Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blog it forward

Recently several of us at P. Garden were interviewed by NENtv for a spot about city street gardens. Adam, the man in charge of such things at NENtv, asked me to write a blog for him in advance of the video that's soon to come.

Actually, to backtrack, he also asked lovely Julia Brashares of the San Francisco Parks Trust to do a blog post first. Here it is:

Getting Dirty in San Francisco

After reading that you will see that you too can become a street gardener! What's stopping you? Go right ahead!

Then today my blog about the beginnings of the garden was published:

Guerrillas in the Garden

I'll be contributing more to their site in coming months. Look out for that!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

OK, so I went to this show on Saturday but I'm writing about it now. It was $20 to get in, and we spent about 2 hours looking around. Here are some pics:

Lots of water featues. Why is this? We're in drought-stricken California! There should be a prize for the best xeriscape! The best rock garden! The best cactus and succulent display! There is the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Society Award – "garden which best demonstrates best practices in sustainable materials, water use and design" but most exhibitors (yes I think all of them) had a huge water aspect - massive pools and fountains and waterfalls. I found this maddening.

More water features. Hundreds of gasping koi swimming around, and not a heron or raccoon in sight to eat them, as in the real world... The garden on the right I quite liked but again its' vast pools make it quite shameful.

Now this was interesting. A giant cube covered in succulents, with a redwood Gothic arch doorway. Now of course it was int he middle of a LAKE of water. And the succulents were Aeoniums and such, which will have grown too big before you know it... not to mention the problem of the North facing ones never getting any sun etc... but the idea was great!

Bonsai! I like a nice miniaturised tree, and there was a good tree-mutilating demo going on. The end results are fab - the tree on the left is a really haggared redwood if I recall. The one the right would be great with a tiny treehouse and a swing! Maybe some stunted squirrels?

Here we have a nice wooden arch - I could see this in the garden if we had room for it. It's like those giant trees you can drive through but smaller. Still impressive! Perhaps you could use it for a tool shed? A place to hide when the in-laws are coming? ;)

And lastly the only permaculture display in evidence to my eye: a tank of (what else?) koi, whose mucky water is pumped up to the top using solar or wind power. That water feeds the vertical veggie garden. the veggies feed the people and the fish I guess. It was a very slick display that was not getting a lot of attention, probably due to the expense of setting it up?

Anyway, I thought it was a bit criminal that there wasn't much of that stuff at the show... many displays had a token line of wilty looking lettuce planted at the base of some flowerbox as their tip 'o the cap to growing your own food, but the vast majority of displays seemed to be ornamental only. And what ornamentals? In the zone dedicated to exciting new plants we find Cordyline "Red Sensation" - available since 1993...? Am I missing something, or is the garden show in a space-time-warp-continuum thingy?

Actually a lot of the show was aimed at the gardener with somewhat conservative taste from what I could tell: rusty metal garden art (for people who can't grow plants, dare I say?) and non-garden stuff (600 thread count sheets? Embroidered art probably made in sweatshops in China?)... I was disappointed. There, I've said it. No Flora Grubb (though her employee Robin was there doing a talk on vertical gardens) and no Sloat Garden Center.  Pout. I bought 2 succulents for my patio but left feeling like I could have spent my extrance fee on some plants at Sloat etc and felt happier. Meh.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What you can get done in 6 hours:

1. Water all the plant sale plants. Using a watering can. Why doesn't the hose reach all the way to the back of the garden? Hateful hose. Must buy another 100' long one.

2. Rearrange same after getting prickled too many times by the drought-loving Agaves at the front, while trying to reach past them to the water-hungry roses at the back.

3. Plant two Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) in the middle back bed.

4. Plant two types of Pelargonium by the wrong way sign. It's hot and dry and the geraniums love it there. And to think I looked askance at geraniums at one time in my life. Hah!

5. Cut back the over-enthusiastic corn marigolds by the brick path.

6. Notice that some Irises I forgot about are flowering, and they're the most wacky combo of lavender/pink and yellow, but that they are right behind the lavender Watsonias so blend right in. Note to self: move 'em!

7. Receive 2 lovely Acanthus mollis (Bear's Breeches) from lovely John and plant one of them behind the bench. Long-held desire: satisfied!

8. Weed, weed, weed.

9. Deadhead, deadhead, deadhead.

10. Chat with Gary. Greg. Frank. Rick. Boj, Michelle and Bundy. And 6 other people whose names I didn't get but who were enjoying the garden heartily!

11. Sort out several Aeoniums for Fumiko.

12. Pot up and Aloe.

13. Water the front bed.

14. Notice new flowers: Cistus, Dianella, Ursinia!

15. Plant Iberis (Candytuft) under the cherry-plums.

16. Move all the plants for the sale left at the front, to the back. Note that 27 pots need to be unpotted/weeded/sorted/repotted. Note that am too tired. Go home. Sit down on couch.

17. Realize you left the car behind. Go back and get it.

Photos from top: Purple shades in the middle back bed. Leptospermum in flower. Irises showing their colors.  Drosanthemum bicolor (Dew Flower.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sun, sun, sun

I zipped out to the garden at lunchtime today to water some plants. Also chatted with Juana and her pups, and met Joe who is involved in all sorts of useful garden-slash-sporting-field-slash-contractorly duties. I intend to make use of that contact for some hardscape action in the garden!

While I was there the bench was occupied by a local employee, and another frequent bench-sitter walked through decided to skip his garden time. C'mon guys - there's room on the bench. Sit down and get to know your neighbor!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A little rain

It rained a bit last night - thank goodness, because otherwise I was going to have to go out and water the Mariposa Center Garden today. Ugh!

Another thing that happened yesterday evening was that I went round to Michele and Carl's place and picked up some plants and cuttings they donated for the plant sale on May 1st! Thanks guys, very much appreciated!

At lunchtime today I went to Center Hardware and procured some wooden stakes using the store credit they gave us to fix up the strip garden opposite them. They mentioned they saw the city worker weedwacking the strip yesterday!

I borrowed a hammer from Gary and went down and put three stakes per plant on the strip, with twine to make a little barrier that I hope will protect the plants a bit from life on the streets. Then I hung two new signs asking people to keep their pets from killing the plants and giving info about this blog.

The newly planted plants all look pretty good - one Lupine is a bit floppy, and the Chasmanthes are done for this year (wait til next year!) so we will cut them back soon.

Job well done, if I do say so myself. :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Plant Profile: Anemone

As if the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) didn't do enough for us gardeners! Some are used as herbal medicines (goldenseal!), spices (Nigella sativa), and then there's the flower power: buttercups, larkspur, Delphinium, Helleborus, Trollius, Clematis, and the subject of today's post Anemone! The particular Anemone we grow in the garden is Anemone coronaria, also called the Poppy Windflower.

Latin name:
Anemone ("ah-NEM-o-nee")
Common name: Windflower
Originally from: North and South temperate zones. Anemone coronaria is native to the Mediterranean.
Blooms: Spring - dormant rest of the year. Flowers in blue, purple, red, white and bicolors above a whorl of 'claw footed' leaves.
Light: Full sun
Water: Some summer water needed, but otherwise our climate is perfect.
Where to find in P. Garden: Blue colored flowers are in with the daffodils by the bench, and red colored flowers are along the path in the bed by the dog run. They are starting to flower in full force this week so be sure to check them out.

UPDATE Sept 2016: All the Anemone died out due to lack of water. I'm afraid they're not drought tolerant.

meeting: please attend!

Will you help with this project? Do you have comments or suggestions?

Please attend our meeting on Monday April 5th at 6pm, at the NABE, 953 De Haro Street.

Please RSVP by emailing Annie at djxjs at yahoo dot com

Strip garden oops...

This morning Matt and I did our usual morning mini-tour: get bagels from Hazel's, walk to the garden, sit on the bench to eat, then trundle down the hill past the new Mariposa Center Garden(opposite Center Hardware). Only today when we got to the strip garden it was clear someone had been there before us.

With a weedwhacker.

What I think happened was a city employee (DPW?) came by to get rid of the weeks usually filling that spot. He found some plants growing there, and carefully weedwhacked around them, bless him. Except one, which he whacked. Little Eriogonum grande rubescens (Red Buckwheat), I hope you find the strength to recover from having all your leaves cut off at ground level, but I'm not holding my breath... :( At the very least, I am sure it was a quick and painless death. (1st pic)

Now on the bright side our mystery weed abatement person did not whack a Lavatera that did not have a stake attached, and was hiding behind a remarkably similar-looking weed (a mallow) which I think is miraculous (2nd pic). And he did completely obliterate the weeds on the opposite side of the hole in the fence, weeds which had grown so tall that I was exhausted just looking at them, and yea, just this last weekend had imagined being razed to the ground by a... weedwhacker. (3rd pic)

Yes, friends, be careful what you wish for! Back in 2003 I wished fervently that I had better posture, as my habit of slouching was not doing a lot for my back. And lo, I fell off my horse and broke my collarbone, ending up in a figure 8 brace for 4 miserable months. Just try slouching in a figure 8 brace! And after 4 months it took a long forever for the tendons and ligaments in my shoulders to stretch out again so I could enjoy a damn good slouch... as I am right now. Ahem!

Anyway, I digress. I'm going to have to get out there ASAP and do several things:

1. Add more stakes to the remaining plants
2. Add more signage (the old sign is illegible)
3. Deposit more rolls of old sod upside down on the newly weedwhacked areas to prevent the weeds coming back.

I am going to have to get down there at lunchtime and try and do this stuff! The last pic shows the remaining plants... hope they survive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Those were the days...

I was looking through some old pics of the garden today and noticed some striking differences between what the garden looked like way back at the beginning, and now!

Here's the left bed, viewed from the arch, in February 2009, and February 2010. I used to put stones I found around the beds but it wasn't a good enough barrier - the Leucadendron at the front entrance died from being peed on by dogs every day :( I replaced it with a much tougher Agave and a Cortaderia, and used twig edging instead.

And here's the sidewalk border, looking down Pennsylvania Avenue, in December 2008 and March 2010. We started out with a few clumps of Agapanthus, divided up and planted far apart. They've really filled in, and the other plants we added helped a lot. We also used to water with buckets brought over from our house. Argh - backbreaking!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend work

Well we had quite a productive weekend in the garden. On Saturday Emily, Josh and I spent several hours preparing plants for our May 1st plant sale. Emily and I both left around 1pm but Josh soldiered on and accomplished a lot! We have loads of plants now potted up and ready to sell, and many, many succulent cuttings getting ready to root. Come on little guys - grow!

I also took more pics of new daffodils that have opened up - I think we are getting to the last few cultivars now, although last year the daffs flowered well into April if I recall. Top to bottom they are "Salome" and "Ice Follies" I think - faded?

For next year I think the typesI'd like to add are yellow with orange cups, double yellows, yellow with white cups, and white with green cups. Then we will have enough daffs. I swear.

On Sunday I met Emily at 8am at the garden, and we worked on the Mariposa Center Garden across from Center Hardware until 10am.We planted:

1 Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
1 Eriogonum grande rubescens (Red Buckwheat)
1 Eriogonum Giganteum var. Giganteum (St. Catherine's Lace)
3 Lupinus albifrons (Silver Bush Lupine)
1 Lupinus densiflorus aureus (Yellow Lupine)
1 Lavatera assurgentiflora (Island Mallow)

We mulched, and then added rolls of sod someone had dumped on the street, grass side down, as a weed barrier (works great!) and also chatted with Juana and her dogs Lucky and Rufus who are always an extremely happy pair. Then we left to go to Flora Grubb Gardens.

Flora, her partner Kevin, and another guy whose name I didn't catch were doing a talk on how to build vertical gardens, using the plastic wall-hanging multi-cell containers they sell (expensively!) Very informative, free talk - the handout is shown at left (with permission) and should be big enough to print out and read if you like. Matt has been trying his hand at making vertical gardens recently - might have some for available at the plant sale!

Later on we returned to the strip garden to water everything in, which is quite a production since our hose doesn't reach all the way down. Just ask Rick who watered the sunflowers last year! If anyone lives in the next door building perhaps we can enlist them to help watering the strip...

We also noted that Gary had re-finished the bench (looking good!) planted a 6 pack of Ajuga reptans "Mahogany" (Bugleweed) near the bench as a ground cover, and applied slug and snail killer to many plants. Phew!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Noise reduction with walls and plants,,1046429-2,00.html

Yet more daffs... and a few other things

Today we have some more lovely daffodils for you! In case you didn't know, daffodils come in many different styles. Plain yellow single flowered types are so old school! There are lots of combinations of long and short trumpets, yellow, pink, orange, white and greens, and even double-flowering types. The style of daffodil we're showcasing today are the types with multiple flowers on each stalk called Tazetta or Triandrus. This site gives a good rundown on the different styles.

At the top is the Tazetta type (multi-flowered, scented)  "Geranium" - lovely and fragrant and just as described on the packet.

Next we have the Triandrus type (multi-flowered, scented, reflexed petals) "White Thalia."

I wonder what happened to my Tazetta "Golden Dawn"? It was supposed to be an all-yellow Tazetta that bloomed very early, but I didn't see it :(

Also by the steps we have the first flowers of some small mystery bulbs planted back in August. I thought they were Muscari, but no! They have revealed themselves to be the Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) which I seem to have planted all on one side of the steps and barely any on the other. Another rearranging task to be undertaken when they are done flowering and the leaves have died back for the year.

Lastly we have a picture of the flowers Emily snipped off several pots of Freesias that Anna donated to the garden recently. We're repotting them, and the flowers would be removed so they conserve their energy anyway, so I added some Osteospermums and Pineapple sage from my patio to make a very fragrant posy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Slugs 5 : Gardeners 1

On the bright side, Annie and I have been making little fairy rings with Cory's slug death around slug-susceptible plants, and it works. Check out the newly emerged dahlia (photo1). However, plants we did not realize required our protection are getting destroyed, such as the Coreopsis tinctoria "Mahogany" with no leaves (photo2)! A dangerously close to expiring Lupinus regalis 'Gallery Yellow' was finally put in the ground today in the red bed. To end with some good news, the Aquilegia chysantha 'Yellow Queen' has shot up a regal flower.

Also, many thanks to Anna, who generously donated dozens of plants to the garden yesterday! Annie and I picked up the plants yesterday, and were overwhelmed by all of the wonderful plants she had to donate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interesting read

A Vision For Transforming San Francisco’s “Unaccepted Streets”
by Matthew Roth on September 24, 2009

How to get a street accepted by the city

This document was forwarded to Ed P. by Barbara Moy at DPW:

Background on Acceptance of Streets and Roadway Structures

There are a variety of roadway structures in the City’s right-of-way, such as stairways and retaining walls, as well as alleys and cul-de-sacs. Most of these roadway structures were built by the City and therefore are maintained by the City. These structures are listed in the Department of Public Works (DPW) database (RSIS). However, there are other roadway structures that were built by private individuals, developers, or neighborhood associations. These roadway structures are considered private and are not maintained by DPW.

Private Street: A private street is a privately owned and maintained access path provided for by a tract, easement, or other legal means, typically serving three or more potential dwelling units. Private streets are not under DPW’s regulatory jurisdiction.
Public Street: A public street is a publicly owned access path that includes the roadway and all other improvements within the right-of-way. Public streets are under DPW’s regulatory jurisdiction. A public street can be either an Accepted Street or an Unaccepted Street.
Accepted Street: Accepted Streets are public streets that the City is responsible for maintaining (e.g., street sweeping, pothole repair, resurfacing). However, the property owner remains responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of his/her property.
Unaccepted Street: Unaccepted Streets do not meet the City’s engineering design standards for City streets and are not maintained by the City.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is my street accepted for maintenance by the City?
A: You can find out by calling DPW Bureau of Street Use and Mapping at (415) 554-5810.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining an unaccepted street?
A: Under the Public Works Code Article 90 and State law, the property owner is responsible for maintaining the portion of the unaccepted street in front of his/her property up to the center of the street. State law prohibits the City from using gas tax money on unaccepted streets. In addition, DPW is prohibited from using any general fund money on unaccepted streets.

Q: How does a street become an accepted street?
A: In order for a public street to become an accepted street, an Ordinance must be passed by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor. The Ordinance to accept a specific street would be based on the recommendation of the DPW Director, and certification by the City Engineer that confirms the street meets the City’s engineering design standards.

Q: What are the City’s engineering design standards?
A: Please see the following pages.

Procedure and Standards for Acceptance of Stairways and Retaining Walls

The original developers or adjacent property owners constructed the stairway or retaining wall at their own expense and then requested the City Engineer to certify it for City maintenance. They must submit an individual request for each structure in writing. The City will evaluate the structure and determine the acceptance through the following steps:

1. To see if a particular street structure is City-owned or not, please call 558-4000 (DPW Bureau of Engineering).

2. If there is no documentation that the structure was accepted by the City, the structure may be accepted if the following requirements are met:

● The structure is located in the public right-of-way; and

● The stairway and/or retaining wall were constructed in accordance with, but not limited to, the latest edition of the San Francisco Building Code, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design; and

● The structure is in good condition with a condition assessment score of 70 or above (100 being a perfect score). If the structure is not in good condition (has a condition assessment score of 69 or below), the current owner will need to make the necessary repairs to bring the condition of the structure to a score to 90 or above before the City will consider accepting the structure for maintenance.

3. If the structure meets all requirements listed in Item 2 above, the City Engineer prepares a DPW order for review and approval by the Director of Public Works. Next, the Director of Public Works transmits legislation to the Board of Supervisors. Upon review of the ordinance which lists each structure that has been recommended for acceptance, the Board of Supervisors approves the list of structures for maintenance by the Department of Public Works.

Procedure for Acceptance of Streets, Alleys and Cul-de-sacs

1. Write a letter to the Director of Public Works.
2. DPW staff will investigate if the street meets the City’s engineering design standards.
3. The City Engineer may certify that the street meets City standards and the DPW Director will recommend that the Board of Supervisors pass an Ordinance to accept the street.
4. If the street does not meet City standards, a letter summarizing the deficiencies will be sent back to you.
5. If you want to pursue the acceptance of your street, you will have to correct any deficiencies.

Alternative financing available for property owners to construct improvements to bring streets, stairways, and retaining walls to city standards for city acceptance of future maintenance:

1. Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 allows any county, city, special district, school district or joint powers authority to establish a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District (CFD) which allows for financing of public improvements and services. The services and improvements that Mello-Roos CFDs can finance include streets and structures within the streetscape. The improvements directly impact the quality of life for properties within the CFD.
Formation of a CFD requires a two-thirds majority vote of residents living within the proposed boundaries. Once approved, a Special Tax Lien is placed against each property within the CFD. Property owners then pay this tax each year for up to 25 years.
2. Community Improvement Districts: A CID is formed when property owners in a proposed district voluntarily agree to a special assessment in order to finance services and capital improvements over and above those already provided by the City. CBDs are a proven strategy to sustain commercial corridor improvement activities. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) allow local business owners to come together to conduct a range of activities that benefit their neighborhoods: Street maintenance and security, marketing and promotion, economic development, retail recruitment, and developing parking facilities and public amenities.

The majority of property owners must agree to an annual assessment for capital or maintenance work to be conducted by either the City (above existing commitments) or through contractors hired by the District. The assessment is then placed on the property’s tax rolls and distributed according to the District’s governing policies.

3. Up Front Assessment: Fronting property owners agree to assess themselves for the cost to improve facilities to City standards for City acceptance of future maintenance. The major distinction between the first two funding strategies is the ongoing nature of the CID. Presently, CIDs have been limited to commercial area.

City Standards Applicable to Alleys that are less than 40-ft wide, Cul-de-Sacs or Dead-End Streets

The City’s engineering design standards are listed in the Subdivision Regulations (DPW Order No. 124,677 – approved on January 6, 1982). The major requirements are listed below:

• Alleys (less than 40 feet wide) shall have a maximum paved width of 25 feet.
• Cul-de-sacs (dead-end streets) shall not be longer than 600 feet and shall terminate in a paved circular turn-around with a minimum diameter of 60 feet.
• Curbs are required on both sides of paved roadways, and along cul-de-sacs.
• A sidewalk of at least 4 feet in width is required on both sides. An alley or cul-de-sac with a sidewalk on only one side may be allowed only by a variance to these regulations.
• The roadway pavement shall consist of at least 2 inches of asphalt concrete over 8 inches of concrete base.
• Street grades shall be less than 17%, except for under unusual conditions.
• Streets shall be graded to provide a continuous downhill path for surface drainage.
• For streets with grades less than 1%, concrete gutters are required. The minimum width required is 2 feet.
• Streets shall have necessary improvements such as catch basins, manholes, sewers, side sewers, culverts, storm drains, sanitary sewers, etc.; water supply for fire protection, and alarm facilities as approved by the Fire Department; and street lighting facilities as approved by the Public Utilities Commission Bureau of Light, Heat and Power.

City Standards Applicable to Main Thoroughfares that are wider than 80-ft (4 traffic lanes) Secondary Streets that are 50-ft and wider (2 traffic lanes)

The City’s engineering design standards are listed in the Subdivision Regulations (DPW Order No. 124,677 – approved on January 6, 1982). The major requirements are listed below:

• Main thoroughfares shall have a minimum paved width of 60-ft.
• Secondary streets shall have a minimum paved width of 34-ft.
• Curbs are required on both sides of the paved roadway.
• A sidewalk, of at least 4-ft in width, is required on both sides of the street.
• Roadway pavement section shall consist of at least 2 inches of asphalt concrete over 8 inches of concrete base.
• Street grades shall be less than 17%, except under unusual conditions.
• Streets shall be graded to provide a continuous downhill path for surface drainage.
• For streets with grades less than 1%, a minimum 2-foot wide concrete gutter is required.
• Streets shall have necessary improvements such as catch basins, manholes, sewers, side sewers, culverts, storm drains, sanitary sewers, etc.; water supplies for fire protection and alarm facilities as approved by the Fire Department; and street lighting facilities as approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Bureau of Light, Heat and Power.

City Standards Applicable to Minor Streets that are 40 to 50-ft wide (1 traffic lane in each direction)

The City’s engineering design standards are listed in the Subdivision Regulations (DPW Order No.
124,677 – approved on January 6, 1982).

The major requirements are listed below:
• Minor streets shall have a minimum paved width of 26 feet.
• Curbs are required on both sides of the paved roadway.
• A sidewalk, of at least 4 feet in width, is required on both sides of the street.
• Roadway pavement section shall consist of at least 2 inches of asphalt concrete over 8
inches of concrete base.
• Street grades shall be less than 17%, except under unusual conditions.
• Streets shall be graded to provide a continuous downhill path for surface drainage.
• For streets with grades less than 1%, a minimum 2-foot wide concrete gutter is required.
• Streets shall have necessary improvements such as catch basins, manholes, sewers, side sewers,
culverts, storm drains, sanitary sewers, etc.; water supplies for fire protection and alarm facilities as approved by the Fire Department; and street lighting facilities as approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Bureau of Light, Heat and Power.

Reference Codes, Ordinances & Regulations Regarding Street Maintenance

• California Streets & Highways Code Section 1806
• California Professional Engineers Act (California Business and Professions Code Sections 6700 et seq.)
• California Subdivision Map Act Government Code Title 7, Division 2, commencing with Section 66410
• San Francisco Public Works Code Sections 2.4.4(t), 706, 937, 940, 941, and Article 9
• San Francisco Administrative Code Section 1.52 and Chapter 31
• San Francisco Subdivision Code Section 1311
• San Francisco General Plan’s Transportation Element, Urban Design Element and applicable Area Plan(s)
• San Francisco Traffic Code
• San Francisco Ordinance 163-75 and amendments to it
• San Francisco Ordinance 2250
• DPW Subdivision Regulations, adopted by as Public Works Order 124,677, January 6, 1982

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Plant profile: Watsonia

Plants come in a huge variety of forms – shrubs, vines, trees and so on. I have a fondness for tall, spiky types, and they get extra points if they have lovely flowers. Watsonias fit the bill – they have tall and spiky leaves, they flower in early spring when not much else is going on, they’re evergreen, perennial, and they don’t need much help to do well. They do like fairly rich soil, but aside from that they're a nice, tough plant.
They are well adapted to our Mediterranean climate, and grow from corms – you can divide them every 3-5 years and give them to friends. We got a big clump from Matt’s mum a year ago and it’s flowering with lovely lavender flowers for the first time now, in the left bed. I’m hoping to divide that clump in two next fall, and move the red and white clumps to better spots soon too.

Latin name: Watsonia ("watt-SO-nee-ee-ah")
Common name: Bugle Lily
Originally from: southern Africa
Blooms: In Spring long stalks hold up small lily-like flowers in lavender/pink, red, orange or white
Light: Full sun please!
Water: Rain is plenty.
Where to find in P. Garden: There’s a big clump of the lavender colored type in the red bed, and also a white and a red behind the Wrong Way sign. I don’t know the species we have, but hope to find out.

Watsonia is a genus in the Iridaceae family of 52 species from southern Africa named after Sir William Watson, an 18th century British botanist. The genus was introduced as a garden ornamental to Australia in 1907 and was widespread by the 1940s. Species are centered in the southwestern Cape of South Africa but extend north into Namaqualand and east into the summer rainfall areas of eastern South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Many are quite tall (4’+) with fans of sword-shaped leaves and spikes of showy (often many) flowers.

A few species have become aggressive weeds in Australia, New Zealand, and California, especially Watsonia meriana var. bulbillifera.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Plant-A-Thon Part 2

First thing today I drove to West Portal to pick up some succulent cuttings from lovely Craigslister Christine O. Back at the garden I potted up quite a few of them, and planted others directly in the ground - mostly Cotyledon orbiculataAnna was at the garden when I arrived, and we later went to look at some plants being donated for the plant sale in May which she's offered to propagate for the sale. How nice is that?

To backtrack a bit, on Thursday I was traveling through Richmond and, like Emily recently, was sucked right into Annie's Annuals. I picked up three Silver Bush Lupines (Lupinus chamissonis) for the Canter Hardware Strip Garden, and for P. Garden I got:

Delosperma lavisiae (a pink-flowering ground cover succulent)
Cephalophyllum pillansii (similar, but with lemon yellow flowers)
Athanasia pinnata (a 4' wide, 6' tall feathery shrub with yellow flowers in spring)

Today I went out and planted the latter 3. I also met a big group of neighbors from the Rebuild Potrero scheme, who were interested in the garden and wanted to pick my brain on how it all started. Hope they found my babbling useful!

Photo above shows the lovely purple flowers of our Drosanthemum striatum behind the magenta-rimmed rosettes of an Aeonium haworthii. In the background are a Crassula tetragona and Aeonium "Zwartkop."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Plant-A-Thon Part 1

Can you ever go over-board buying plants? The answer is no, and subsequently we have quite a few lovely additions to the garden today! There are so many, this post will benefit from a list:

1. Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow": yellow burgundy bed on the cactus wall side, closer to the arch than the other Aquilegia.

2. Scabiosa atropurpurea "Scarlet": middle of red bed.

3. Achillea millefolium var. rubra "Rosy Red" : middle of red bed

4. Linaria reticula "Flamenco": red bed in front-right of mexican hyssop

5. Papaver lacianatum "Crimson Feathers": red bed, towards the iranian poppy!

6. Coreopsis tinctoria "Mahogany" (Calliopsis): red by by magenta phormium. Oh I can not wait!

More plants are in the wings waiting for their staging!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Plant profile: Echeveria "Blue Curls"

Is that a cabbage you spy at P. Garden? Nope – it’s a succulent. And what an amazing one! The colors glow in a rainbow of shades on every plant – it’s stunning, and one of my favorites.

Latin name: Echeveria ("ek-eh-VAIR-ee-ah")
Common name: Echeveria "Blue Curls"
Originally from: Mexico
Blooms: In summer, long stalks of red-pink flowers are produced.
Light: Likes part shade at P. Garden (the cactus wall is too hot for it)
Water: Rain is plenty.
Soil: Well drained
USDA zones: 9b-11
Where to find in P. Garden: In the middle front bed.

Atanasio Echeverría y Godoy was an eighteenth century Mexican botanical artist and naturalist. He accompanied Martin de Sessé y Lacasta (1751-1808) and Mariano Mociño Suárez de Figueroa (1763-1819) in their expedition through Mexico, with the goal of creating an inventory of the fauna and flora of the country.

Named for the Spanish botanist, Echeveria is a genus of rosette producing succulents that come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. A few have decorative markings on the leaves, which can be flat and heart shaped, sometimes with wavy edges or bumpy surfaces, or thick and ovoid with pointed tips. Some have smooth leaves and others are fuzzy. Many hybrids abound in cultivation and the one we’re showcasing today is called “Blue Curls” for obvious reasons!

Some sources list Harry Butterfield as the breeder of this beautiful plant but others attribute it to Frank Reinelt. Harry Butterfield, was a known hybridizer of Echeveria. An article in the CSSA Journal titled "Echeverias for the Fancier" was about a talk Butterfield gave to the California Cactus and Succulent Society on Nov. 8, 1953 where he reviewed the known species and hybrids of Echeveria (unfortunately without mentioning "Blue Curls"). Butterfield was also known to have created several named hybrids of Echeveria gibbiflora, which would be one of the presumed parents of "Blue Curls". Mr. Reinelt, who operated Vetterle and Reinelt Nursery in Capitola, California, was more famous for his primrose, begonia and delphiniums but also worked with succulent plants. This hybrid is noted as the sister seedling to another well known cultivar, "Blue Waves," which has less crinkly leaves.

UPDATE: someone stole our examples of this plant from the garden, but I still recommend it for a safer spot.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Slimy nasties: 0 Me: 8

Yesterday I bought the aptly-named slug poison Corry's Slug and Snail Death from the hardware store. Admittedly there was zero choice of products there, but I found the name of the product to be highly appealing after the pain of seeing my little Mangave pup lose 2 of it's 4 leaves in one night. I'd sprinkled it liberally around the pup yesterday and today I was cackling with joy to see 7 slug corpses at the base of the plant, plus one snail.

I went around adding slug killer to various other plants and felt victorious, musing that if they did a TV ad they could show gardeners dancing on the graves of slugs and snails, and how the general populace would find this weird and slightly disgusting, but that gardeners would instantly get it.

Some of you suggested beer traps for the garden, but with the homeless population around here they might end up attracting another kind of nuisance! The biodegradable Sluggo is another product option, but apparently it disappears after rain. Apparently the type of slug killer I bought is not really bad for the environment anyway, so I think it'll work.

I also did a few other tasks:

- Trimmed plants in the sidewalk bed
- Weeded on the succulent slope (looking good back there, gradually!)
- Moved a Graptoveria out from under an Aeonium and over to a better spot (the pinkish plant in this pic)
- Deadheaded daffodils
- Trimmed the dead leaves off various Yuccas
- Tidied up the Yarrows, Scabiosa and the Salvia argentea

I also chatted with Anna, Rick and Gary. Lovely day to be out and about!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Princess Plant lives to flower another day

The original Princess Plant (Tibouchina urvilleana) was slated for termination today due to a disastrous split trunk caused by wind damage, but luckily Leah was at the garden today and declared her savable, but only if the plant underwent a radical operation. Naturally Leah was ready to perform that operation on the spot, and had the tools to do it.
To the left you can see the before, during and after pics - don't look if you're squeamish about the sight of a plant having 80% of itself chopped off!

Happily this plant has proved to be a tough old bird in the past, and currently has several strong shoots growing from the base. I expect they will grow up quickly and fill in to make a much healthier and stronger plant in a year or less.

Other things that got done today (with help from Matt)  included a great deal of pruning (by Leah - photo essay to come), staking of a tipped over Hakea suaveolens, cutting back and planting the resulting cuttings of the Tree Dahlia, weeding of the succulent slope and cactus wall, and daffodil deadheading.

The demise of the Princess Plant *sob!*

It is my sad duty to report that the Princess Plant (Tibouchina urvilleana) in the center of the garden has suffered a nasty accident. Looks like the wind tore it loose from it's stake and the main trunk has a horrible crack right through it (left.)

This was the first plant at the garden that piqued my interest in the entire project, and was placed there by Jim and Carrie. It's very sad that the old girl is damaged, and while she is an important part of the garden I don't think she will survive. I fear her fate is to be dug out and replaced with something else, as that much damage will kill her, or at the very least result in some very weak growth. As it is, she endured a hard pruning because she had a similar crack last year, but her trunk was just not strong enough in the end.

Please stop by and pay your respects before she is removed to the happy garden in the sky. :(

Friday, March 5, 2010

More daffodils

The daffs continue to come up: a few new cultivars are in bloom now!

Photos show, top to bottom:
"Barret Browning?"
"Ice Follies"
"White Lion"

There's also a nice view of the steps and all the daffs there, with Matt sitting on the bench, below.

So far all the daffs look fantastic. Some of them ended up being more gaudy in person than they looked in their pictures, but they're all welcome additions to the scene in late winter.

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