A short walk in the small city garden

Always a work in progress, but I finished the cobblestone path a few days ago. I'm holding the camera at waist-level.

Come back in the spring and summer, and maybe we'll do this again.

I'm surprised how long it takes YouTube to "process" a video after it's been uploaded. This one didn't become available until three hours after I finished the upload! Apparently patience is a virtue...and not just in gardening.
San Francisco, once a blue-collar town, has changed in recent years as the port and manufacturing faded away. Now it's a city of service industries, with old neighborhoods next to new high-rises.

"A big city for people who don't like big cities," says Neil Olson, a management consultant for lawyers, who moved to San Francisco 20 years ago.

Like any city, San Francisco has its downside -- it is losing its middle class and its children. The number of kids in schools has declined from 93,000 in 1968 to 54,500 now, according to Supervisor Ed Jew, who was elected from the Sunset District last fall on a platform of trying to hold on to families and small businesses.

The city's streets are full of beggars, and some of the homeless sleep in the doorways of swanky shops at night. Sometimes 21st- century San Francisco looks like Charles Dickens' 19th-century London.

The golden times of the past also had their dark sides. In the Bonanza days of the 1870s, the largest hotel in the country was built in San Francisco, the rich drank champagne and built gingerbread palaces on Nob Hill, the city was stained with anti-Chinese riots, and the Barbary Coast was a dark and dangerous place of drugs, prostitution and crime.

"The place was full of contradictions," Charles Caldwell Dobie wrote in "San Francisco, A Pageant."

San Francisco of the here and now has contradictions, too, many of them shaped by economic forces.



"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is 'no comment.'"

Link and link.
"A barge carrying one of the original Napa Valley homes floats down the Napa River to the building's destination in Benicia. House mover Phil Joy saved the historic building from destruction by engineering the transport of the house, built in 1895 on land that is now planned for a golf course. Chronicle photo by Michael Macor."




Dare to dream.

That's what I'm gonna do in my 2007 vegetable garden--by giving melons a shot.

Growing melons in cool, coastal California: Inadvisable. It's not hot enough. Requires micromanagement.

In her book, SF vegetable gardening guru Pam Peirce has this to say:
Every few years I come across a listing for a 'very early' [melon] that is supposed to bear fruit even in cool weather. So far, my success has been limited to the two-and-a-half-inch cantaloupe [described elsewhere]. And cantaloupe is probably the melon most likely to succeed here!

Well, I'm going with Territorial Seed's Earlidew ("An early hybrid honeydew that is as well suited to cool summer growing conditions as any melon we've evaluated." 80 days), and Cook's Garden's Charentais ("The original French melon known for its...ability to ripen even in cool areas." 75 days).

Maybe I'll get a boost from global warming.

Look how beautiful Charentais is. Right out of some old still-life by Cezanne or something.


I knew someone in grad school who thought melon flesh smelled like rotten meat. Or something like that. I'll bet he would hate that picture.

Magnolia campbellii

I believe. Possibly a pink-flowering M. denudata. I took this picture the day after a battering windstorm. You don't see the distinguishing 'cup-and-saucer' flower pattern at all in this picture.


On M. campbellii, famed Bay Area botanist Elizabeth McClintock wrote, "[The flower's] innermost tepals form an erect, conelike covering that encloses the central column of stamens and pistils; the remaining tepals spread horizontally. It is this characteristic 'cup-and-saucer' flower shape that distinguishes Campbell's magnolia from other deciduous Asiatic magnolias." (Weird--Amazon scanned the back cover of McClintock's book.)

So how do the flowers get pollinated if fleshy tepals enclose the sex parts? "Magnolias are among the oldest of flowering plants, having evolved more than sixty-five million years ago when earth was dominated by ferns and conifers... Beetles, ancient forms of insect life, are thought to be the original pollinators of magnolias, feeding on both the plentiful pollen and the sweet tissue of the [tepals]." Ibid.

Another shot of the same tree, looking more cup-and-saucery.



Bernal Heights, San Francisco. December 27, 2006.

San Francisco's best neighborhood, if I do say so myself.


"Stop, and prune me."


"And me too!" It must be hard to enjoy your Eriobotrya deflexa when it's about to smash through your living room window. I can't quite imagine what must go on in people's minds to let these trees go on like this.

Over the years, I've had a lot of nasty things to say about geraniums (yes, Pelargonium). I take it all back, starting several months ago. I like them now.

IMG_6452 IMG_6463

This sunflower (?) is cute.



Does your video store quote Thoreau? Mine does. Nyah, nyah!


People, please do not plant Dietes unless you intend to divide it once in awhile. Please!


If I owned this particular million dollar house, I would get that dead tree gone so fast. It's been there for a long time.


These people have a nice, rugged Mediterranean garden...on public land I believe. (And when I say Mediterranean, I mean Mediterranean climate. Please don't tell me these aren't necessarily Mediterranean plants. I got that.)



Aloes blooming everywhere.


A particularly floriferous Fremontodendron.


It's in bloom whenever I walk by, all year long.

Cute little puppy, barking at me furiously. Aww!



The first 80 seconds or so really captures a lot of my general mood this year.

The rest of it's funny too.

Not safe for work, but I don't give a fuck. :)


Dear diary,

Today I went to the stone yard to pick up the last 10 or so cobbles I need to finish my garden path, but they were closed. Closed--the day before Christmas Eve! Can you imagine that, diary? I was so sad, all I could do was go home and clean up.

Then I remembered I had a rose bush to plant because I went by my nursery yesterday to buy two big pots for containerizing Asclepias speciosa, and I was quite surprised to see they'd already received their full shipment of roses. Roses! Caught totally off-guard, I bought a bareroot Climbing Joseph's Coat since I'd at least had that one in the back of my mind for awhile.

I told a friend I wanted to try grafting red, orange and yellow roses onto one rootstock so I could have a three-in-one rose going on in my small garden (like Fruit Loops), and she said, "Just buy Climbing Joseph's Coat." So that's what I did. Because let's face it diary, I don't know how to graft roses, and I have enough on my plate already. Grafting roses can wait until next year.

So I fixed up soil in a big pot for Climbing Joseph's Coat. I'm not going to let it climb tho'; I'll be pruning it into a bush because I know that rose can take it.

And I decided what to do with all that extra dirt I've been generating lately. I'm going to build another big raised bed for a spring/summer vegetable garden. I've been meaning to try potatoes; here's my chance. Next week, my nursery's scheduled to get fruit trees. Maybe I should get a fruit tree too? It would be nice to espalier a fruit tree where the Dahlia imperialis will soon be no more.

Okay, diary, I'll write more later. It's been a long morning and I want to take a nap before dinner.


Another one. Bigger than the other day. At least a 4.0.

They're calling it a 3.7. Well, it felt stronger than that to me.

The stone yard

What gardener doesn't enjoy a trip to the stone yard?

This one has a nice fish pond.


With hungry fish.


This place is 20 minutes away in South San Francisco (a town which doesn't even share a border with San Francisco). I hear there's a stoneyard in San Francisco proper, but I've never been able to find it. Anyhow, I come here on my lunch break sometimes just to look around.

Big rocks.



Rough rocks.


Rough red rocks.


Round rocks.


Small rocks.


Really small rocks.


Flat rocks.


Particularly old-looking rocks.


And the rocks I came here for.


They're just called San Francisco Cobblestones, or SF Cobbles, because they were used extensively in 19th century San Francisco. Construction crews find them doing excavation work downtown, and they end up in Bay Area stoneyards where people like me come along and haul them right back to San Francsico.

We bought our first 100 from a contractor we had a chance encounter with in a parking lot. He'd removed them from a garden in Noe Valley and was on his way to sell them to the stoneyard. He sold them to us at market rate and threw in free delivery.

These ten are going home with me. $41.14, a cash palindrome.


These aren't the best cobbles I've bought. Kinda concretey. But I think some winter rain and summer sun will flake it off. Cobbles aren't cheap, and they don't always make for a smooth, easy walk in the garden, but they do create a cottagey vibe which is what I'm going for. And I think the varying color and texture of the cobblestones adds visual interest. I particularly like that they come with some local history.

We can take a quick look around, but we're not spending any more money today.








These chairs remind me of summer.


Yesterday at 4:52 or something was the solstice.

Happy belated solstice!

Do you mind

another trip to the Botanical Garden?

Cupressus macrocarpa.


There's that ginkgo again.




It's 45 degrees F.

Let's work in the greenhouse today.







Okay, I've got to go back out into the cold now.

Christopher..? A Hawaiian native Metrosideros, or pseudo-native, I believe.


The sun is giving sharp contrasts today.


Maybe too sharp.


Maybe you think those pictures should go in this order...?



Get it? Get it? Heh, heh.

Erica caniculata.


Really old-school, huh? I like it.


Melianthus major. In with the new...


and out with the old.