Monday, July 30, 2012

Divide and conquer

genus: Silybum
common name: milk thistle
target destroyed!
Growing up I remember my Grandma saying, 'divide and conquer', which basically meant any complex problem, when subdivided, would be easier to solve. I often apply this maxim to many different things - everything from scientific investigation to well, most recently, getting rid of this spiny thistle covered in its own fluffy seeds (genus Silybum; no joke!)

I first cleared my working area, cutting back the Centranthus and ripping out any offending weeds. Then, I lopped off the tops of the thistle so it was about waist height. Finally, I ripped out the smaller stalks. This would have been nearly impossible if not for the white leathery gloves in the shed - many thanks to Annie for keeping the shed so well stocked. After the larger stalks dry up, it will be much easier to rip the base out. Yay!

The garden had two guests while I was working, Lucky and Trisha, visiting from Portland. I asked if they had any questions about the garden, and they proceeded to tell me what a 'great find' it was on their trip, so full of beautiful plants and with a nice shaded bench. I had to agree!!!

After weeding the back middle bed a bit I was out of time and energy. I will be back later this week to continue weeding, and am looking forward to the volunteer workday this Saturday. I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plant profile: Cytisus scoparius (Scotch Broom)

Latin name: Cytisus scoparius ("sigh-TISS-us sko-PAR-ee-us") 
Common name: Scotch Broom, Common Broom
Originally from: The UK
Blooms: Covered in yellow flowers in spring.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Height x width: 3' to 9' tall x 3' to 5' wide
USDA Zones: 5-9
Where to find in P. Garden: One appeared in the brights bed.... and flourished.

As a legume, these shrubs fixes nitrogen in the soil by a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. When their leaves fall they improve the quality of your soil, which helps other plants to grow. How nice, you think!

Sadly, not everyone is happy to see a broom growing. Cytisus scoparius has been introduced into several other continents and is classified as a noxious invasive species in California and the Pacific Northwest in North America, in Australia, New Zealand and India.

It is estimated that it is responsible for $47 million in lost timber production each year in Oregon. In New Zealand broom the species estimated to cost the forestry industry NZ$90 million and farmers NZ$10 million. Biological control for broom has been investigated since the mid 1980s with a number of species being tried out, like the broom twig miner (Leucoptera spartifoliella), the broom seed beetles (Bruchidius villosus) the broom gall mite (Aceria genistae) the sap-sucking broom psyllid (Arytainilla spartiophila) and recently the broom leaf beetle (Gonioctena olivacea) and the broom shoot moth (Agonopterix assimilella).

All with limited success.

Several cultivars selected for variation in flower color, including "Moonlight" with pale yellow flowers, "Andreanus" and "Firefly" with dark orange-red flowers, and growth habit, including "Pendula" with pendulous branches. Our one is the plain yellow type - nothing fancy.

UPDATE: Sadly this plant died after 5 years of drought. It was darn tough though! 

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: It didn't die! It grew back the next year... wow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stop to sniff the flowers
Before getting into the work that was done at the garden today, I want to point out how awesome and tireless Annie is! The work that Annie and Matt did over the weekend is awesome, I went today and checked it out. Also, did anyone else catch the name of that Optunia they put in - I'll post it again - Opuntia bigeloveii (Teddy Bear Cholla). Wow, what a moniker!
The cardoon always grows back
Today Bentley and I headed out to the garden and weeded the corridor along the brights bed and middle bed. Well, I weeded and he laid under the bench. After I trimmed back some Agapanthus and Cardoon that were blocking the paths he had something to sniff.  During my weeding I noticed some Dahlias, despite getting no care, were coming back this summer. This got me thinking about how many amazing survivors we have at Pennsylvania Garden - plants that despite given conditions just on the edge of whats considered possible for that plant, are able to thrive and create a beautiful environment. We are so lucky!

Meeting with DPW

Andrea Alfonso, our landscape architect, Emily and I went to meet with Mohammed Nuru, Director of DPW today to get his apprival for the plans. He's strongly supports this project, and told us again today that the Mayor Ed Lee also supports the project and wants to see it completed.

Great to get that kind of "thumbs up"!

Mohammed looked over the structural engineer drawings, the landscape architect drawings, and answered our questions about encroachment permits and so on. We are just awaiting the final soils analysis - the infiltration test results were much better than expected.

Mohammed told us to call DPW to ask them to remove the 2 large homeless encampments so I'll do that today. Emily is getting a letter of support from Mohammed. We are a go!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The heat is unbearable

Crinum bulbispermum
OK well if you live in SF you're probably thinking the title of this post is daft. It's a sunny, breezy day, right? And if you live in Potrero Hill you're enjoying a relatively hot day. However, if you're working down at the bottom of the new terrace area in Pennsylvania Garden let me tell you: the heat is unbearable. It reflects off the metal of Gary's building next door and it's enough to wilt an Agave, which is no mean feat considering they're basically made of Kevlar.

 Despite this, Matt and I went down there and planted some plants. We put in:

1 Euphorbia ammak cutting from John
1 Agave of some long, narrow type also from John
3 Cotyledon orbiculata
1 Opuntia bigeloveii (Tedddy Bear Cholla)
1 Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm)
1 large bush ice plant of unknown type from John

Euphorbia ammak
We also watered the right end of the brights bed, parts of the left bed, and the area behind the wrong way sign. Matt deadheaded a huge clump of Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga in the middle back bed, and I deadheaded the Aloe striatula in the same area.

We drank a lot of liquids, rested frequently, and accidentally-on-purpose pointed the sprinklers at each other a few times, and I still feel as limp as an old dishrag. Time for a lie down!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunday Streets this weekend

No garden news to write about today, but there is a special community announcement! This Sunday our neighborhood will be participating in Sunday Streets (see map with events!). If you've never been, I highly recommend it. The event varies by neighborhood, but the basic structure is that the city turns a major thoroughfare into a bicycle/pedestrian only street party. The garden is just off the street party route this year but we hope to be included in the festivities next year.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Volunteer day lite

Gorgeous! Emily's not
bad either ;)
Today's volunteer effort was surprisingly productive, given that aside from me and Emily and Matt, the only people working were Eliot and Carlin. No problem: all seasoned hard workers, so the results were great. Miyuki and her baby girl Mia came to hang out and cheer us on.

Carlin worked on cutting back all the Chasmanthe in the garden. It'll be back in December - for now each clump is taking a rest. She also cut back Cannas, weeded and was generally the Queen of the Hori-Hori as usual.

Since Matt and I both have injured right wrists in a bizarre coincidence, Emily turned the compost bins. One was ready to empty - filled with gorgeous dirt, loaded with nutrients. She spread it under the Fuchsia, all over a spot by the bench and a few other areas. What a totally rewarding feeling to have made such a great product for the garden! Eliot watered the bins, one of which is now full to the top with new garden refuse, one of them cooking last month's batch, and one empty and ready to fill. Watering and turning the bins each month has made a huge difference to how quickly they composted down - pats on the back all around.

Agave lophantha and
Artemisia "Powis Castle"
Matt and I worked on the area behind the wrong way sign. All the Lychnis got cut back (lots of seeds fell, so we'll have tons more hot pink flowers soon) and all the past-their-sell-by-date corn marigolds and best-before-last-week California poppies got pulled out. I gave the spot a thorough watering and it's good to go.

Matt also weeded out tons of grass from the middle back bed and prevented the Aptenia cordifolia ground cover from strangling everything in the middle front bed.

Lastly, Emily cut back the Glaucium grandiflorum (Orange Horned Poppy) - need to move that back in the bed in the fall, as it did so excessively well at the edge and got too big. Nice problem to have!

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