, oh... that was our work... :D
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