Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spring Bulb Prep and other News

People who visit the garden are awfully nice. Today Jamie and her two dogs stopped by, and later Dino and his two dogs came by. They gave me moral support (We love the garden, it's beautiful!) and I gave them the 10% donation cards for Jamba Juice (email me if you want to pick up your own card). I'm so glad everyone enjoys the garden, it makes being out in the cold and wet to take care of the garden even more rewarding. Pics are of the new red bed extension, and one of the rose bushes - yep that's a flower bud!

So what was done today. A quick run down:
1) Extended out the red bed around the sprinkler a bit, need more sticks. Put in a grouping of deep pink and purple Ranunculus with blue, purple and deep red Anemone. Also put the purple coneflower (Echinacea) in same area
2) Planted Daffodils (variety "Erlicheer") around the lambs ear (Stachys byzantina) under the Prunus.
3) Planted the Allium neapolitanum around the Cosmos under the Prunus
4) Moved the leggy red Ranunclus to the sunny side of the red bed, and added more red Ranunclus bulbs to fill in around the existing ones in that bed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quiet weekend

Yucca flower
Due to Thanksgiving and wet weather, we didn't do much gardening at the weekend. We did buy some much-needed tools at Center Hardware for the garden though:

1 digging bar (our old one was stolen)
1 folding handsaw (for midweight pruning)
1 broom (no more broken, ratty, handle-less brooms!)
1 machete

I went right out to the garden and used the folding handsaw to saw off 5 arms from the big Agave americana variegata which were old. Worked a treat! Then I went down the street to the SPUR project (now known as the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden) area and tried to machete down some fennel plants. I was very excited to do that - the fennel has been bugging me, and I've always wanted a machete! Well, it was a disappointment: the machete was quite dull.

Salvia gesneriflora "Tequila"
I went home and looked up how to sharpen machete blades. Apparently, if you buy machetes that cost less than $50 they are always dull. This one was $15.99 so you can imagine the level of bluntness. If you are a skinny Crocs-wearing Brit living in Panama, this is your best option to sharpen things up. If you are me though, you'll probably get out your sharpening tool and try to have a go. Not much happened - the angle of the blade edges was ground too low and I'd have worn out my tool and my arm trying to hone it down. Apparently I need an electric angle-grinder.

I looked online again and found a sharpening service that'll grind it to the right angle much faster, so that's a trip I'll need to take soon. I'll be spending $15 to get the blade sharpened on a $15 tool - gah! Perhaps I can get our horse farrier to get the angle ground for us when he comes on Friday...

Moral of the story: buy quality tools. And don't leave them in the garden, or they'll get stolen!

Pics show some recent flowers in the garden - our first ever Yucca flowers and the giant Salvia gesneriflora in the dog area.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Do you like Jamba Juice?

If you're a health-conscious type who likes to start the day with some fruity goodness, you are probably a fan of the smoothie purveyor Jamba Juice. They were founded in San Luis Obispo, have their HQ in Emeryville, and they don't use high fructose corn syrup or any other nasty gack in their smoothies.

Why am I rambling on about them, you ask yourself? Well, they have a program called Community Appreciation Fundraising that we have partooken of recently, and it's an easy way for us to raise money for the garden. Here's how it works:

1. If you like Jamba Juice, we will give you a little keyring card with a barcode on it. We have 250 of them to give away!
2. Every time you head out to Jamba Juice you get them to swipe your card and 10% of your purchase goes to Pennsylvania Garden!

Wow - that's easy. Use the card and Jamba Juice makes an automatic donation - costs you nothing!

What's the catch? Um, there isn't one! Just get a card from Annie or Emily at a volunteer day, or send an email to Annie or Emily and we'll get a card to you ASAP. Thank you for supporting the garden!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Jewel of Potrero Hill, allegedly!

A while back, our friend Adam, latterly of NENtv, made a short film about Pennsylvania Garden. Today I was emailed by Michael from NEN who let me know the video was live and ready for viewing. Well, let me tell you it warmed the cockles of my heart to watch this video on a cold, wintry day. Hope you enjoy it: click here to see the video.

You'll see many hardworking PG volunteers talking about their contributions to the garden on the video. What you can't see is me, just off camera, staring at them with mean eyes in case they said something bad. Kidding! ;) Matt, Emily, Gary, Sage and Ron are among the stars of the show. Thank you all!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

only the best for P. Garden!

A kills weeds
with a smile!
In our pursuit of excellence, we imported a special guest volunteer today all the way from the UK! Actually, A is on vacation here and agreed to take several ours out of his day to weed at PG, which I found astonishing. I quickly handed him a trowel and gloves and got him to work though, and in 3+ hours he demolished many loads of weeds from the red bed. Thank you A!

In the meantime, Matt swept the steps and cut out the hillside at the bottom of them in preparation for the small wooden support planned for that spot to keep the callas in place.

Yesterday Matt, Emily and I went to the San Francisco Botanical Garden's sale, and bought a couple plants. Emily took the Dendromecon rigida (Bush Poppy) we got there down to the Mariposa Center Garden and planted it, replacing the one that sadly failed to thrive down there recently.

Tree Dahlia in full
force and effect!
I planted some yellow Chasmanthe floribunda bulbs in the left bed,  trimmed dead leaves of the Washingtonia palm (it's alive!), weeded a lot, organized the pots and gave some plants to a couple who dropped by the garden on Emily's advice: I hope to bribe them to come back and help us in the garden one day!

We also had an impromptu visit from Topher and her crew who came to see what I was up to, and Jess an her relations, ditto. I gave mini-tours and answered questions.

All in a a lot accomplished in 5 hours! This is just to add to the time Josh spent in the garden yesterday, weeding away. A good weekend all round I think.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plant profile: Asclepias tuberosa

It's been a while since we did a plant profile as we've been so busy with other things in the garden. But today one plant struck me - it's been flowering for ages now. This hard worker deserves the spotlight!

So, what's deer resistant, butterfly attractant and thrives in sun in average or dry soil? Butterfly Weed!

Latin name: Asclepias tuberosa ("as-KLEP-ee-as too-ber-OH-sah") - we have "Silky Gold" and "Hello Yellow"

Common name: Yellow Butterfly Weed, Yellow Milkweed, Pleurisy Root
Originally from: New Hampshire to South Dakota south to Arizona, Mexico and Florida.
Blooms: The cultivars we have are bright yellow, but the wild form is more orange usually.
Light: Full sun
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a nice clump in the left bed.

Milkweeds are the host plant for monarch butterflies. The entire lifecycle of these butterflies, from caterpillars to adults, revolves around this plant. I think I might have seen one monarch butterfly in our garden, but you never know - perhaps we will attract thrings next year? We have loads of other butterfly species though.

Because its tough root was chewed by the Native Americans as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, Butterfly Weed given its other common name, Pleurisy Root.

One of the finest native American perennials, it grows about 2' tall, and suffers from various insect infestations (aphids mostly) though a spritz of soap spray usually does the trick. They can be propagated by division, cuttings start well in water, or by seeds. I hope we can grow a lot more.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

So much accomplished today!

Our volunteer day went on a bit longer than expected, but Emily, Matt and I were joined by Nate and Tanya - we always get lots done when they are around.

We started with weeding the Mariposa Center Garden. Emily took Nate and Tanya down there and they stripped out every weed there. Later on Emily planted an Eriogonum and an Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Alba', as well as several sweet peas which will enjoy climbing up the fence there all winter, and some clumps of Chasmanthe too.

In the meantime, Matt and I cleared plants off the back slope in preparation for terracing that area to make it accessible. Lots of Agave americanas removed (we really have too many...) as well as columnar cactus and Crassula ovata.

You can see the before pic above (after to come) - we'll eventually have two terraces and three gravel paths in that area, so people can walk back there and see what we plant.

Finally, after an Arum-supplied drinks-and-cakes break, Nate, Tanya and I redid the small brick path. I thought this would be a short job but it ended up taking a couple hours... first Nate and Tanya removed all the bricks. Then we leveled the area carefully, removing lots of stones and dirt. Then we started replacing the bricks.

After realizing we couldn't mine sand from the back area due to our regular sand pit being filled in last week, Matt went down and bought three bags of sand from Center Hardware. we spread that out and relaid the bricks. It really looks good! Thanks for sticking out that project to the end, guys.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Community Meeting: Please attend!

We are holding a progress report and meeting on Tuesday November 9th from 6-8pm at Fregosi Paints, 150 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If you live in the neighborhood, please attend this meeting where you can:
  • Learn what grants we received and how we plan to spend them
  • Find out what tree species Friends of the Urban Forest recommends for our spot
  • Meet the team who has been working so hard to make this project happen for almost a year!
  • Find out how you can join in - our tree planting day is coming up soon! We need your help!
Fregosi Paints are generously providing water and sodas for the meeting, and Brickley Production Services is providing chairs.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

French drain done!

Our gravel was delivered yesterday by San Francisco Gravel! So today Matt had a day off and bless him, he went to the garden to work on the French drain.

First he dug the ditch out a bit more, then he lined the ditch in hardware cloth (it's not really cloth, it's metal mesh) to prevent dirt getting into the gravel and ruining the draining effect.

After that he started shoveling the 2600# of 3/4" crush gravel into the wheelbarrow, and dumping it in the ditch, load by load. This took several hours. And it was hot today, in case you didn't notice when you were out voting.

I was going to ask him to move the dirt dug out of the ditch up to the red bed, but he sounded so utterly exhausted on the phone after he was done shifting the gravel that I didn't have the heart! Turns out he dumped it in the sand mining hole we have down in the back. Oh well ;)

Go check out the new drain! I hope it works to make that area less soggy...

Monday, November 1, 2010

French drain needed

Gary & Annelle's scarecrow
guards the ditch
We have spent a lot of time digging around trying to find the source of the wet spot in front of the middle back bed. At first we thought it was a broken pipe. Finally last weekend Emily, Matt and I dug all the wet out, and we think it's juts a plce were water collects under the wood chips, and is held there by a big rock.

A gravel delivery is due shortly from San Francisco Gravel. We'll fill the ditch with gravel and it'll make a French drain that diverts all the sogginess into the front bed, where it's needed.

Dudleya pulverulenta
Other tasks done included planting some of the plants left over from the UCSF demonstration garden that Emily and Arum did. Among them were two California succulents - Dudleya farinosa and a Dudleya pulverulenta which is absolutely stunning.

Lastly, I went out and put stakes and caution tape down the opposite side of the steps to the handrail. That slope is very delicate - it's steep, and rain and dog paws easily uncover all the bulbs planted there, which are just starting to come up. Someone also crushed a large amount of the Sisyrinchium californica (Yellow-Eyed Grass) that was at the top of the steps, and I replaced some of it this weekend.

Don't stray off the path!
I also replaced some of the creeping thymes (Thymus praecox "Pink Chintz," Thymus minor and Thymus "Latavin Lucy") that got disturbed during the handrail project. Hopefully, with the handrail on one side and the caution tape on the other, all the plants on both sides will get a break and have a chance to establish themselves by spring.
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