About Pennsylvania Garden

Pennsylvania Garden is located at 251 Pennsylvania Avenue at 18th Street in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California.

For a long time Annie had wanted to clean up and beautify the Mariposa Street off ramp which lets onto Pennsylvania Avenue, and which is owned by Caltrans. Annie wanted to make it a relaxing and safe place for all sorts of people and animals to enjoy. In December 2008 she noticed that a Princess Plant (Tibouchina urvilleana) that someone had left down on 17th Street had somehow made it up to this area, and had been planted.

Inspired, Annie went to a San Francisco Botanical Garden plant sale the next day and came home with a car full of plants. Pennsylvania Garden was born. As she and her fiancee (now husband) Matt planted those first plants, Jim and Carrie from across the street came over and introduced themselves - they had planted that Princess Plant!

After almost a year, the garden’s layout was set. Nearly 1,000 hours of heavy, backbreaking work had been done by Annie and Matt. The vast majority of the plants were planted. So far, all the plants were chosen and paid for by Annie and Matt, or collected from Craigslist.org advertisers – often involving many blister-inducing weekends and late nights of digging after work in various gardens throughout the Bay area. With the addition of many donations from neighbors of the garden, it was starting to look established. However, the cost was adding up…

Annie met Emily nearing the garden’s first anniversary, and encouraged her to join the garden as a grant writer. Since then we’ve gained funds to cover hardscape improvements, and gained the San Francisco Parks Trust as our fiscal sponsor, enabling us to accept tax-deductible donations. Many other amazing volunteers have since joined and their names can be seen throughout the blog – too many to list, but all very valued members of this project.

What's growing here?
The plants we are putting in are nearly all native species, or drought tolerant when established, so the garden won't need to be watered much. We're doing this to show you too can have a lush garden with little to no water use!

We've bought some of the plants, propagated some of them from seeds or cuttings, and had many donated by generous friends.

The labels on the right of this site show all the different genera of plants we have in the garden - click on one to read all the blog posts mentioning that plant. We also publish a weekly "Plant Profile" giving more details on a species or genus of plants you can see in the garden, to help you grow them too.

Above is a map of the garden, in case you're wondering what I'm referring to in my posts. Each bed is labeled, and has a short description of its contents. Click on the map to enlarge it.

We encourage our dog owning friends to use the biodegradable bags from our poop station and deposit them in the trash can by the light pole near the dog area so that everyone can enjoy the garden. This (and the bag station) was donated, and is emptied by dog owners periodically - please have respect for the efforts of fellow dog owners and don't leave poop anywhere else in the garden. Children visit the garden and dog poop carries bacteria that can cause serious disease.

It's worth noting that a great many common garden plants are poisonous if ingested - don't let your dog in the borders, and don't let them eat the plants! Also dog pee kills plants, and dog paws can crush plants. If you think your one dog can't possibly damage the garden that much, imagine hundreds of dog visit per week! We've lost several plants already. Please - enjoy the garden with your pet respectfully. Keep your dog leashed, out of the beds, and don't let them eat the plants.

Pennsylvania Garden's plants and flowers are for everyone who visits to enjoy. However, it is not a cutting garden. If you take plants or cuttings or flowers from the garden, you deprive others of enjoying them, and can easily damage plants. Please don't think that "just one flower" or "just a small bunch" is OK: if everyone thought this way there would be nothing left. If you would like a cutting or seeds from a specific plant so you can grow your own, we'd be happy to give you some - please ask Annie.

Future plans
Our contract with Caltrans, DPW and the San Francisco Parks Trust means we agreed to look after the garden for 5 years, a contract that's already been renewed once, and during this time we hope the plants will become established and the neighborhood beautified with water-wise plantings that inspire neighbors to grow plants that thrive in our drier climate. We plan to build paths, steps, edging and informational signs so that adults, children, dogs and wildlife can enjoy the garden together.

Over the years, as the plants grow and fill out, we hope this work will improve Potrero Hill, distract the eye from the freeway view, provide habitat for wildlife, teach people about plants and gardening, and most importantly provide a peaceful and beautiful meeting place for people in the community.

We want you to join in
We have already met many of our neighbors and enjoyed great support from them all! We hope you'll join us in the garden if you're interested in helping out, and that you'll literally stop and smell the flowers every now and again. Contact us to find out how!


FAQ with Annie:
You've got questions. I've got answers. If you have more questions, let me know. I'll answer them.

Who owns the land?
Caltrans. I am gardening it via SF DPW and the San Francisco Parks Alliance's Street Parks Program. The latter two entities worked with Caltrans to make this possible, and I now have our second 5 year contract for the garden.

Who is doing all this gardening?
My name is Annie and I lived in SF for 20+ years. I'm helped by lots of our neighbors. See the list of names of donors in the right column, as well as all the names bolded throughout the blog.

How long has this garden been here?
Since December 2008.

Does Caltrans pay for the tools and plants?
No. They have been helpful in getting the water set up though. Matt and I have paid for almost all the tools, hoses and most of the plants you'll see in the garden. Some plants we have grown from seed, or from cuttings, in our house. Others have been donated by generous friends. Yet more have been the result of hours of digging in the gardens of various Craigslisters with plants to give away, as far afield as Sacramento and Pleasanton. Sometimes we drive to Oakland at night to pick up bags of plants left by anonymous donors. And very occasionally, plants appear in the garden mysteriously on their own!

Why aren't you growing food crops?
Caltrans doesn't allow edible plants, because the land is contaminated. Think runoff from the freeway since 1972. Think rusty batteries and hypodermic needles. Think years and years of dog poop... now go wash your hands!

Can I do some gardening too?
Yes! We could use some help here! Keep an eye on the section at the top of the right column for our next volunteer day. We need help with weeding, watering, moving plants and planting new ones, pruning, deadheading, and often larger projects that involve laying paths or terracing areas for better access. None of that your thing, but you still want to help the garden? We have other tasks that don't involve getting too dirty or aggravating a sore back. Grant writing? Photography? Volunteer coordination? Just let us know what you like to do!

What about twitter and Facebook?
You can follow us on twitter! We'll tweet when a new blog post hits the blog, or at events we put on. You can also join our group on Facebook by clicking here.
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