Monday, May 30, 2016


Mystery hole
Strange holes have been dug at the garden by a critter. I filled the two that posed a tripping hazard in, but left the third alone. 

Who is it? What are they up to? Why can't they dig in the compost heap and do me a favor?
Path full of weeds
Instead, I turned the compost myself, during which a rat jumped out of the middle bin. As I dug almost to the bottom I heard a squeak, and had poked my fork into a nest of baby rats. They seemed to be unhurt so I closed the bin and hopefully Rat Mum will be back to move the babies elsewhere.

After that, Matt and I spread four tubtrugs of finished compost, mulched a lot of areas, weeded the cactus wall, steps and assorted other areas, picked up trash, swept the steps and bricked areas, prepped for moving the bench, and cut back many Chasmanthe and Euphorbia plants. 4 hours well spent. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Things that are flowering, clockwise from the top left: Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) Blanket Flower (Gallardia aristata), Dyckia rariflora, Limonium perezii (Sea Lavender, Statice), unnamed pink geranium (Pelargonium)

Today Matt and I weeded a lot. pruned a lot, and enjoyed the hot weather.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weekend happenings

Unfortunate hummingbird
Yesterday Matt and I popped out for the usual: a quick survey to see if we can do one job that will make us good about being at work in offices all week.

Unsurprisingly we found lots of weeds - still. Somehow the weed fairy has not magically removed them overnight. Pah! So we started weeding while we considered other tasks.

Matt planted 5 Puya laxa (Hay Stack Puya)  that had been growing in pots down on the terraces for some time. This is a fuzzy little bromeliad from Bolivia with blue-black flowers.

I weeded the right side of the brights bed - only the left side remains. I added compost to the base of the lovely Cussonia spicata there, and watered the newly planted plants from last week and mulched them even more. I also spread a lot of the foliage from the Hakea suaveolens that Chris had put to one side on the ground as mulch too - I think it will be very effective.

Matt sawed up the remains of the Hakea trunk and branches, and we now have several new piles of debris in the top area which I'll hire someone to take away shortly.

Today I went out to turn the compost and found the right bin full of ready to use compost. Always lovely. So I put three tubtrugs full on the middle back bed and weeded there. Then two wheelbarrows full on the brights bed. At some point I aggravated a muscle in my back so I had to stop, and couldn't finish the job. I did find a dead hummingbird and buried it under a bright Arctotis. Circle o'life...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Plant profile: Cussonia

Cussonia spicata
Easy to grow, not too tall, strikingly architectural and evergreen, this genus is a great tree for our area and a personal favorite of mine. I'm surprised they aren't more popular, but large specimens are not often available to buy. Annie's Annuals often has small ones though, and they grow pretty fast. Get a hit of funky, tropical, yet drought tolerant action in your garden!

Latin name: Cussonia ("kuh-SOH-nee-ah")
Common name: Cabbage Tree
Originally from: Southern Africa.
Blooms: Big crazy spikes that the bees love.
Light: Full sun
Water: Survived severe drought!
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 15-40' tall and wide
USDA Zones: 9a-11b
Where to find in P. Garden: In the left bed we have a large Cussonia spicata, and in the brights bed a somewhat smaller Cussonia spicata.

Cussonia leaf
The name Cussonia is named after the Professor of Botany at the University of Montpellier, Prof. Pierre Cusson (1727 - 1783). We got our first one way back in February 2009 - a C. spicata with shiny green leaves that grew from a 1 gallon plant to a big multi-trunked 15' tall tree in just a few years. Eventually it should reach 40' tall, unless the dry weather keeps knocking it back.

During the 5 year drought it started to die back from the top, and I thought it wasn't going to make it. I watered it twice in the final year, and it pulled through. As of April 20156 it is sprouting vigorously from the base. You can see the dead branches at the top of the photo below.

Our other Cussonia spicata was planted in the brights bed in 2011 and survived the drought fine. It's got a way to go to attain it's final height of 25-40'.

I also planted a Cussonia paniculata in the middle back bed, but it was somewhat smothered by other plants around it and died. I'd love another of that species - the blue-grey leaves are lovely, and it only gets 15' tall.

Cussonia spicata
In addition to its popularity as a decorative garden tree and useful accent plant, the leaves of C. spicata are not only beautiful in shape but also traditionally used as a treatment for indigestion, and the roots are succulent and edible - mashed roots have also been used in the treatment of malaria.

The bark is cork-like, and the wood is very soft and decays easily - it's used to make mole traps and brake blocks for ox-wagons in Africa.

I highly recommend this plant. With an exotic mop of deeply-divided leaves and interesting bark on the trunk, it looks a bit like a funky palm tree.

Update 2.5.18: Our first and largest Cussonia is flowering! It remains to be seen if the flowers will produce viable seed, but I hope so.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Got trees? Make sure they are looked after.

This just in from our lovely pals at Friends of the Urban Forest:

"After years of research and preparation, we have crafted a ballot measure that will finally fix San Francisco's broken policies for street trees and sidewalks. FUF is urging all elected Supervisors to place the measure on the November ballot, and we need you to let your Supervisor know this measure is important to you.

***Click here to send a quick email to your Supervisor, and fix our urban forest***

To ensure a thriving and safe urban forest for SF, the measure will:
  • Fix all the sidewalks broken by tree roots
  • Publicly fund the pruning of all street trees and fixing of sidewalks to keep them healthy and safe
  • Make the city -- not property owners -- liable for tree falls, limb drops, or trip-and-falls
  • Set the stage to plant and care for an additional 50,000 street trees
  • End the disastrous "tree relinquishment" program that punishes residents and trees

When the plan is enacted, the City will have adequate funds to maintain all street trees and adjacent sidewalks with high standards of care.  Property owners who have trees in front of their properties will be relieved of financial risk, and the streets will be safer for everyone.

This plan is good for trees and good for people!

Click here to send a quick email to your Supervisor, and save our urban forest.

Doesn't take a minute to send an email to our supe, Malia Cohen. Do it today!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

4 hours

Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila"
Today Matt and I went up to PG to have our morning bagels and noticed a few (haha) jobs that needed to be done. One was staking up the Euphorbia lambii (again!) so we popped over the Flowercraft to buy some really good stakes. And a few plants.

We decided that after the staking we'd weed a little and ended up staying in the garden for four hours! Lots got done.

In the brights bed, I noticed our gigantic Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila" is NOT dead and has re-sprouted which is great news and means the area will soon be fill of salvia again. Then I weeded five tubtrugs of weeds out and planted:

3 Arctotis "Hearts & Tarts"
3 Artemisia arborescens (Large Wormwood)
5 Aloe vera from the back terrace

I also moved half a dozen little volunteer Euphoribia characias in to better groupings, and rearranged some Aloe veras into a group too, and after watering I mulched the new plantings thoroughly.

Agave gypsophila
In the meantime, Matt moved some Aloe maculatas to the middle back bed and weeded all over. He grouped some stray Yucca flaccida "Garland's Gold" together, and some variegated Furcreaeas too. He also added a third Limonium (Sea Lavender) to the front border, so the pattern of purple flowers repeats nicely down the bed.

While he was hauling out weeds I planted a big Agave gypsophila that Emily donated to the garden. It needs more sun - you can see how different the new one (left) and established one are in form. The new one should perk up soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What are the chances? 0.3% apparently.

Today Matt and I had a workday in the light, refreshing rain. I didn't expect many people to come weed in the rain but I was happy to see Chris show up as he's always good for conversation and a hard worker :)

Later on, I because even more grateful that Chris was there...

As we started the day I mentioned finding needles in the garden, and how I'd picked up a dozen or so. I told Chris to be careful. I've been worrying about what might happen if a volunteer got a needle stick injury, and I wanted to have a protocol to follow in case that dreadful day arrived.

Turns out Chris is a retired AIDS doctor! I asked him what he would do, and he gave me some great and balanced information. The chances of getting HIV or Hepatitis from a needle stick are very, very low... 0.3% according to various legit-sounding sources online. You can also take drugs that will reliably prevent you developing HIV. So needle stick injures seem less terrifying.

The real question is "what is your tolerance for stressing about it" because it can take 2-4 weeks to develop a testable case of HIV, and if you don't start prophylactic medication within 72 hours, that's a long wait to know if you're safe.

About five minutes later as I was lifting a pile of weeds into a tubtrug I felt a prick.

A used needle lay in the weed heap.

What are the chances of THAT?

There was no blood, but it poked me in the palm - through my glove. Chris directed me home and I scrubbed it with Hibiclens and noted my last tetanus shot was in 2012. Back at the garden, Chris reassured me some more and told me to get on the phone to my doctor. And they called the hotline for such things. And called me back to say "don't worry" - there has never been a single case of HIV infection from a needle found in the environment.

I'm going to go in Monday for an HIV and Hepatitis test, and repeat that in a month just in case.

In the meantime, stay safe out there gardeners. I think some heavy leather gloves are in order.

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