Monday, April 30, 2012

Please vote NOW!

GOOD magazine is running a contest to award a $500 grant for a good cause that cleans up their neighborhood - well that's Pennsylvania Garden! Please visit the website and vote; you only need to do it once.
Voting ends today at noon PT/3 pm ET, and we're currently in 2nd place. Please be sure to do this right away.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting ready for the block party

Cordyline flowering
Yesterday I shopped for plants to decorate the block party with. We needed a few specimens and a lot of ground cover to arrange in tubtrugs for display. I got lots of iceplants, blue fescue, Lithodora and so on, knowing we need them to plant in the garden afterwards.

Today I headed out to the garden early to straighten things up. In about 4 hours I managed to take care of quite a lot of things.

I watered several areas with the sprinkler, and especially the newly transplanted plants. The garden is extremely dry and the weather warm and breezy - classic situation that leads to dead plants if they have recently been moved.

As the sprinkler ran, I weeded out a lot of Crassula lycopodioides from the middle back bed, as it was engulfing some Aloe brevifolias (again), as well as a lot of grass and bindweed that likes to get in there.

I removed a Lupinus arboreus from the left bed - planted in the relatively rich dirt there it had become straggly and wispy. I knew that come summer it'd go seasonally dormant and dry up like a dead twig, like last year, looking fried until late fall. Not a nice look. So out it went. I also pruned the Asclepias curassavica (Butterfly Weed) "Silky Gold" that was nearby, and weeded the whole area thoroughly.

Newly renovated spot.
I discovered some small Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass) babies growing in among the weedy middle of the bed and replanted them in a swath towards the front. The middle of that bed now has a wide open spot ideal for something about 3' wide and up to say 5' tall. A white rockrose? Maybe - I'll need to think.

I left the sprinkler going on a low stream, with Emily on the way over a little later to do more weeding and put away the watering tools. Job well done.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Arch area revamp complete

Today I met Josh at the garden at 9am for a quick revamp of the arch area John and I had worked on recently. I'd long had a plan to plant the Cordylines from the wine barrels in the ground, because they need to be watered in those barrels - it's not a xeric garden ideal!

I pulled out the edging pavers from both sides, then tried to remove both wine barrels and remembered we'd used wire cable to attach them to the arch ages ago to prevent theft. Needed to borrow a wrench from Brickley Production Services next door to get the cable removed, then pulled out the two Cordylines and all the Lantana camara planted at the base of them.

Josh removed an Agave parryi from the left side and I put it where the wine barrel was on the right side, along with a Lantana. We planted one Cordyline on the left side, and moved the Furcraea longaeva* away from the arch a little. Then Josh got a bunch of leftover Agave filifera pups and arranged them around the base of the Furcraea. He also put a couple of the pups in the middle front bed.

Josh weeded an area in the left bed for the other Cordyline, and we moved some Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears) to the front as well. I trimmed up the cardoon too - it's always flopping into the path.

I put another Lantana up at the top of the brights bed, and Josh pruned a Salvia mexicana. We watered everything in thoroughly. Then I had to leave to go out of town but man: lots of work done - it was very satisfying!

Also of note today I re-met Sybil who's been in the area ages and recently made a donation (thanks!), saw Jon and his doggies, and noticed someone left some nice plants for us as another donation. Thanks to everyone who contributes! We were also visited by Andrew and Dexter, the African Gray Parrot. Can I just say we don't get enough parrots in the garden?

* Thanks John for emailing me the species name on this one! Always helpful :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vote today: we might get $500 for the garden!

Check this out: GOOD magazine is running a contest to award a $500 grant for a good cause that cleans up their neighborhood - well that's Pennsylvania Garden! Please visit the website and vote; you only need to do it once.

Voting is only open for 4 more days after today, so please be sure to do this right away.

It's easy to vote:
1. Click "Vote for this Idea"
2. Use your Facebook account or email to quickly register a free GOOD account.
3. Once you've voted, you'll get a notification at the top of the screen verifying that your vote has been counted.

Remember, you can only vote once, so please let your friends know and spread the word!

Thanks for supporting the garden!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where'd the weekend go?

Echium wildpretii
On Friday John came over to get some Agaves from PG. Being John, he was not only extremely grateful for the plants (um, he donated them in the first place, AND he was doing us a favor by removing them as they'd grown too big!) but he also brought some planty gifts too (Yucca and Euphorbia ammak cuttings.)

Together we (well, mostly he) removed five large Agave americanas from the front area, where they were getting congested. I also pruned back lots of Calandrinia spectabilis and gave John the cuttings. I'll rearrange that front area a bit more soon and it should be good for several more years.

On Saturday Crima and her Ecology of San Francisco course students from City College came to visit the garden, and Emily and I led them through the process of starting and maintaining a garden like PG. They asked lots of intelligent questions, and it was fun!

We're supposed to get a little rain on Wednesday but the garden sure looks dry right now. I might have to get out there and water it one of these days. Pic shows our Echium wildpretii flowering at last. It's been a long wait!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We're on Yelp!

I was recently looking up street parks in Potrero Hill and notices PG wasn't on there. Well that won't do. So, I added the garden.

Who wants to review it!?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Plant profile: Calandrinia spectabilis

Latin name: Calandrinia spectabilis ("kal-an-DRIN-ee-ah spek-TAB-ill-iss") (aka C. grandiflora)
Common name: Rock Purslane
Originally from: Chile
Blooms: Bright fuchsia flowers wave on thin stems above the foliage all through the year.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Height x width: 15" x 4'
Zones: 8-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We've edged the outer border with cuttings, and a couple big clumps thrive along the cactus wall.

I can't believe I haven't profiled this plant yet. I wanted some for so long, finally found out what it was, begged for cuttings from Deborah, and finally they have taken off. Goodness me, have they ever taken off...

With zero water, and planted by stuffing fresh cuttings in the rocky dirt, the plants have gone on to smother several large-ish Agaves in their vicinity on the cactus wall. It's almost frightening... I half expect to wake up at night to see a happy little Calandrinia trying to sprout roots at the foot of my bed... We took a load of cuttings and placed them along the outer edge of the garden, and even in that baked environment they're taking off.

Lovely succulent blue-green leaves mound up, and magenta flowers that look like 2" poppies opening in waves from Spring onwards are held high above the plant on thin, wiry stems. This plant requires no care, but in the dead of winter you can cut it back to 6" if you like, for a tidier springtime display.

And the cuttings you have left over? Give them to neighbors, poke them in rock wall nooks and crannies, and spread the love. Why are they called Rock Purslane? Because they rock. I don't know about the Purslane part.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book review: Desert Parade by William H. Carr

I saw Josh at a local bagel shop last weekend and he told me he was in the garden a while back, and a guy was sitting on the bench enjoying the scene. He told Josh he was going home (to wherever that might be) and wanted to give a book to the person who made the garden.

I don't know who our mystery garden-enjoyer was, but the book is excellent. It is Desert Parade: A Guide to Southwestern Desert Plants and Wildlife by William H. Carr, with photos by Marvin H. Frost. It was published in November 1947. The copy I have here is hardback, with a rust-colored cover that sports a yellow saguaro cactus on the front.

Now while you can buy a used copy on Amazon, this is obviously not a review of a new book but more of a fun look at a Pennsylvania Garden socio-historical artifact, if you like ;)

Meant as an overview of the flora ad fauna of deserts from Texas to California, it doesn't delve deep in its' 96 pages, but rather gives the highlights of what you're likely to see if you take a trip to any of these places.

Some of the photos and captions are pretty funny. The frontispiece shows a stout, short cactus in an Arizona desert, with a leather handbag for scale - a bit random. A picture of two Harris Ground Squirrels reared up on their hind legs comes with the caption "Fisticuffs in Squirreldom." The Tarantula is described as "Hairy but gentle." Yeah right!

Aside from that the black and white photos are good, but there are no Latin names for any of the animals -  perhaps not necessary to the casual observer. At least there are Latin names for the plants, so I'm satisfied with that.

All in all a lovely little gift we will enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Daffs on parade

In case you haven't noticed, the daffodils are doing well at the garden this year. We planted a couple hundred new ones and they're flowering away happily. Here's a sampling:

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Middle back bed - before & after
Today Matt and I went back to the garden to do a few tasks. We only found 2 of the 24 eggs I planted left, so there were some happy kids/adults in the area in the last 24 hours I hope!

I removed the strangely dead Drosanthemum bicolor from the middle back bed. For some odd reason it just "carked it" in the last few months and today it was dead as a doornail. I replaced it with three Euphorbia characias, an Agave angustifolia and I moved an Aeonium arboreum forward in the bed too to fill the gap. The agave is a bit of a weedy specimen but it ought to grow in to fill the spot perfectly.

Middle back bed - before & after
As I was weeding that bed I noticed even more Aeonium "Zwartkop" have been stolen from the garden. Someone just snapped off dozens of heads of the lovely plants. What kind of person does that? You'd think people who love plants would know how long they take to grow, and how much work is involved in making them look good. It really hurts me to see theft in the garden. Please call 911 if you see people stealing from the garden.

Psoralea pinnata
I also deadheaded all the daffodils, noted that the Aloe striatulas and Aristea capitata are about to flower, thoroughly enjoyed the awesome scent of the Psoralea pinnata (Kool Aid Bush) and chatted with Mara from across the street.

In the meantime Matt replaced a broken handle on a hoe, and tried really hard to replace a broken shovel head with no lock. Oh well, a 50% success rate is good enough!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy day before Easter!

Arch - cleansed!
We had a lovely sunny day for the volunteer day. Lots of people out of town so turnout was light, but those who did come were hard workers!

Carlin attacked the weedy French drain with her usual zeal. The area is now pristine.

Carl trimmed back the pink-flowering vine on the arch - Dipogon lignosus (Cape Sweet Pea) - and we can now walk through the arch without being grabbed.

Kiosk - repaired!
Nate fixed the edging by the kiosk. The dumpster company seems to like to shove the dumpster against the edging and trash it - Nate added a strip of wood and some rebar to hopefully make it more resistant to being crunched.

Carl helped him with that, then they both worked on weeding the Aloe nobilis hedge along the cactus wall. I joined them - wow, what a weedy mess! I'll have to keep working on that area over the next few weeks.

I weeded the middle front bed thoroughly. And planted 24 Easter eggs around the garden for people to find. Did you get one?

Steps - fixed!
Matt fixed the top step of the steps and turned the compost over. Looks like we are cooking some nice compost in the bins: I can't wait to actually empty one out and use it in the garden.
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