Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Are you angry? Frustrated? Need a good outlet?

Join us on Saturday and take out your annoyances with life on our WEEDS! Pulling out weeds and beautifying a garden is a hugely cathartic thing to do ;)

Alternately, perhaps you are a person with great empathy and cannot stand to see nice plants smothered by unpleasant weeds? Same solution - help us save the plants by sending those weeds on their way.

Or maybe you just watched the show Weeds and you're keen to discuss the seedy underbelly of drug cartels... while pulling out weeds?

Either way, our volunteer day is fast approaching and we would LOVE to see you at PG: tools and drinks provided. Just show up filled with rage and/or bursting with love, and we will direct it in a useful way!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Very naughty weeds

Matt and I headed to the garden to weed over the weekend, and found the weeds to be a bit rampant up at the top of the garden. I don't even want to look at PRG! Happily we have a Genentech workday coming up soon, so that team will make a huge difference.

We cleared weeds from the plants in the new bed up at the top, and planted some new plants. An Agave impressa and a Furcraea longaeva joined the mix, as well as a beautiful Dasylirion wheeleri rescued from the cactus wall before the wall is demolished.

Weeds thrown on the path
We tried to rescue the huge, gorgeous Puya from the cactus wall too, but it's just too spiky - I cannot figure out how to get it out without damage to plant and human.  We will just have to hope that during demolition of the building next door, the plants do not get crushed. I am quite worried about the Aloe ferox there... perhaps we will need to build a shelter around it, so it's safe?

Cotyledon cutings
While I was clearing around the Puya, I removed a lot of Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga, and planted those opposite, at the bottom of the steps.

We moved around the garden, weeding and weeding... and generating quite a pile at the top of the garden. We're not filling the composters right now, as we plant to move those bins to a better location soon.

In other news, we have been propagating up a storm and now have a couple dozen Salvias ready to plant in the fall - that'll fill in the top bed nicely.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Weekend weeding

Agave angustifolia + Aeoniums
Last weekend I popped over to the garden for a couple of hours of weeding and found NO homeless encampments and NO damage to the dog poop station. Hooray!

I started weeding in the middle back bed and after clearing out the weeds, realized a nice ground cover would be some lovely Aeoniums. These are a good tough rosette-forming plant, and easy to start from cuttings. I clipped a load from the cactus wall and put them in place - should keep things tidy.

I did the same by the wrong way sign too, and had a lovely chat with Liz and Betty who were visiting the garden and very supportive.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Plant Profile: Aloe maculata (Soap Aloe)

Latin name: Aloe maculata ("AL-oh mack-you-LAH-tah") (syn. Aloe saponaria)
Common name: Spotted Aloe, Soap Aloe, Zebra Aloe
Originally from: Southern and eastern South Africa, south-eastern Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Blooms: Int he bay area springtime is when the plant sends up tall, flat-topped clusters of coral/peach/orange colored flowers which are awesomely frilly!
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty.
Height x width: 24"x18" - flowers can reach 36" tall
Zones: 8b-11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a group by the bench, another group near the top of the steps, and some in the brights bed.

Have you always wanted to try Aloes but afraid to kill something expensive and finicky? Are you extremely frugal and love plants that pop out little clones of themselves all the time? Do you just like spotted things? Or plants that have crazy peachy orange flowers that hummingbirds love? Aloe maculata is your friend.

This species was previously known as Aloe saponaria, a name that came from the Latin "sapo" meaning soap, as the sap makes a soapy lather in water which is used by local people in South Africa for cleaning.

Now it's called Aloe maculata ("maculata" means speckled or spotted), and it's a dry garden rock star.

Salt tolerant and highly adaptable, it is naturally found in a wide range of habitats across Southern Africa, from Zimbabwe in the north, to the Cape Peninsula in the south. It's also naturalized in some areas of California - that's everything you need to know about how easy it is to grow here!

It is also a very variable species and hybridizes easily with other similar Aloes, like Aloe striata, sometimes making it difficult to identify.

The leaves range in color from purple and reddish when very drought or heat stressed, to light green when they are getting lots of water and shade. They always have distinctive flat-topped flower spikes. The color of the flowers may range from red to yellow, but is usually peachy orange or persimmon color.

This Aloe will grow to an impressive but manageable 2' wide quite quickly, and will offset mini versions of itself so you always have more coming. What's not to love?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Volunteer Day - so much to do!

Lots flowering now!
Our May volunteer day was lovely - the sun was out but not too hot, and the weeds were ripe for pulling. A bit over-ripe actually, and going to seed, so all the more reason to pull them.

Matt, Sarah, Aditi and I showed up at 10, and as I expected, there was a homeless encampment (still) in the back of the garden since last week, despite my trying to get them moved before they destroy more plants.

I called Police Non-Emergency and asked them to come move the residents along (yes, I know - it's not a solution!) but the resident left before they showed up. When they did show up, they told us we were doing the right thing... and really nothing more can be done.

Recology Ryan
We moved all the belongings to the street, in bags and called 311 to get them. Ryan from Recology showed up in an hour and took everything away.

Next I repaired the brand new dog poop bag station, whose $300 top part had been bent so someone could steal the probably $5 of bags inside. Nice.

If it breaks again, dog people: what's the solution here? You use the garden daily - I think it's time for you to be involved in the handling of poop. Shall we have a special dog owner's meeting to discuss?
Wonderful Cardoon

Then we got to weeding. Aditi and Sarah headed down to tackle the insane weeds at PRG. Matt and I took on PG.

We weeded by the cherry plums, and planted a nice big Furcraea selloa var. marginata we've been growing on, and made a nice group of three. Well, the middle one was damaged by a homeless fire, but it's slowly starting to recover.

Then we moved down to the bottom pathway, and removed mountains of weeds from that area. The Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) is absolutely going berserk and yeah - it's a native. so we want to keep it, but it needed a real haircut to give the plants nearby a chance to live.

Furcraea selloa var. marginata
Nate and his two kids showed up and let me know he's still faithfully reading the blog. Interested in stats, I looked up and saw that we have on average about 75 people visit the site each day, and 236 yesterday alone. Hi everyone! :) Not a bad readership for the blog.

And at the end of the day Matt cut down some of the cactus that needs to be moved before the building next door is demolished. This is a very tricky job as they have 3-4" long spines that are very sharp. Good job Matt.

He also moved an Agave scabra from the cactus wall to the new Furcraea group  looks great.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How to root Salvia cuttings

Buying enough plants to fill a garden gets pretty expensive pretty quickly. A cheap, 4" size pot plant is usually $5-7, and a 1 gallon from $8-15... so gardeners usually get pretty interested in propagation sooner or later!

Some plants are so easy to propagate it's a crime: they seed everywhere, or push up pups that are simple to transplant elsewhere. Others can be propagated by root layering, cuttings, or even just from a single leaf.

Today I'm going to show you how to propagate Salvias from cuttings. In this case, Salvia canariensis: that big silvery shrub at the top of the garden.

Initial cutting
1. Take a cutting
To prevent the cutting getting bacteria on it and rotting, use a very sharp, clean knife, pruners or scissors to cut a stem of Salvia from the shrub. Choose a stem that doesn't have a flower on the end, because the cutting will waste a lot of energy on the flower vs making roots, and cut a bit about 4-8" long.

The best time is in Spring when plants are growing like crazy. You can try to root cuttings at other times, but they're less likely to work.

Prepped cutting
2. Prepare the cutting
Pinch or cut off all the bottom leaves from your cutting, and cut the stem down if needed as well.

The idea is to leave the (growing) tip intact, and 2-4 leaves at most, so that the cutting doesn't wilt and die.

All rooting up nicely
3. Start the cutting
Dip the bottom of the cutting in powdered rooting hormone if you like,  then pop it into a plastic plant pot (with drainage holes) full of perlite (a white crumbly material you can get at any garden center which drains well) so the whole stem is in the pot and the leaves are above the perlite.

You can usually fit 4-8 cuttings in a 1 gallon pot no problem. Water them well, and leave them in a shaded place.

Rooted! Ready to pot
If the cuttings wilt you need to water them more, or remove some leaves (or both). I usually find I need to water my cuttings daily, or every second day.

Keep the perlite moist, but not waterlogged, and after 2-6 weeks roots will form.  You'll also notice that some leaves will start to grow - that's a great sign that roots are in place.

Safely potted up
4. Ready to pot up?
Give your cuttings a little tug - if they slide out they're not rooted yet. Give them more time.

When they are rooted, gently tip the cuttings out of the pot (those roots are fragile!) and put one cutting per pot onto 2-3" of potting compost, then gently fill the rest of the pot up with more potting compost. Water well, and put the cuttings in a semi-shaded place to grow on.

Nip the tip
After a few days to settle, I move them to a sunnier spot. When potting up, or a few days after, you can pinch out the tips of each cutting with your fingers or scissors so that the cutting branches out nicely into a shrub.

Look after your new plants and in a few months they should have grown a lot, and if you see lots of growth on the leaves, and roots filling the pot, your plant will be ready to plant in the ground! The best time to plant out in the bay area is in the fall, so get those cuttings started now.
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