Thursday, December 10, 2020

More pics of our lovely rocks

 Check it out - so happy with how our new rocks look!

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Rock your socks off

We got rocks! Yep, our big order from Rice Trucking and Soil Farm in Half Moon Bay was delivered yesterday afternoon. We got 10 big boulders for PRG and two pallet baskets of smaller rocks for PG. About 7 tons total, I’m guessing?

I’d paid for temporary no parking permits and placed them on the street on Wednesday giving the required 72 hour notice that we would be using those 9 spots from 1pm to 3pm Friday. When we arrived on the street at 12.15pm we saw that not one spot was open...

I quickly posted on NextDoor and emailed 2 of the residential buildings to ask them to move their cars. Aditi had saved a spot for us with her car, as had Chris. The paint shop guys moved their van to allow another boulder in, and we scavenged 4 more spots as people came back for their cars. 

How did we get the rest installed? Let’s just say that Francisco the delivery truck driver was very handy with his forklift. So thanks Francisco, and no thanks to all those people who parked despite the signs... you’re lucky you didn’t get towed. 

Today’s volunteer day was great: luckily we had 4 strong guys! Matt, Bill, Josh and Chris got ALL the rocks in both baskets moved and wow - super happy with the results!

We lined the lower pathway, redid the bed at the bottom of the steps with rocks, and put the rest of the rocks up in the top bed (until we can build that properly)

We also cut back the Hakea that was leaning, pruned and propped up a similarly leaning Dodonea, moved a Furcraea, an Agave ghiesbreghtii, some Achilleas and some Puyas. And there’s room to plant some new plants. All in all an extremely  rewarding work day :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Plant Profile: Agave potatorum "Cameron's Blue"

Latin name: Agave potatorum "Cameron Blue" ("ah-GAH-vay pot-ah-TOR-um")
Common name: "Cameron Blue" agave, Butterfly Agave
Originally from: Puebla and Oaxaca
Blooms: A 10-20' tall spike with yellow flowers happens once in the plant's lifetime.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 18" x 18"
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Three at the top of PG

A small to medium sized solitary agave (no pups, boo hoo) from the semi-arid highlands between 4,000 and 7,000 feet of Puebla and Oaxaca, with wide broad gray leaves that form in a lovely symmetrical rosette to 1 to 2 feet tall by 2 to 3 feet wide. The leaves have chestnut brown spines and a wavy 1" long terminal spine.

This cute little agave was appreciated by the Nahuatl Indians who called it "papalometl" meaning "Butterfly Agave", and it's now also known as maguey Tobalá locally, but the species name "potatorum" comes from the Latin word "potator"' meaning "of the drinkers" because the plant was used to make alcoholic drinks (mezcal brand Los Nahuales uses a. potatorum for example.) 

Like all (or most) agaves, this one wants full sun very little water - surprise! A great choice for water wise gardens. Plant a nice swath of these little spiky things.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Quick trip

Matt and I popped out to the garden today and moved some smaller rocks from PRG to PH in order to make room for the new rocks that we HOPE will be delivered on Friday of this week.

Yeah, getting a permit to block off 9 parking spots for a couple hours is proving very difficult, due to COVID. The SFPA is involved in trying to make it happen, but we might have to do it the following week.

Back to today. We moved 4 rocks to the upper area to start a terrace along the top of the garden. Then we planted 3 Beschorneria parmentieri. Well, that's what they were labeled as. But in fact there's no such species... there is a Furcraea parmentieri... but it doesn't look anything like these plants... which actually look like Agave vilmoriniana to me. Well, whatever they are, there are three of them planted at the garden now so good luck with that.

I trimmed up the front arch vine (again) and picked up the usual discarded clothing and rubbish from the garden, while noticing that 311 still hasn't come for the waste left last week. So I put it in the 311 app again.

The photo? That's Matt next to a Yucca faxoniana at Berkeley Botanic Gardens last week. I would DIE to have one of these! Total CHONK.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Superb day for EVERYONE!

Woke up, got a new president, the day was already SUPERB!

After that amazing start, Matt and I loaded up and headed to PG for the monthly volunteer day! Andrea, Chris, Josh and Hilary joined us and as usual we got a LOT done with help from our friends.

Hilary set up the hose and got to work watering. Despite a light sprinkling of rain in Pacifica last night, nothing fell in SF as far as I could tell and some plants still need help.

Andrea turned ALL the compost and she and Hilary removed and spread several tubs of good compost too. Before that, we had to remove a bunch of lavender clippings someone left in the composter, and bag them for city removal. 

Remember neighbors - if you're adding stuff to the compost bins, make sure sticks and dry stuff (like dead lavender) is not added. It takes 9+ months to compost down in our climate and that's a waste of space for us.

Meanwhile, Matt, Josh and Chris set about cleaning up the severely messy west end of the drainage ditch. Yep, we will get rain soon and that ditch is very function at those times so it need to be cleared of debris. Loads of Opuntia had fallen in, along with rocks, sticks and dirt. In about an hour they had it totally cleared and it looks fantastic.

Chris planted another Opuntia further up by the ditch, and Josh put on up at the top of the garden. Josh also planted a dozen pink ice plants (Delosperma) in our new bed on the lower path and it looks fantastic.

Lastly, the tool chest took a hit: someone broke in. It's been years since that has happened and this time it doesn't look like much was taken... mostly because we don't keep much in there anymore. But it's still annoying. 

Chris fetched his power drill and he and Matt fixed it right up. Oh well. Nothing can spoil this day.

Back to celebrating our new president!


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Rock shopping

Yesterday Matt and I went rock shopping at Rice Trucking and Soil Farm in Half Moon Bay. We picked out 10 large boulders for PRG and two pallets of smaller rocks for PG.

The plan is to replace smaller boulders at PRG with bigger ones. People tend to shove the little ones out of the way so they can park on the sidewalk which is so rude.

Then we will take the smaller rocks and use them to build up the downslope edges of some beds at PG. Mmm, rocks!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Rocks migration

Matt and I had another great garden day yesterday. We planted a large Agave tequilana “Sunrise” at the top of PG, as well as three variegated Yuccas that we had rooted this year. 

After that, we turned our attention to the lower path at PG. We have recently planted some aloes and agaves down there but the area was still looking pretty scruffy and as it’s fairly steeply sloped in the left bed it needed to be held up somehow.

After that, we turned our attention to the lower path at PG. We have recently planted some aloes and agaves down there but the area was still looking pretty scruffy and as it’s fairly steeply sloped in the left bed it needed to be held up somehow.

The solution was obviously to get some good sized rocks to hold the slope up. Knowing that some of the smaller boulders at PRG don’t really prevent cars from getting too close to the sidewalk we decided to re-purpose half a dozen of them. We went down and selected two and Matt put them on a dolly and drag them up the street. As you can imagine, they are extremely heavy and that was not a vast amount of fun.

Knowing that some of the smaller boulders at PRG don’t really prevent cars from getting too close to the sidewalk we decided to re-purpose half a dozen of them. We went down and selected two and Matt put them on a dolly and drag them up the street. As you can imagine, they are extremely heavy and that was not a vast amount of fun.

So I drove the truck down we loaded two more rocks on the dolly and then hooked the dolly onto the back of my trucks hitch…

Surprisingly, it stayed on as I drove extremely slowly up the hill two blocks and turned around. Genius redneck hack achieved!

We installed the six rocks and I think the result was really worth the huge amount of effort as you can see from the photos!

After that we did a little watering and packed up for the rest of the day.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Big agave transplant

Today Matt and I dug up and moved a nice big Agave weberi “Arizona Star” to PRG from our house. This replaces one of the ones that flowered there this year and subsequently died, as they do. Big job but great result I think. 

We will need to find another large agave to go in the other bio retention cell at PRG where an "Arizona Star" flowered... but I think we will recover from today's effort first ;)

We also moved a large Agave “Sharkskin” from home and three others from the bottom of PRG into a group halfway up the street. Not bad! Previously there were three Agave impressa there, but they failed to impress. One died right away and the other two were looking extra ropey. We brought the survivors home to see if they can be rehabilitated.

Lastly at PG we rescued a pot of Gaillardias someone left there, and some Agave vilmoriniana bulbils I had hoped would grow bigger on the stalk, but someone cut it down instead. Ack! At least I found the stalk and saved the small babies. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Plant Profile: Yucca rostrata

Latin name: Yucca rostrata ("YOU-kah ross-TRAH-tah")
Common name:
Beaked Yucca, Big Bend Yucca
Originally from:
Western Texas and northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.
Blooms: Large clusters of white flowers bloom on yellow-orange colored stalks that rise above the foliage on mature plants in late spring.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough - hates waterlogged roots.
Height x width: 15' x 10'
Zones: 5 to 11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have five down at PRG in a group

Yuccas are a staple at PG and PRG, and this one is particularly beautiful. A very slow-growing (and therefore expensive in large sizes) tree-like yucca with upright stems and beautiful gray-blue narrow foliage that can branch, but usually doesn't.Growing slowly to to 12-15 feet tall, it has 2 foot long, somewhat stiff, slightly waxy, pale bluish-green leaves with very thin yellow margins,which make up a gorgeous rosette on top of the stems.

Give it a warm sunny areas with good drainage and perhaps occasional summer water and it will do well down to 0°F. Gophers do like it though, so if they annoy your garden plant it in a big basket.

Found on rocky slopes and ridges in western Texas and northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, the name "rostrata" means "beaked" referring to either the shape of the flower buds or parts of the fruit. That has led to the common name of Beaked Yucca but it is also called Silver Yucca or Big Bend yucca for the region in Texas where it is commonly found. The indigenous people of this area also called it Soyate and Palmita. 

It is sometimes confused with Yucca rigida which has stiffer leaves that are more bowed in cross section compared to the flat leaves of Yucca rostrata. A quick way to tell if you are confused which plant you are looking at is to imagine falling headfirst into it. Yucca rostrata would release you with scratches. Yucca rostrata would keep you impaled on its stems.... forever...

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Agave plantings

On Sunday Matt and I popped out to plant some plants - more plants we have been nurturing for ages, and just cannot keep through another winter!

Matt planted three Agave desmettiana variegata, and moved another big one to join the ones down on the lower path at PG. I put in one Agave lophantha, an Agave filifera, and arranged two new Agave shawii with the rest of the group we have - all growing quickly and starting to look very cool; see pic.

We watered a few very dry plants, weeded, and tidied the vine on the arch, and walked down to admire how clean and weedless PRG is right now. Except for a couple spots we will tackle at the next volunteer day :)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Agave rearranging, mega weeding achieved

Matt and I popped out to Potrero Hill on Saturday morning to meet Kris of Rhode Island Street who wanted to donate some tools to the gardens. We were delighted to get lots of good tools and some tree watering bags which will be super useful. Thanks Kris!

We headed to the garden and watered a few plants probably for the last time this year. Then we rearranged some of the Agaves behind the wrong way sign. That area has been a “pup farm” where we let small Agaves grow on. Now it’s time to make sense of it all. 

We made a group of five “Green Giants", moved an Agave tequilana “Sunrise” and laid out six or seven Agave lophantha as well. We pulled out a few somewhat shriveled looking pups to grow on at home, and weeded a bit. 

And yesterday Tomas and co were back to do some weeding at PRG. They removed some big Agaves that had flowered and cleaned up the path - a whole day of work for two people that has made a huge difference.

Fennel plants were cut back, grasses tidied,  litter removed, tree branches and leaves cleaned up, and the whole place just looks 1000% better.

Thanks to Josh and Tomas for making it happen.

Monday, October 5, 2020

False pretenses

I lured Josh to the October workday by saying we were planting new plants. On the day as we loaded the truck I realized we didn't actually have plants ready to go in the ground this week but it was too late to tell Josh to stay home. Haha. That would never happen ;)

Despite this he was his always cheerful self, and along with Matt, Chris, Bill and Hilary we worked away in the warm sun and got a few fun tasks done.

Bill turned the compost - emptying one bin completely and almost another, and getting several trugs of compost out which was spread around where needed. It's a really solid workout doing that, and I so appreciate anyone who turns compost. Rock on Bill!

Hilary cut back Salvia leucanthas. When the rains come they will spring back into action looking superb, so it was great to get that done at just the right time. Will we get some rain soon? Forecast says it's a definite maybe...

All those salvias went into the compost heap, and we also filled 7 paper bags for 311 to pick up - all the non compostable sticks and other things that take forever to break down in our bins go in those bags, and get composted elsewhere.

Chris removed a santolina that was past it's sell by date, and also the Dasylirion wheeleri in the middle back bed which had sadly rotted out after flowering. He replaced that plant with a good sized Agave weberi "Arizona Star" that was at the bottom of the steps and really too big for that spot - great swap!

Then what to put in the spot at the bottom of the steps? Well, a cactus that was there had been struggling due to a bramble crushing it. Chris and Josh removed and replanted the cactus, and gave the bramble a haircut.

Matt deadheaded a lot of Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears) and watered the plants that needed it. And I cut back a Phlomis.  I must have done more than just that, but somehow I can't recall!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Let's see that yucca!

Matt and I headed to the gardens last weekend to water one or two thirsty plants. We decided it was time to plant three 3 gallon sized Yucca rostrata plants we have been holding onto, as they will probably do well without too much help until the rains start.

We decided to plant them with the other three Yucca rostrata we have at PRG - one large 4' tall Yucca rostrata "Blue Velvet" that we planted back in February 2013 when PRG was first built, and two Yucca rostrata "Blue Velvet" that are about 2' tall, planted in January 2019.

Surprisingly the ones we had planted in the past were doing well, despite the fact that a big tree mallow (Lavatera maritima) was completely shading them and dumping lots of leaves and spent flowers into their crowns. So it had to GO! Out came the saws and pruners and pretty quickly the shrub was cut back to a more manageable size.

We moved one of the medium sized yuccas to one side, and added the smaller new ones around that area to make a nice group. They're slow growing but one day this will look lovely.

We put in a 311 green waste pickup request and tidied up - hop the city can remove the branches ASAP.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Plant Profile: Yucca filifera

Latin name: Yucca filifera ("YOU-kah fill-IFF-er-ah")
Common name: Mexican Tree Yucca, Palma China, Chinese palm
Originally from: Chihuahua desert in North-Eastern Mexico.
Blooms: An unusual 5' long weeping panicle of white bell-like flowers pollinated by moths and butterflies.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough - hates waterlogged roots.
Height x width: 25' x 8'
Zones: 7b to 10b
Where to find in P. Garden: We have three at the top of at PG and half a dozen in two groups down at PRG.

Yucca filifera was discovered in the 1840’s in North-Eastern Mexico by explorer Josiah Gregg. It was introduced to Europe in the 1870’s. I hadn't seen these for sale until last year at Flora Grubb gardens, where I immediately pounced on one to try it out.

Since then I have bought or been given about 10 more, because they are so incredibly tough, architectural and easy to grow. Deer resistant? Allegedly. Human resistant? For sure!

A common plant in North-Eastern Mexico, and in Mexico as a whole, it is found at altitudes of 1400-7800', in areas with an annual rainfall of around 11-24". Yucca filifera grows in a huge variety of environments, and can be seen in huge forests at the foot of mountains in deep soils, in desert-scrub, grassland, thorn-scrub and occasionally in oak or pinyon-juniper woodland.

With rigid, narrow leaves, 1.5" wide and 18" long arranged around the trunk, the plant looks like Yucca aloifolia except with thin white threadlike leaf margins: the name filifera is from Latin ‘filim’ meaning thread; and ‘fera’ meaning carrying.

Yucca filifera is a tall branching evergreen tree that, in 20-50 years, can reach 25-40' tall with a spread of 8-15'. The trunk usually branches at around 10-14' and can develop a massive and wide base when old. They only seem to be available in a 5 gallon single stemmed size at retail and wholesalers, though I have tried to get larger ones - no luck.

As with many tough and common plants, they have a lot of uses. Indigenous people used the leaves of Yucca filifera as a roof covering and as a source of fiber for handcrafting. The flowers, fruit and stem can be eaten raw or cooked and the flower spike cooked and eaten like asparagus. Yucca filifera can also be dried and crushed for use as a flavoring, though I've no idea what it would taste like.

The root contains saponins which are not toxic, but they are difficult for the human body to digest. Plants containing saponins can be crushed in water to create a foam so were often used for cleaning.

Saponins in general have a number of potential, modern day medicinal applications as they are found to exhibit anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties and have antibacterial effects. They are thought to help reduce cholesterol levels, kill bacteria, and inhibit tumor growth.

On the whole this is a super xeric garden plant and I highly recommend it.


Monday, September 21, 2020

It's a great time to plant agaves

Summer has given way to fall, but if you've lived in the Bay area for long you'll know now is the driest time of year. The gardens are parched and the ground is dusty dry, and we have watered a few plants (new tree Aloes, and a palm we planted) but some plants love the heat. Agave is one genus that thinks the hotter the better!

We did have some weird weather recently that some agaves didn't love though. A hot dry spell, followed by foggy, smoke-laden air, leads to some agaves ending up with edema scarring. 

These mottled marks on some leaves are caused by water being pulled up to the leaves during hot weather, but stopping in its tracks when cool, humid weather hits. The cells loaded with water then burst and scar the leaves. Unfortunate, but the plants will eventually grow new leaves.

We had a lovely September volunteer day, with Chris, Josh, Matt, Hilary, John and Andrea generating 18 bags of green waste for recycling! We got lots of plants cut back (the cardoon, salvias, euphorbias and so on) and turned and watered the compost.

We also planted some great agaves that Matt and I have been growing. Josh put in three Agave maximiliana... or they might be Agave zebra. Except both of these species are supposed to be solitary and this one pups like mad...We will just have to wait and see what they turn into.

Josh also planted a group of seven Agave desmettiana variegates behind the wrong way sign. That area has become a huge farm for baby agaves but we hope to reorganize the plants, put them in groups, and make something pretty out of it all soon.

Matt and I visited with the famous Brian Kemble of the Ruth Bancroft Gardens the following week, and had a blast weeding his pots of hybrid Agaves, Aloes and Gasterias while talking about all the cool plants he has grown and known. 

 In exchange he gave us some lovely plants for the garden, including three Aloe polyphylla hybrids which we planted right away on the lower pathway where they will hopefully thrive. Matt added five more Agave desmettiana variegates in that area too, as well as a few on the way to the tool trunk.

A week later Matt and I were back at the garden, planting yet more Agaves we have been growing on at home. We did two groups of Agave gypsophylla up in the top area of PG, and a group of three Yucca aloifolia "Magenta Magic" down at PRG.

It's great to get some plants out of our home garden and into the public gardens - it can take years to grow something big enough to plant out in a street park (small plants tend to get stolen, or crushed) and I feel now that 3-5 gallons is the minimum if possible.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2 workdays, no mention?

We had our June workday and I didn't take any photos! What's wrong with me? Don't answer that. We did get a lot done: compost got turned by John, loads of Chasmanthe and Euphorbia characias got cut back, and mountains of weeds removed from their smug little lives by Chris, Matt and John's friend whose name I forgot (sorry!)

Jon and Joe have been weeding away like crazy in between workdays too, and cleaned up the kiosk area beautifully as well.  Check it out!

We also watered a bit - the garden is dry as can be which is usual for this time of year, but even the tough plants look a bit tired in summer.

Last week Matt and I popped out to water a couple of plants as well. We bumped into Chris who was there mulching his Agave bed - the area behind the wrong way sign.  He's been BUSY cleaning that area up and it looks outstanding. We use it as a "pup farm" for baby Agaves to grow on and they have been doing really well so it's time to rearrange them, maybe add some ground cover.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Chasmathe are DONE!

Matt and I spent a couple hours weeding at the garden today. We turned two compost bins and watered them (after removing a huge amount of trash from one bin) and while Matt watered other already parched looking plants, I tied back the Phlomis at the steps and then cut back a lot of Chasmanthe.

I love Chasmanthe in later winter - fresh green leaves, orange flowers - what a great sight at the coldest time of the year. But right about now they are done flowering and their leaves turn yellow and crash. So they get cut to the ground - all 20 clumps of them... I managed about 4 clumps today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Plant Profile: Cistus purpureus (Orchid Rockrose)

Latin name: Cistus purpureus ("SISS-tuss purr-purr-EEE-uss")
Common name: Orchid Rock Rose
Originally from: throughout the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal through to the Middle East, and also on the Canary Islands.
Blooms: Bright magenta flowers 3" across blanket the plant in spring and summer
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 4' x 6'
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Three at the top of PG

A tidy, compact, sun and heat-loving evergreen shrub. In spring it's covered in outrageous 3" wide rose-purple blooms with maroon spots and a gold center. Tolerates drought, poor soil, and total neglect, and the leaves have an interesting resinous scent. Yep, you need a rockrose in your life!

This is the best rockrose for seaside conditions as it doesn't care about salt spray, wind and sandy soil. It is also one of the hardiest of rockroses, tolerating temperatures down to around 15 degrees F.

This plant is an old garden hybrid between Cistus ladanifer and C. creticus. Listed in 1819 in Syndenham Edward's Garden Register of exotic plants cultivated in British Gardens, the author wrote that it was universally known at the time as Cistus creticus "from which however it has been well distinguished by the industrious and sagacious Chevalier de Lamarck in his excellent Encyclopaedia Botanique."

I am sure the sagacious Chevalier would also tell you that you can cut it back as you like, and it forms a nice solid screening plant mixed with other Mediterranean climate plants. Stems often layer at ground level and root, and I would expect they're pretty easy to start from cuttings, though I haven't tried.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sun and showers and tree felling

"April showers bring May flowers" as the saying goes. But May showers? They bring weeds, m'kay? Anyway, weeding is the Ultimate Pandemic Activity IMO: a) you're socially distanced b) outdoors c) wearing gloves anyway and c) talk about cathartic - ripping out weeds will really let out any anger you might have!

With that in mind, Matt and I went out to PG to weed a bit. And there we found Joe who was watering his little area by the bench. He and Jon refinished the bench, made the signs and solar lights and have been refilling the bird feeders to boot. I propose a Garden Volunteer Award 2020 for each of them!

I cleared the path from the top of the steps to the top of the garden - about 3 giant tubtrugs of weeds to the composter. Matt was doing something but I have no idea what.

And today, Chris emailed to show me that the final dead Monterey pine has been removed! Where were those logs falling? Into the garden? I have no idea.  But it's (almost, probably, mostly) gone! So I'm happy!

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