Saturday, July 30, 2011

Presentation a success

I gave a short talk this morning about my favorite plants for street parks today at the DPW yard, organized by the dynamic duo of Sandra at DPW and Julia at SFPT (details in previous blog entry.) It was great fun - I made a PowerPoint presentation and spent a lot of time pondering which really ARE my favorite plants. My list was supposed to be about 20 long, but it crept up to 30, and culd have easily topped 40 or more.

Matt came along and worked the projector while I rambled on, and I think it was all well received. I saw a couple of our volunteers there (wave!) and met some new folks too. Everyone got a list of plants, a Jamba Juice card and a PG brochure too.

If anyone's interested in reading the final list of plants, let me know and I can post them here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Want to have your own street park? Read on...

This just in from our pal Julia at SFPT:

Dear Street Parks Stewards,

Greetings from the SF Parks Trust! You are cordially invited to Get Grounded: Street Parks Workshop & Garden Tour, this Saturday, July 30th, from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. The workshop will be held at the Department of Public Works, 2323 Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco (Just east of Potrero Avenue ).

This free workshop, presented by SF Parks Trust and the Department of Public Works, is designed for all our Street Parks Stewards and the neighbors who work with them in greening public parcels of land. Especially if you’re new to the Street Parks program we recommend you attend the workshop, as it’s a great way to meet other Street Park stewards, hear about resources that could be useful to you in your project, and see other Street Parks sites and get ideas and inspiration from them. The workshop is completely free and lunch will be provided.

At Get Grounded we’ll focus on how to create and maintain sustainable Street Parks, from fostering the healthiest soil possible, to selecting plants best adapted to our region, to managing water in the most environmentally responsible way. How to create and manage gardens with little water will be discussed, as well as rain water catchment and drip irrigation systems. We’ll also take a tour of some of our newest Street Parks and hear from the people who created them! 

Confirmed speakers include:
Tom Bressan, owner of Urban Farmer San Francisco
Rachel Kraai, Urban Watershed Management Program, PUC
Markos Major, Urban Farmer and Garden Educator
Annie Shaw, award winning steward of the Pennsylvania Garden

Street Parks Tour will include:
Progress Park
Vista Pointe Garden
Gates Street Wildlife Garden

For workshop location and more information, please see link:

Get Grounded: Street Parks Workshop & Garden Tour
When: Saturday, July 30th, 9:30 A.M to 1:30 P.M.
Where: Department of Public Works Headquarters
2323 Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco
Just east of Potrero Avenue

To reserve your space, please RSVP by end of day Thursday, July 28th to Julia Brashares at 415-750-5110 or julia at DPW will provide van transportation for our garden tour.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at 415-750-5110.
All best,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Warm and sunny

Achillea "Cassis"
Yesterday Matt and I went out to weed and prune a bit, and today I did another few hours of tidying up.

The front border had all the corn marigolds removed and the Artemisias and Achilleas deadheaded. The middle back bed and brights bed got some weeding. I chatted with Dee and pulled more corn marigolds out of the back border too.

I think the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is almost done for the year - going to have to cut that down soon. We'll save that for the volunteer day - that's a fun project. I found four little baby cardoons down in the back of the garden too - must have seeded itself over there. I potted them up - perhaps we can find a spot for more of these crazy plants?

Friday, July 22, 2011

New sign

Check out the new sign: Matt added it behind the bench (so it’s not staring you in the face when you’re sitting there) and we have another for the kiosk at the front of the garden.

Matt varnished a piece of wood to attach the sign to, and got a big heavy post, concreted it in, and bolted the backing to the post. It's pretty darn sturdy!

In case you can’t read it, it says:

“Thank you for helping to make this garden a safer place.

If you see people loitering, leaving trash, or vandalizing
our garden please call Police non-emergency (415) 553-0135

Find out more about Pennsylvania Garden at”

Yes, we really mean it - call the police if you see something odd at the garden. And call 911 if you see a crime in progress. Our local police officers really want to hear from you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Before and after - the cactus wall

I like a good before and after picture set, and here's one of the cactus wall. On the left is the before aspect. taken in February 2009. The after pic, on the right, was taken yesterday - almost 2 and a half years later. So much has changed, as you can see. The Aloe nobilis hedge has really grown in. The Yuccas are established, and completely surrounded by all manner of cool succulents and so on. I think it's my favorite part of the garden!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

4th of July Botanical Adventure

Any guesses as to where the first photo was taken? Somewhere in LA? A spot in SF you've never been to? You never know where you'll find a beautiful spot full of botanical interest, and the photo was taken by me from a street park in San Antonio, Texas!

Linda Pace (of Pace Picante Sauce) created Chrispark to honor the memory of her son. If you told me it was designed by a famous landscape architect I would believe you, because it is gosh darn beautiful. The street park is across from modern lofts in the historic brick building. Yes, this is Texas! Be sure to check out the plants section on their website which gives a layout of the park's plantings with great descriptions and photos.

On my trip I was also able to visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden (link here). My current favorite native plant of central Texas is the Leucophyllum frutenscens, shown first in close-up and then behind some silvery Agaves at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Just an amazing shrub from the Figwort family, a real winner that needs minimal water, can take heat, and has pink-lavender flowers like crazy all over.

So, if you ever visit San Antonio don't skip the River Walk, but also don't miss Chrispark and the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Plant profile: Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Ornamental grasses used to leave me cold – grass is stuff for animals to eat in my book, so I wasn’t expecting much when I got my first Mexican Feather Grass. However, they have some lovely qualities: Mexican Feather Grass is a graceful, delicate and very fine textured ornamental grass that needs very little water. It grows in a dense fountain-like clump with slender, wiry leaves 1-2 ft tall. The silky flower clusters look great in dried arrangements.

Latin name: Nassella tenuissima ("nass-ELL-ah ten-you-ISS-im-ah") syn. Stipa tenuissima
Common name: Mexican Feather Grass, Silky Thread Grass, Ponytail Grass
Originally from: New Mexico and Texas south through central Mexico.
Blooms: Inconspicuous – grown for foliage
Light: Full sun, part sun.
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: The left bed has several clumps, which have seeded to other areas.
The Latin name nassa means "a basket with a narrow neck for catching fish," and tenuissima means “thin, fine or small.”

Its hair-like foliage moves with the slightest breeze, and it really contrasts well with architectural plants like Agaves and Aloes. Mexican Feather Grass has a tendency to self sow, so watch out – you’ll soon have more little mini-clumps coming up, though they’re easy to pull out if you don’t want more. Another way to propagate them is by dividing large clumps.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Warm evenings

Helichrysum bracteatum
"Monster Rose"
I went out this evening to water in the plants we planted at the weekend, and they were all looking great. I put in a couple of Crinums that have been languishing in the back, just to get them out of their pots. I don't know what kind they are but hopefully when they flower they'll be white. Well I guess we'll see!

Quite a few plants are flowering for the first time right now. The Helichrysum bracteatum "Monster Rose" is tall and narrow, and each plant has several flowers. I could go for about a dozen of these plants!

Crocosmia "Lucifer"
There's a lovely big Rudbeckia nearby too, covered in buds which I think will be orange. Is it called "Cherokee Sunset"? Can't remember. Lastly, the Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) are about to flower too - hurrah!

Other plants that have flowered before, but are at it again, include the Aloe nobilis hedge, the Dahlias and the Crocosmia "Lucifer" - lots of hot orangey red going on in the garden. Drop by and see it all!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Corn marigolds get their comeuppance

The back border cleaned up.
Bright and cheerful though they are, the corn marigolds (Chrysanthemum segetum) do tend to get out of hand. At today's volunteer day Heather and her mum spent quite some time removing clumps of them that were past their best. They also planted a yarrow (Achillea millefolium) near the bench that was donated by Anna today.

We were also joined by John, who, alongside Carlin, weeded in the dog area, planted two lavenders and watered the entire lavender hedge. John also watered the brights bed and a whole lot of other spots that needed a boost.

By the kiosk: before
I set up some sprinklers around the left bed and planted a purple Osteospermum in a gap there. The left bed doesn't get any sprinkler action from the weekly watering, so we'll give it some water manually every couple of months. 

Nate and Tanya deadheaded a huge number of plants, which means more flowers for everyone to see, and Matt bought a strong pole for the new signs we have to put up, as well as sanding and varnishing a wooden backing for one. Hopefully we'll get that put up this week.

Kiosk area revamped!
Lastly Carl and I worked on the area by the kiosk. We installed edgers, weeded thoroughly, added dirt, and planted half a dozen Aloe brevifolia along the edge. Finishing up with some water, a gravel mulch, and a thorough sweeping of the entire sidewalk, brick path and entrance way, it really looks fantastic!

Update: Matt and I went to Flora Grubb later in the day and saw some cool blue grasses for the back border, on sale. We got 6 Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Avena Grass) and planted them, plus some Aeoniums we had kicking around, right away.  When the orange Calendulas fill in, it'll be a nice look.
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