Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday watering

Matt went out and watered the garden today, while I was at a horse show! Thanks Matt :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Boarded up

Today, with lots to do today Matt and I only managed a couple hours work in the garden. We decided to get rid of the pile of redwood planks on the lower path, and moved them down to the Mariposa Center Garden.

We weeded the entire area, and placed the planks along the back edge, up against the fence, held in place with wooden stakes. They'll prevent mulch and dirt slipping under the fence and rolling away downhill. See first pic.

After that we went up to the garden and noticed that Gary has put up the sign Jim donated, on the info board Ron made. Second pic shows the finished article.

After that we spent some time looking at the back slope and discussing various options for terracing, fencing and so on. We were lucky enough to receive news this week that we got an ENPB Fund grant awarded to us, so we can finally make some hardscape improvements. I'm elated!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Plant profile: Cortaderia

Popular in the 1970s as garden features, a fat clump of C. selloana in particular, commonly known as Pampas Grass, was planted like a giant, fluffy island in the middle of many a lawn at that time, spreading via seeds to other neighbors and creating ill will in many a community. They're experiencing a resurgence in popularity now, with new variegated species available - prettier, and less rampant!

Latin name: Cortaderia ("kor-ta-DEER-ee-ah")
Common name: Pampas Grass
Originally from: Cortaderia is a genus of 20-25 species of grasses, native to South America (15-20 species), New Zealand (four species) and New Guinea (one species).
Blooms: Late summer brings tall, off-white feathery spikes that will last for many months.  Some cultivars have pinkish "feathers."
Light: Full sun
Water: Rain is plenty. Very tough indeed.
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 8'-10' x 36"-48"
USDA Zones: 7a-10b
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left and brights beds we have several C. selloana "Silver Comet" - a nice variegated cultivar.
Where to find at PRG: Several clumps of  C. selloana "Gold Band" and C. selloana "Silver Comet" live along PRG.

The name Cortaderia comes from the Spanish word for cutting, because the leaf edges in Cortaderia species are painfully serrated – don’t run your hands through the leaves! C. selloana was named by Alexander von Humboldt in 1818, after the German botanist and naturalist Friedrich Sellow, who studied the flora of South America, especially that of Brazil. This species was introduced to Europe and North America as an ornamental grass, and, to a lesser extent, to provide food for grazing animals. The feathery flower head plumes, when dried, are widely used in flower arrangements and other ornamental displays.

Pampas Grass is highly adaptable and can grow in a wide range of environments and climates. As mentioned above, it also seeds prolifically, with each plant able to produce over 1 million seeds during its lifetime. As such, in some areas (for example California, Hawaii or Spain) it is regarded as an invasive weed, whilst in New Zealand and South Africa the plant is banned from sale and propagation for the same reasons. Removal of Pampas Grass by burning will not always prevent return. Shooting it with silver bullets won't work at all. However, chemical weed killer will kill the grass at the roots. You'll be happy to hear that the one we have at P. Garden is a sterile cultivar, so no worries about the entire neighborhood becoming choked with it!

UPDATE December 2015:
This plant is tougher than a tough thing. We divided it several ways to create more clumps, and also planted more down at PRG, all of which have been flourishing with zero water. 10/10 for hard core drought busting action.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fried plants

The last couple of days in San Francisco have been HOT - Juana said it was 101 degrees near the garden yesterday! I met Katie there at lunchtime to talk about plants for the Indiana Street Garden and we just about died. Frequent rests on the shady bench are key. If only there was an iced tea dispenser there...

Yesterday Emily watered the sale plants, and Arum watered the Mariposa Center Garden. On my morning walk today I admired their efforts: the latter spot was lovely and damp, and the former all looking perky. I saw a clump of Achillea wilting in the front border though, and nipped over at lunchtime to water it. Then I sort of got on a roll and watered a few other things. I also asked the young guy smoking on the bench to please take his butts with him - he was pretty reasonable about it.

We're watering the sale plants three times per week now to get them looking fab for the sale on October 16th. I think people are going to love what we have for sale this time!

Photos show a gorgeous burgundy Cosmos flowering in the left bed, and our lovely Agastache "Apricot Sprite" near the bench.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Operation: rescue

Yesterday afternoon I went back to the garden after calming down... Matt had been hard at work there propagating plants and I wanted to do something productive so I'd have something good to look back on on Monday morning.

And... I found the Yucca "Garland's Gold"! It had been thrown in the back border, taproot broken in half. I'm not sure it'll survive, but I took it home to see if it can make it.

I weeded the steps and lower pathway and some of the middle back bed, and back slope. I also moved about a dozen plants for the sale to better spots. We have a bunch of plants for the sale back there and need to set up a watering schedule so they look their best for the sale.

Emily was also in the garden, repairing the damage done to her poor newly-potted sweet peas. She repotted some, added new seeds, and set up some Rudbeckias and Cosmos for the sale, among other things.

Lastly, as we were leaving, Kepa was walking up with a friend to check out the garden. She offered her greenhouse to our seedling again - thanks Kepa!

Pic above shows the Brugmansia looking lovely, among other things.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Today Matt and I went to the garden to potter about a bit before other things we have to do today, and discovered we had a visitor in the garden last night. Someone came and dumped all of Emily's 24 four inch pots of sweet pea seeds she set up yesterday, and a pot of daffodil bulbs. They also knocked the dog poop wheelie bin into the neighboring lavender plant (smashed it) and tried to knock over the poop bag dispenser too.

Lastly, they ripped out the Yucca "Garland's Gold" that was looking really nice (pic above) in the middle back bed. I looked all over the garden, and walked around adjoining streets looking in trash cans. It's gone :(

Days like this make me feel like removing all the nice plants and just leaving cacti...

Demolition derby

Yesterday Matt and I went t the garden and found Emily and Ryan there, with their pup Bentley! Emily was trimming the Dahlias, and planting sweet pea seeds for the sale, and Ryan was disparaging the weeds.

Matt set to work rearranging the storage area, throwing out lots of trash and tidying the plant pots for the sale. Then he demolished the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)!  You can see the before and after pics at left.

This perennial was done flowering and looking really ratty. It'll come back, but in the meantime, he took it down tot he ground and chopped all the parts to go int he compost bin. There's a massive hole in the bed now - eeek!

Meanwhile I set up the horses to water the beds that needed it, deadheaded some roses, weeded the pathways, removed some baby Maxican feather grass that were growing in the paths to pot up for the sale, and deadheaded some Scabiosas and Coreopsis.

I also went down the storm drain with pruners in hand and removed all the spend Aloe nobilis flowers. Much neater now (see before and after pics at left)! The entire cactus was is extremely dry, having had practically no water in about 8 months now from any source. One Agave is even looking... shriveled! I plan to water them today.

Also go to get those redwood boards into position down on the Mariposa Center Garden - they are cluttering up the pathway! I'll need some help with that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hard at work - elsewhere!

This weekend Matt and I were hard at work - on our own patio! We did water the garden on Saturday morning, and Emily and I attended the Rebuild Potrero Garden Focus Group, but aside from that little got done in the garden. How unusual!

I did snap a pic this morning showing the Cortaderia selloana "Silver Comet" that's about to flower (or set seed, or make fluff-sticks, or whatever it's doing) for the first time. You'll faint with relief when you hear that this is a sterile cultivar and the entire neighborhood is not, as you had feared, about to be overgrown with pampas grass. What's more, it's timing is very good - the neighboring cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is just about done for the season, which, when cut down, will be leaving a gigantic, arching, awe-inspiring hole in the bed. No matter - Cortaderia to the rescue!

I'll post more pics as the fluff-sticks emerge further.

In other news, Matt and I enjoyed a nice trail ride with our horses in Pacifica yesterday, and loved the native Dudleya cymosa (Canyon Liveforever) succulents growing all over the coastal hills, and currently flowering. They are tenacious little things - we took this photo of one group clinging to a tree root, dangling in the air, and waving in the breeze! I wonder how long they can survive like that?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pet profile: Bentley

This is the first in a new series: pets who visit Pennsylvania Garden! Bentley is a regular, along with his owner, Emily.

Name/Nickname: Bentley; Bee, Little Bear, Muffin, Fluffers and Big Red
Breed: Cocker Spaniel
Age: 11
Owner: Emily and Ryan
Loves: Ice cubes, any edible item found on the ground, and of lots of cuddling from humans
Dislikes: Rambunctious puppies or children. Getting a bath. 
How long have you been visiting P. Garden? Almost since the beginning!
If you see us at the garden... Bentley will be sleeping under the bench and I will be weeding/pruning/watering as I volunteer at the garden quite often. Stop and say hello! 
Bio: Abandoned by his 1st owner on the streets of San Antonio, Texas Bentley followed the mail carrier around until his second owner took him in.

Luckily, the second owner was Ryan's Mom, which is how he eventually became our dog. Ryan and I have had Bentley for 6 years, and are now officially crazy dog people. We love Bentley very much and are glad we are his 'forever family' as they say at the SPCA.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early morning watering

Dragging the heavy (albeit shiny and new) hose reel around is work! It's worse than hauling your luggage through three plane changes, because luggage is rarely wet and muddy.

Lucky for me, Matt is out hauling the hose reel around and watering right now. And Arum and Leanne also watered the Mariposa Center Garden yesterday.

Contrary to popular belief, watering on a hot, sunny day doesn't burn leaves. I've been out there gaily splashing about on the most roasting day and never had an issue. And think about it: if it did burn leaves, all sorts of plants in many areas of the world would shrivel up and die anytime there was rain during the day.

That said, water does evaporate much faster on a hot or windy day (and as you locals will know, we haven't had a hot day in weeks. Pah.) so in the interests of water conservation, it's best to water in the early morning or at night, and use a system that delivers water to the roots (drip, a wand) versus sprinklers, if you can.

Pic above: Rudbeckia hirta

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Plant profile: Coreopsis

Cheap'n'cheerful is the category usually assigned to Coreopsis, readily available at Home Despot and the like for a couple bucks per pint-sized plant. And of course they usually only have the double golden-yellow variety, and none of the cool burgundy-marked, pink or orangey ones. Oh well.

But what a little winner! Emily added one to the middle back bed and it went nuts.  I grabbed a couple more of these guys to replace the wallflowers who went to seed and looked sad right away recently in the middle back bed. Then I added a couple more, and paired with the blue Scabiosas they have been putting on quite the show. (See pic below, with CA Poppies in the foreground too)

Latin name: Coreopsis ("kor-ee-OP-sis")
Common name: Tickseed, Calliopis
Originally from: 28 species are native to North America, the other 7 are from Central and South America.
Blooms: Spring through Summer - the more you deadhead, the more flowers you get!
Light: Full sun
Water: Rain is plenty.
Where to find in P. Garden: In the middle back bed we have five plants.

The common name, tickseed, comes from the Greek koris (meaning bedbug) and opsis (meaning view) because the seedpod looks like a bedbug. In 1991 the flower of the genus Coreopsis was designated as Florida's official wildflower. And I think we can safely say it's the official flower of the middle back bed right now, too!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Hi Chronicle readers! *waves*

(If you're not an SF Chronicle reader, a) shame on you ;) and b) go grab a copy today and check out P Garden in the Home & Garden section. Emily, Arum and Gary appear with me. Or click here to read the story online. Good times.)

For those new to the site, enjoy the read and don't hesitate to leave comments, and maybe even click the Donate link at right - this garden is 100% volunteer dug!

OK, on to the gardening today. Miyuki, Emily and I met around 10am and set to work. The dog area got a makeover: We deadheaded the lavenders (that's Emily and Miyuki in action, above), watered them,  weeded, removed the pile of cactus leftover bits, watered the bed by the brick pile and mulched it, and generally primped.

Other things that got done:

Deadheaded roses
Planted two small Coreopsis in the middle back bed (they are awesome - can't have too many!)
Removed a rogue Oenothera from the same spot
Filled the water jugs for wednesday watering
Pruned back a Buddleja
Watered several areas by hand
Admired the nice Nicotiana in the red bed (pic left).

In the few hours we were there, several groups of people who'd read the Chronicle article dropped by to chat! We weren't expecting that, but it was very nice to chat with them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday started grey

... but became quite sunny!

I headed up to the garden with Matt around 9.30am for Volunteer Day, and met Emily and Arum there.

Matt went to town on the area in front of the bench, planting two Impatiens sodenii given to us by his dad, and moving around several Geranium macrorhizum to the front edge. He also moved several Nicotianas to a group at the top of the steps - in the winter when we remove the black sage and the Ceanothus that are not especially exciting from that area, there'll be room for something much cooler instead.

Later on we were joined by Tanya and Nathan who are new in town but they can stay: they were excellent volunteers who did a lot of weeding and seriously impressed me with their twig-weaving skills. Check out the pics (top, middle) of them in action, and the final result! Thanks guys!

Emily and Arum (pic bottom) weeded out some mint from the middle back bed, and I have to say the Scabiosas and Coreopsis there are looking fabulous. Those got deadheaded too - watch out - tons more flowers on the way! The lavender is also taking numbers and kicking butt, and the Tibouchina has come back and is flowering away right now. All in all, that part of the bed is looking quite nice.

Oh yes - how could I forget? We were also paid a visit by John whose wife Andrea sent us many plants for the sale, as well as Anna who helped us out with sale stuff too. John also brought some redwood planks we'll use for the Mariposa Center Garden to prevent mulch etc disappearing down the hill. Hurrah!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Watering again

Matt watered the garden last night, and Leanne watered the Mariposa Center Garden.

And yesterday, Emily, Arum and I met with Ashley from Whole Foods about their donation of plants and pumpkins to our plant sale on October 16th! We're very excited about this - they have beautiful, quality plants, and combined with the ones Matt has been propagating for the sale, it's going to be quite awesome!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend roundup

Saturday from 10am-3pm Matt and I watered the garden using the new hose, reel and sprinkler. We were happy to be joined by Janet who ably assisted in eradicating the spent corn marigolds from the bed behind the wrong way sign. It's all clean now, and ready for the next step of the plan: planting Rock Purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) all the way along the edge. I just have to figure out where to get a large quantity of that...

Matt was busy propagating too, and set up another dozen post of plants for the sale. He also mulched the soaker hose under the Brugmansia, Dahlia imperialis, and Fuchsia boliviana. I went around trimming and tidying this and that, weeding. plucking, nipping and touching up all sorts of areas.

Then on Sunday, Emily and I watered the Mariposa Center Garden (aka the strip). We took the new horse reel and hoses down, and Eliot and Jason helped us attach them to the spigot in their garage.  We soaked the strip pretty thoroughly - hope that helps the Dietes on the far half of the strip - they are a little crispy....

Photos show (top to bottom) the lovely purple of Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii "Hab Gray" next to a large Aeonium rosette and in front of Sedum spectabile "Neon". Next we have the Cordyline australis "Red Sensation" in a wine barrel at the front of the garden with a red/orange/yellow Lantana camera.
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