Monday, March 25, 2019

Plant profile: Austrocylindropuntia subulata

Latin name: Austrocylindropuntia subulata ("OSS-tro-sill-in-dro-POONT-ee-ah sub-you-LAH-tah")
Common name: Eve's Pin, Eve's Needle
Originally from: The Peruvian Andes.
Blooms: Peachy pink
Light: Full sun to extreme furnace.
Water: Nope. Skip it.
Height x width: Up to 13' tall and as wide. If you let it.
Zones: Seventh slope of Hades, and up. (9a-10b)
Where to find at PSG: We have some at PRG, some on the cactus wall at PG, and in the very top bed too.

The genus Austrocylindropunia is useful to know, simply so you can rattle it off and impress people. The species name subulata comes from the Latin subulate, as in "like an awl" - in other words, something that can pierce leather. Yes, this is a very "cactusy" cactus. It's got that cylindrical shape to the branches, and lots and lots of long and perilously spiky spines ready to stab you. No hugs for this plant! Stay the heck away from it, actually.

It's very easy to grow - just suit yourself up in full body armor and grab a pair of tongs so you can pick up a bit of it, put it in the ground, and step back. You're sure to regret it one day.

I jest of course - it's a great plant for PSG because it's so easy to grow, obviously requires no water and awful soil is fine, it repels all boarders, and grows quickly for a cactus. It's also a great potted plant for a sunny outdoor spot.

As for the common name, Eve's Pin, you could totally use the spines as pins. I am guessing Eve was a destitute Peruvian dressmaker who discovered this one day, but I could be wrong.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Planting more plants

Matt and I headed out to PG last weekend to get more plants out of our yard and into PG. Chris had mentioned it was looking pretty weedy, and he wasn't kidding - an explosion of weeds happened! However, we had planting business to do so those weeds will have to wait...

First up we unloaded six 15 gallon Cordylines from the trailer. We got 3 "Torbay Dazzler" and 3 "Red Sensation" because they are the most drought-tolerant varieties out there. Matt grouped them in the left bed and the middle back bed, and they got watered in.

Meanwhile I worked on weeding one side of the steps. Again. Didn't I just do that recently? Ugh! I planted 10 Achillea "Coronation Gold" there - the toughest, least invasive kind. I also found two large pups of the Agave there. Whose name I can't remember.... OK well now we have 4 of them on the right side of the steps. Surrounded by Achilleas. I can't think of a tougher plant grouping, but time will tell - this area has been changed up so many times over the years, and very few plants make it there. We'll see!

Also worth noting that there are lots of very SCENTED flowers in the garden right now. In the picture, clockwise from top left they are: cherry plum, narcissus, bronze loquat and mock orange. Go have a sniff - they smell simply divine!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Workday with Juul a success!

Today we had a 3 hour corporate workday at PRG with local company Juul. They sent along about 30 very enthusiastic employees who worked their tails off to make our neighborhood a nicer place to be, and they far exceeded my expectations!

There was a lot of prep for this workday - pre-weeding, ordering wood chips, blocking off parking spots for the chip dump, picking up tools from DPW (and returning them), picking up drinks for everyone, packing the trailer and a thousand other details.

At 11am I had 10 cubic yards of wood mulch delivered by Miguel from Bayview Green Waste - a pile that was a bit daunting, if I am honest.

I was really grateful to get volunteer leadership help from Chris, John, and Gina today: thanks for answering a million questions and keeping everyone going with great cheer all day!

And the Juul team was full of energy! I divided them into two teams - weeding and mulching. All the beds needed to be weeded, then have a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch laid on top.

And of course while that was going on, trash needed to be picked up and divided into recyclables and non-recyclables.

The teams set to work as quickly as they could, but as the day wore on I was worried chips might be left in the pile - which means I'd have to move them myself somehow, as we cannot fill parking spots with wood chips. I decided to strategically bet John $10 that his team couldn't finish the task in the time allowed. Challenge accepted: John rallied his team and they plowed on.

I finally called time at 2pm, but the mulching teams kept wheelbarrowing mulch down the street until it was all gone. Troopers! I guess I owe John $10 now, but it's money well spent.

We filled 40+ bags of green waste, piled up and ready for Recology to compost up. That's a truly impressive result. Thank you Juul for sending your finest people over to make Potrero Hill gorgeous.

Have a walk down the block soon and enjoy the clean beds. We have a few weeds left over - we do need a few for our next volunteer day on April 6th and with GoodData in May, after all. Hah!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Preparing for a big workday

Agave vilmoriniana
"Stained Glass"
We have a corporate workday on Wednesday March 13th: we're excited to have 40 volunteers from Juul coming to PRG to help weed! If you'd like to join us, we're going from 11.30am-2.30pm.

This means lots of planning. I am ordering wood chips, organizing extra tools, buying more gloves, and need to get lots of beverages too.

In addition, I've been at the garden preparing. Which feels a bit like cleaning before a house cleaner comes, but I want everything to be ready to go. That means preparing for a huge amount of wood chips that, if they are dropped on the street, need to be moved OFF the street and into the beds in one session: we cannot leave piles of wood chips on the street!

Acacia melanoxylon
(Black Acacia)
So I've been taking a census of areas that a) need heavy weeding, b) need a light weeding or c) need no weeding before wood chips can be spread there. I've been working on weeding areas that only need a little work to be chip ready, and right now PRG is divided equally between those three categories.

Gonna see how much weeding I can do in the next three days to prepare! Yesterday I did the top area, and planted a dozen Nassella tenuissima too. Today is too rainy... try again tomorrow.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Plant Profile: Yucca "Blue Boy"

Latin name: Yucca desmettiana ("YOU-ca dez-met-ee-AH-nah")
Common name: Yucca "Blue Boy"
Originally from: It doesn't exist in the wild!
Blooms: It blooms July-August with large clusters of waxy, translucent white, pendulous blooms.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty.
Height x width: 4'-6' x 3'-5'
Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a group of these at PG in the middle back bed, around from the bench.

You know we love Yuccas, and this one is a fabulous new plant to the trade. While it's been called a
hybrid of Yucca desmetiana, it's also been described as Yucca aloifolia "Purpurea" and I am starting to wonder about that. I have some at home which I got from different places - one set has that very stiff, dagger-like leaf that Y. aloifolia has, although these are much smaller plants so far than the rest of my group. The rest of them have a softer, curving, leathery leaf that won't kill you. We'll see what happens...

The variety name is misleading too - it's not blue. But it is a superb maroonish-purple and that's unusual in Yuccas.

Over time, it reaches 4 to 6 feet high and up to 5 feet wide, with several stems - but it's a slow grower. In most climates the stems will grow straight upwards, but they may also swerve and meander a bit before turning upwards. We can't wait to see what ours do. Right now they appear like a huddle of Cousin Its from the Addams Family !

This plant thrives best in hot, dry climates, but it's adaptable. They say it's not bothered by humidity but I have noticed that the foliage color may vary with the weather, being more blue-green at the coast and yellowish inland. Deer steer clear of this perennial, and periods of drought will not faze it.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Rain didn't stop us!

John vs fennel!
Saturday’s volunteer workday was a surprise: it didn’t rain! Apparently I was super busy the whole time as I didn’t get many photos, but John, Josh, Chris, Matt and my parents made a big dent in the task list.

John weeded fennel. That’s a serious job - you can cut the tops off easily enough but you really need to dig them out, roots and all, to kill them. And boy do they have roots! John was not daunted.

Matt and Josh planted three gorgeous Nolina nelsoniis at the north end of the garden. This is a new genus for us - hope they do really well in that super-dry spot. I mean, super dry later in the year, obvs...

Nolina nelsonii
Chris cut down a whole tree (Acacia stenophylla) with a small handsaw. The poor thing was leaning right over and there was no way to straighten it up. Happily it had a sprout at the base, so he staked that up to regrow.

And my parents planted a couple dozen Artemisia “Powis Castle” and Euphorbia wulfenii in various spots.

I weeded away madly and pulled up as many Malvas as possible - the ground is so soft they’re coming up easily so it’s a great time to pull them out.
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