Monday, April 26, 2021

Plant Profile: Agave parryi var. truncata (Artichoke Agave)

Latin name:
Agave parryi var. truncata ("uh-GAH-vay PAR-ee-eye var trun-KA-tah")
Common name: Artichoke Agave
Originally from: From Durango to Zacatecas in Mexico
Blooms: Once, after 10-20 years, a flower spike rises 10 to 20 feet bearing orange buds that open yellow. 
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 3'x3'
Zones: 6-9
Where to find in P. Garden: We have lots all over PG and PRG

This gorgeous Agave is like a huge, blue-gray rosette of spiky, symmetrical wonder. The first one we got came from John and since then we have added to the collection with many more either through collecting them or via pups, which this Agave produces all the time (yay!)

Agave parryi has one of the most extensive ranges of any Agave in the wild, and it has several varieties in various areas. Extending from central Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, this species runs all the way south to Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Mexico. It grows on rocky open slopes in grassland, oak woodland, pine and oak forests and Arizona chaparral at elevations from 3000 to 7500 ft.

The variety we have, truncata, is from the southern range of A. parryi, and as a result is more cold sensitive - hardy to around 15° F. Other recognized varieties of A. parryi include A. parryi var. parryi (Parry's agave), A. parryi var. couesii (Coues agave), and A. parryi var. huachucensis (Huachuca agave). These all have longer, slimmer leaves than truncata. I'm not saying truncata is better, but... well, I kinda am.

Another great thing about this Agave species is that it's used to make mezcal (tequila's smokier, more Byronic cousin). Of the 270 species in the Agave genus, 40 to 50 can be used for mezcal production (per Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM) regulations). If you find a bottle made from Agave parryi, let me know!

Monday, April 19, 2021

More garden cleanup happening

Last weekend, we had Tomas and team out to finish up the weeding at PRG and also clean up the Triangle Garden above PG. Things are looking pretty good right now.

Matt and I visited to move some Yucca rostratas that were in the path of PG&E trenching (watch out for that) and to plant some Agave parryi var. truncatas and some Yucca guatemalensis at PRG. We came across Josh weeding away in the sun, and that was nice. We all set about cleaning up the front by the kiosk and it looks alright now - see the before and after pic, left.

I also took some photos of Agaves getting ready to flower at PG. Some of the big ones are going to go for it this year! They are, clockwise from top left, Agave tequilana "Sunrise", Agave parryi truncata, Agave weberi, and Agave weberi "Reiner's Selection"

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Plant Profile: Cistus x skanbergii (Pink Rockrose)

Latin name: Cistus x skanbergii ("SISS-tuss x skan-BERG-ee-eye")
Common name: Pink Rockrose
Originally from: A natural hybrid of C. monoseliensis and C. parviflorus that happens where two species overlap in Greece and Sicily.
Blooms: Pale pink flowers 1" across blanket the plant in spring and summer
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 2-3' x 4-5'
Zones: 9-11
Where to find in P. Garden: One in the middle front bed at PG

This plant is an unassuming little star. A tidy, low-growing sun and heat-loving evergreen shrub with soft gray-green foliage. In spring it's covered in delicate papery pink flowers with a gold center. Tolerates drought, poor soil, and total neglect, deer don't like it, and  it can handle seaside conditions too. I expect it would even tidy your garden shed for you if you asked nicely.

You can shear it back in late summer for a fall rebloom and enjoy this little cutie in your rock garden, along gravel paths, on banks, slopes and anywhere too dry for the average plant. It's a great groundcover and won't give you any trouble.

This plant was originally described as a species by Italian botanist Michele Lojacono Pojero (1853-1919) but it is now considered to be a natural hybrid between Cistus monspeliensis and C. parviflorus that originates where the two species overlap in Greece and Sicily. 

The name Cistus is from the Greek word 'kistos' which was the name originally used to describe the plant in ancient Greece. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Multi-agency work at PRG coming up

Today at 7.30am Matt and I had a meeting with 7 representatives from Caltrain, PG&E, BBII, and JPB (two construction companies) that are working on installing the low-voltage direct current (DC) third rail system at The PS-1 site (right next to PRG.)

They had informed me that they would need to dig up parts of the garden to add trenching for power, and naturally after many years of inter-agency fusterclucks at the garden resulting in huge damage and even obliteration of certain sections with zero warning, it made me nervous.

However, the scope of this part of the project is smaller - and involves moving a few plants and taking down one large Malva shrub in a two week time frame.

Crisis averted so far...

Above is a picture of Agaves damaged by a homeless person's fire last week at PRG. Sigh.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Yellow flowers at PG

Quick puzzle for you: name these plants and find the nasty weed among them! Send your answers to me on the back of a crisp $100 bill and I will gleefully buy even more plants in your name, whether you win or not!

(Answers are below - no cheating)


Top row, left to right: Aeonium sp, Calendula officinalis, Oxalis pes-caprae (Sourgrass)

Bottom row: Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii, Euphrnia charcias, Cytisus scoparius (Scotch Broom)

Which one is the invasive weed? Oxalis AND Scotch Broom! Unless you planted the latter on purpose...

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Rare butterfly sighted

Today Matt and I went to PG and PRG to plant some plants, look at the work done by Tomas and his crew at PRG yesterday, and yes, weed some weeds.

Starting at PRG we uncovered some Agave "Sharkskin" that were being engulfed by Artemisias. You can see the problem in the before and after shot, left.  Agaves don't like to be damp and shaded, and will rot if nearby plants grow over them, so keeping them weeded is important.

After that we planted three gorgeous specimens of Agave ocahui - a lovely donation from Emily who lives on the peninsula. Thanks Emily! Hopefully these three will turn into nice 2' wide plants along the pathway. 

The name "ocahui" was the name was used by the indigenous Sonoran Desert population for "fiber" and "cordage" because the leaf fibers of this Agave were used to make rope. Another common name is Amolillo - a reference to the tradition of making soap from the leaves.

After that, we put in five small Agave "Blue Flame" to go with the four larger ones already in place.  This is a nice, soft, medium-sized agave that pups a lot, so there will be more to come. Always good - we often try to pick Agaves that produce lots of offsets so we will have more in the future.

Lastly we planted two very small Dracaena draco plants. This is the gorgeous and rare Dragon Tree, and we have one at PRG already.  They are painfully slow growing though, and will get to tree size probably after Matt and I are too old to enjoy them. Consider it our gift to future Potrero Hill!

After all that we headed up to PG and took photos and just enjoyed the garden. It's lovely right now - and you might get to see something I saw today, the rare pipevine swallowtail, Battus philen. This stunning black and blue butterfly only lives for a few weeks and only eats California pipevine - you can read more about them, and one man's efforts to help them, here. Why it was at the garden, I don't know, but I really appreciated seeing it. Sorry the photo is so bad!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Weeds demolished!

The weekend's volunteer day was awesome - an entire compost bin of weeds was removed from the garden by Matt, Chris, Josh, Bill and Jenna

In addition to that, two paper bags of weeds were left for pickup by the city. And a couple big tubs full also got composted (i.e. left in a heap to compost down) hidden in the middle of a bed. That's a lot of weeds.

Not to say there aren't a few left over... and by a few I mean a lot. We need help! Happily, we had a crew working down at PRG too, and Tomas and his men weeded about 1/3 of that garden very thoroughly. More on that later.

That said, the gardens are looking very lush right now - flowers galore (Echiums, Aeoniums, Salvias, California poppies, Rockroses, Strelitzias, and more) and everything is growing as fast as it can.

Pre-pandemic we had lots of company VTO days when groups of employees would help weed and it made a huge impact. Right now, in the absence of VTO days, we could use a volunteer workday every week for a month to get things under control.

So, if you've been thinking about coming to help out please do join us. We meet on the first Saturday of every month from 10am-12pm and we provide gloves, tools, and water. 

All you have to do is be like Bill (left)!

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