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Archive for August, 2010

El Cerrito Rain Gardens

Rain Garden Perspective Drawing by Gates and Associates

As part of the stimulus program and various water quality initiatives, El Cerrito got funding to add some rain gardens along San Pablo Avenue, the main commercial street in my neighborhood. A huge percentage of the area is covered with concrete, so when it rains the water has nowhere to go and the streets can look like this photo I took in May; sometimes I feel like I should get out a kayak. To help mediate that, the city redid two sections of sidewalkswith plantings set below the grade of the street. Instead of draining straight to the bay, stormwater will now flow from the streets and sidewalks into planting areas where sediment will drop out of the water and pollutants and trash will be filtered by the plants. There are 600 total linear feet of basins in the two separate areas, calculated to treat 1.23 acres of paved surface; the San Francsico Estuary Institute is going to monitor water quality to see how big of an effect the gardens have. There’s a podcast about the project here. It’s a nice use of plants to address an infrastructure issue.

San Pablo And Eureka Ave

The plantings are all natives. Juncus, leymus, and a grass that looks like a melica are the main species, peppered with some yarrows, two monkey flowers, two California fuchsias, two Ribes speciosa, several Verbena lilacina, two wild roses, a redtiwg dogwood, and a Doug Iris. There are one or two blooming plants in each planter right now, not a big impact, but just enough to focus the eye as you walk past each one.

Mimulus and Leymus

Monkey Flower and Leymus

The El Cerrito Patch says the cost of the project was $350,000 for the two sections of rain gardens.

San Pablo and Eureka

Island Pink Yarrow, Achillea millefolium rosea

There’s a meme about public plantings, Out on the Streets, hosted by Veg Plotting. Click through to see other posts about public plantings. I have a few more photos of the planters below the fold. (more…)

Japanese Dry Stone Walling

Stone on Stone from Daniel Freudenberger on Vimeo.

Rather more on-topic than a hack video, is Stone on Stone by Daniel Freudenberger. The footage is from the Stone Foundation’s January workshop and symposium. 14th and 15th generation Japanese stone masons came to California to demonstrate their traditional method of dry stone castle and wall building, and to supervise the construction of some ramparts at a park in Ventura. Most noteworthy in the technique is that the walls are battered with an arch shape for structural stability and that each of the structures has a ‘mirror stone,’ an especially large stone meant to reflect the strength of the builder or owner. The caption says the video is a documentary in progress, but I like it as is; it’s not fast-paced, but that’s appropriate for a stonework video, and there’s some good footage of rock shaping.

The Stone Foundation has an article about the project with info and photos. The Ventura County Reporter did a writeup with a slideshow, and the Ventura County Star put video footage in theirs. I’ve never been to any of the symposiums, but I know a few people who have, and they speak really highly of them. Looks like it was pretty cool.

One More Hack Video

Sorry, but here’s one more.

At the hacky sack world championships (for those keeping score: a new 18 year old Czech kicker won the title, a Swiss woman won the women’s title, and Poland swept the doubles competition) I saw a bunch of people for the first time in years, including my friend Lon with whom I travelled around street-performing in Europe for a couple of months ten years ago. I haven’t kicked a hack in years, but Lon has continued playing all of this time and, unbeknownst to me, starred in a Modest Mouse video a couple of years ago.

Besides the fact that it’s nice to see a professionally shot and edited video of my friend playing hack, and hilarious to see him undressing (only part way, don’t worry) in a rock video, the video is rather true to the hacky sack experience. When I was traveling around with Lon, I remember it was sometimes easy to draw a crowd of two hundred people but in other places impossible to build a crowd of five. And Lon never seemed to care much either way; more than anyone else I know, he’s content to do his thing whether anyone watches or not.

I’ll be back to stone and plants this weekend.

August Bloom Day

Lobelia Queen Victoria

Lobelia Queen Victoria

The word on the street is that this summer has been the coldest and foggiest in the Bay Area in 39 years. I can believe it; it has been so foggy and windy at our house, I started wearing long johns last week. The plants in our garden don’t seem to mind as much as I do. I don’t notice any particular lack of flowers, and the usual late-summer suspects are all blooming. I missed last month’s bloom day, but most of the same plants are still in bloom, with the Lobelia and the Stargazer Lily being the two main ones that hadn’t quite opened in mid-July.

Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily

In June we accidentally let our containerized native lilies dry out, so they declined to bloom this year. The Stargazer is in the ground, so it’s flowering nicely.

Indigofera

Indigofera

The Indigo Bush, Indigofera heterantha, behind the Stargazer is our reliable summer-blooming shrub. It has been happy this year, with none of the aphids that appeared on it last year around this time. The ornamental oregano at its feet hasn’t seemed to attract as many honey bees as usual, probably because the weather has been so chilly.

Western Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis

Western Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis

The Western Spicebush is our other summer blooming shrub. It has been going for several months now, with lots of seed heads, flowers, and new buds. It loves the graywater from our laundry machine.

Rocoto Flowers

Rocoto Flowers

The Rocoto pepper is also enjoying a long season. The flowers aren’t very noticeable from a distance, but I like them up close. I don’t think people with sunny vegetable gardens can appreciate how happy I am to find a pepper that produces so well in our foggy, part-sun site.

Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa

Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa

The Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa, also has a long bloom season in our garden. And the Beach Primrose, Camissonia cheiranthifolia, has been going for a while. It’s doing a nice job of sending flowers out into some of the other plants around it.

Dudleya plant, Camissonia flower

Dudleya plant, Camissonia flower

Thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardens for hosting bloom day. Click through to find links to tons of other blogs showing off what they have in flower. Below, I have a list of our other plants in bloom.
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A Pepper for the Fog

Rocoto Pepper

Rocoto Pepper

I think I’ve mentioned before that our garden is in one of the foggier micro-climates of the Bay Area, so a lot of the classic summer veggies are hard for us to grow. A few things like peppers and tomatoes are too important to give up on, so we’ve tried different varieties to find out what might work best. We seem to have found the right pepper for our garden. We’ve been getting a bumper crop of peppers from our Rocoto, Capsicum pubescens, sometimes known as the Peruvian Tree Pepper.
It doesn’t seem to need the heat that other peppers do. It’s our third year since we bought it as a 4″ at Annie’s. The first year I just potted it up, no fruit. The second year, after I transplanted it into the garden in the spring, it looked unhappy for several months, and then recovered at the end of the summer to put out maybe two dozen small peppers. This year we’ve had all-we-can-eat peppers since mid-June, and the plant shows no sign of slowing. We’ve been harvesting them green, when they have a nice pepper flavor and medium heat; three or four green ones in a sauce make it noticeably hot, but not fiery. A lot of people wait until they turn red and very hot, but not me. My stomach still remembers a plate of stuffed and baked ones that I ate in Peru thirteen years ago.
So far, I’ve just let it grow without pruning or shaping, and it has become a leggy seven footer without much ornamental presence. I’ve seen bushier, self-supporting ones in sunnier sites, but ours definitely needs the bamboo poles to keep it upright.

Our Rocoto staked to a Bamboo Tepee

Our Rocoto staked to a Bamboo Tepee

There’s a devoted website, rocoto.com, by a Bay Area enthusiast, with recipes and photos and info about growing them.

The Hacky Sack World Championships

I have a feeling this has slipped under most people’s radar, but the hacky sack world championships have been happening in the Bay Area this week. Sadly, the event is not quite the same as it was depicted by Hollywood, with no disco breaks or confused-looking celebrities, and no game resembling indoor soccer (though there is a game with a badminton net).

The main event is a freestyle competition; the current world champion is from the Czech Republic. He’s won seven of the last eight, going back to 2002 when he won the title from a friend of mine. My friend is now retired from hack, though he still shows up in front of the camera sometimes. That was him scoring the goal in the Zohan movie, and Honda just paid him to kick a hacky sack and say, ‘My bad,’ in one of their commercials. They also put up a youtube of him doing one of his old routines while dressed like a Honda technician, no doubt fishing for some link love from a garden blog. It’s below the fold. (more…)

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