Friday, April 24, 2020

Plant Profile: Acacia baileyana

Latin name: Acacia baileyana "Purpurea" ("ah-KAY-shah bay-lee-AH-nah pur-pur-EE-ah")
Common name: Purple Fernleaf Acacia, Cootamundra Wattle
Originally from: southern New South Wales, Australia
Blooms: Covered in fragrant bright yellow pom-pom shaped flowers in late winter to early spring.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 20' x 40'
Zones: 8 - 10
Where to find in P. Garden: Several are planted at PRG

This is a great street tree: fast-growing and evergreen with weeping branches. silvery blue-gray, feathery leaves that look somewhat purple when they're young, and give the whole tree a purplish look. That is, when it's not dripping with bright yellow flowers! It's low litter (doesn't drop stuff all over the ground) and won't get tall enough to damage overhead wires either.

Plant this tree in full sun to light filtered shade; once established it is frost tolerant and very drought tolerant too.

Like a lot of Acacias, it is relatively short lived for a tree but for 30 years or so makes a dramatic statement in the garden as a trained-up street or patio tree or left with lower branches as a large shrub or low branched tree.

This tree won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993. It has a very small range in the wild, only seen in areas around Cootamundra in southern New South Wales, Australia where it is commonly called the Cootamundra Wattle.

The species is named after Frederick Manson Bailey (1827-1915), Australian botanist and son of colonial botanist John Bailey (1800-1864). The species was first introduced into California by Dr. Franceschi (Fenzi) in 1903. Naturally occurring purple leaved plants in the wild have been noted to have varying degree of purple in the new growth and the cultivar name "Purpurea" was registered by the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority in 1994.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Today, Tomas and his helper attacked the weeds at PRG again in a concerted effort to clear the pathway of fennel. Josh organized it all, and the results are amazing.

Last weekend, we had 10 volunteers working for 2 hours - that's 20 person-hours of work. But, you have to understand that for us, volunteer weeding is meant to be fun, so it's not like we crack the whip and work like machines. Well, some of us do ;)

However, Tomas and co are paid, and they started at 8am and worked til 3pm - 2 x 7 hours is 14 person-hours. But they DO work like machines. And they have some serious drive! So they plowed through the weeds and swept and leaf-blowed and raked and made everything gorgeous for us. Wow.

While I was at home sipping tea and eating Welsh cakes, the team weeded the BRCs, and destroyed fennel and other Really Bad Weeds like it was their job. Ahem.  See for yourself!



Saturday, April 18, 2020

Impromptu workday at PRG

Marcella and Mikey
I texted a few of our garden regulars to hold an impromptu workday today, as PRG has become such a weedy mess it's actually alarming.

Much to my delight, a crew of masked workers (a total of 10 people) showed up and after we identified who they were from a distance (kidding!) we got down to business and weeded out an absolute mountain of weeds.

Josh, John, Chris, Aditi, Mikey and Marcella worked away for more than 2 hours, starting where Josh, Tomas and crew left off last week. Each person chose a nice distanced spot, and masks and gloves stayed on.

At one point a neighbor pulling up in their car asked if we wanted help. OH YES! Andrea and her partner Patrick got stuck in right away, and made a big dent in the weeds.

John, slacking as usual!
I took some before pictures, but forgot to get afters. However, lots of pics of our intrepid volunteers enjoying the warm and sunny spring weather.

I also picked up lots of trash, as did others - always a problem at PRG, but now including discarded masks and gloves. Good people of San Francisco, WTAF is wrong with you? I am not shocked though - I have cleaned up more used needles, dirty diapers, used condoms and canine and human feces than any unpaid volunteer should have to over the last 11 years...

One thing that really cheered me up was Andrew and Rufus dropping by with baked goods. Baked goods always cheer me up - and in this case they were delicious Welsh cakes with cardamom and cranberries.

Each Welsh cake is made by showing a lump of lard a photo of some flour and sugar, and as a result contains about 15,000 calories of pure culturally appropriate bliss for me, so I ate two.

Later on, when Andrew offered me the remainder to take home instead of demurely/wistfully declining, I snatched them out of his hands like a rabid monkey and hid them in my car. I think he was a bit shocked.

Next week, Tomas and co will be back to do more paid weeding at PRG - focusing on digging out fennel along the path, and Josh will be there to work with them. 

Small Aditi, huge weeds
Hopefully that gets rid of the majority of the weeds - it's unfortunate to have to pay someone to do this as a volunteer run garden, but at the same time it's good to be able to pay someone who needs the work.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Plant Profile: Yucca rigida (Blue Yucca)

Just planted
Latin name: Yucca rigida ("YOU-kah ri-GEE-dah")
Common name: Blue Yucca, Silver Leaf Yucca, Palmilla.
Originally from: the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, and Zacateca.
Blooms: A tall spike of creamy-white flowers emerges from the central crown in spring.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 15' x 5'
Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have two at the top of at PG

This beautiful slow-growing tree-like yucca grows up to 15' tall, with occasional branching. The attractive 3 foot long by 1 inch wide, stiff, slightly waxy, pale silver to whitish gray leaves have narrow yellow margins and are dense, giving a symmetrical and architectural appearance.

Flowers in bud
The old leaves point downwards, creating a skirt on the stem, and finally fall off leaving a soft fibrous covering on the trunk. When it flowers, this species is as stunning as many other Yuccas.  In spring, huge clusters of white flowers hang off a thick 2' long spike that pops out from within the crowns.

Like other Yucca species, Y. rigida is pollinated by moths, and after being pollinated the flowers develop into short-cylindrical pods with pointed tips. After a couple of months, the capsules dry and split open to release the black seeds.  We don't have those moths locally, so sadly we won't be getting any seed pods.

This Yucca is like all the other hardcore drought tolerant members of it's family, performing best in warm sunny areas with good drainage and occasional to infrequent summer irrigation. It prefers alkaline conditions and is hardy to around 0°F.

Foliage pairings
We planted three of these in early 2019, and one died - it had been somewhat buried in mulch at the base, and I think that rotted it.  However, the remaining two look outstanding and are growing and flowering. Perhaps we will replace the first one with another - with a small trunk!

This Yucca is similar to Yucca rostrata, and the two are often confused. Y. rigida has leaves that are much more stiff - rigid, in fact. Y. rostrata has shorter, slightly twisted and softer leaves.  I have heard a joke about how to tell the difference between Yucca aloifolia and Yucca elephantipes, and it kind of applies to the difference between Y. rigida and Y. rostrata. If you fall into a patch of Y. elephantipes (or Y. rostrata) you will emerge pretty scratched up. If you fall into a patch of Y. aloifolia (or Y. rigida) you won't emerge...

Monday, April 13, 2020

PRG receives emergency haircut

Josh (L) and me (R)
I hadn't been down to PRG due to oh, global pandemic and things like that, but we went on Saturday because Josh alerted me to the fact that weeds were taking over. It was bad. It was like we'd never weeded there in our lives. Actually it was more like The Day of the Triffids.

Not the "greatest science fiction novel of all time" version from 1952, not the cheesearriffic 1962 movie, but the UK TV version from 1981 in which poorly dressed and somewhat hirsute persons are blinded by a meteor shower and awaken the next day to discover giant mutant plants are walking around killing and eating people.

Wasn't there a path once?
Yes. Just like that. We weeded for two hours on Saturday and barely made a dent. Ugh... something had to be done.

Happily, we were able to hire magical Tomas and his friend, thanks to Josh, and today Josh spent the entire day with them weeding the Triffids out of the garden.

They must have removed a metric ton of weeds. I can't begin to tell you how much joy this brings me, but I want to all to get down on your knees next time you see Josh. It is sure to go to his head, but there you are. Look at the pictures. I don't know what to say.


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