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Shell Ridge Natives

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During the wildflower season, I spent a few hours pulling weeds at a restoration project at Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek. It’s a compelling, though still somewhat nascent, project, a steep slope facing the entrance of the open space. Most of the restoration work has happened in the last few years. The plants are young and there’s quite a variety of species, including a number of beautiful bunch grasses — Poa, Nasella, and Koeleria, maybe a few others — but the biggest visual impact came from the annuals that were blooming — California Poppies, Chinese Houses, and to lesser extent a Phacelia that I hadn’t seen before, P. distans which was popular with the bees but not really photogenic or garden worthy.

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I loved the big patches of Collinsia heterophylla. I tried to grow them in my garden this year, but they didn’t do well, I think because of slugs and snails.

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Other areas have been more recently cleared and planted. That’s a great looking oak; it will be beautiful with wildflowers filled in around it.

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There’s a former quarry across from the restoration area. From a distance the quarry shows like a scar, but it’s a nice landscape up close.

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Some of the boulders display the shells that presumably inspired the name Shell Ridge.

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I hadn’t been to Shell Ridge in years, so it was great to be lured out by the restoration project. It’s a pretty classic California landscape, lovely grassy hills, and I’ll be sure to go back see how the restoration project continues to progress.

Presidio Parklands Project Competition

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There’s a design competition for the Presidio. Five landscape architecture teams have presented concepts for what to do with the landscape after the tunnels replace Doyle Drive. You can check out the glossy renderings and give feedback on elements of the designs. SF Gate and Design Boom have write-ups on the competition. Worth checking out for anyone who visits the area with any regularity.

Update 12/10/14 — James Corner Field Operations has been selected as the designer for the project.

Carlson Grasses

Mid April 2012

Last year in April I posted a few photos of the median strip on Carlson Avenue near my house. The city had regraded the street and put in a median strip planted with native and non-native annual wildflowers. It looked great, but after a couple weeks of it blooming, there was a car wreck because a driver couldn’t see over the flowers. The city immediately mowed the wildflowers.

Late April 2012

A year and a half later, October 2013

After a few months the city put in the more permanent planting. This being Richmond, a significant number of plants were promptly stolen. It was kind of sad, a few new empty holes appeared every morning as if plundered by urban gophers. But eventually the thieves had enough plants for their gardens and everything was allowed to grow in. A year later, it’s looking great.

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Muhlenbergia capillaris, Pink Muhly

I like most of the plants used: Rubus pentalobus “Green Carpet’ at the ends of the median so no one can complain about trouble seeing over the plants, Hesperaloe, Lavender, Chondropetalum, Leucadendron ‘Jester,’ and Bulbine, a plant I recently started using. Two grasses are the stars right now. The Pink Muhly looks kind of scruffy when you’re a pedestrian and absolutely terrific when you drive past at thirty five miles an hour, blurring into the most vivid pink mass anyone could wish for. My favorite, though, is the Sesleria autumnalis, Autumn Moor grass. Green and gold, and nicely complementing the pink muhly. Maybe not quite as flashy as the native wildflowers of last spring, but just about the next best thing.

Sesleria autumnalis, Autumn Moor Grass

Richmond Bay Trail Sketches

Last year I mentioned that I walk our dog, Carla, at the Richmond Bay Trail. For about two years now, I’ve gone there almost every week, often three or four times in a week. Lately, I’ve sometimes taken along a watercolor block to do a quick sketch while Carla waits with a surprising amount of patience, then I add watercolor at home. The main idea is just to find a composition and finish it quickly before Carla gets restless, but the real effect has been to deepen my appreciation of the San Francisco Bay. Such a great natural wonder to live near.

Four Years Young

This blog reached its fourth birthday a couple of days ago. Posting has been slower this year, but still pretty steady, averaging a little less than a post per week. There have been about the usual number of posts about stone, but fewer posts about gardens this year; a lot of our time was spent designing rather than installing or maintaining, and I just generally seemed to be a bit less plant and garden focused this year. Also, I made a concerted effort to upgrade my drawing skills this year, so I often went out with a sketchbook instead of a camera, drawing landscapes instead of photographing the plants in them. Next year I’m hoping to focus a bit more back on gardens, including making an effort to get photos of some of the ones we’ve designed. We’ll see what happens. My blogging attention wanders a bit, but more or less stays on track with plants, natives, stone, gardens, and Bay Area/California landscapes. This week’s rains have germinated a ton of native wildflowers in our own garden, already has me thinking about what the coming spring is going to be like.

The Bay Trail

Lately, I’ve been walking our dog Carla on the Bay Trail near the Richmond Marina. There’s a section converted from an old rail line that I really like. The views are great, and the changing tides and light conditions make it a little different each time I go. I tend to stay moving and focus on exercising Carla, but I’ve done one sketch and taken a few photos. It’s one of the nicer places in Richmond and I’m likely to post about it again sometime.

Meeker Slough Creek

Meeker Slough and Albany Hill

Meeker Slough

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I’m pretty happy to reach four years of blogging. Thanks to everyone who reads or comments.

Carlson Wildflowers

For the past few weeks, Anita and I have been enjoying a wildflower planting in the new medians on Carlson Ave near our house. For years Carlson was an oddly humped road that had such a steep cross-slope near the sidewalk that the car door would hit the curb before it opened all the way and bicycling felt treacherous. To fix that, the city had to lower the street more than two feet to bring it down below the sidewalk, and in the process they also had to lower all of the utilities. The entire project took more than two years, involved all kinds of blocking of cross-streets and traffic, and was hugely inconvenient. But all is now forgiven, as far as I’m concerned, because the city added a median to the street and filled it with twelve blocks worth of wildflowers, many of them native. I’m happy to have my roads blocked if it means I get to drive and bicycle past wildflowers.

So far, I’ve seen California Poppies, Bachelor Buttons, Tidy Tips, Baby Blue Eyes, Alyssum, Lupine, and a few Snapdragons blooming, and there is a lot of Clarkia waiting for next month.

Hmmm…. Be careful what you praise on the internet. The same day that I put this post up, the city weedwacked all of the wildflowers. I’m guessing the planting grew too tall and was blocking visibility, but the city might also be ready to plant trees now. Farewell (to Spring), Clarkia, we never saw you bloom.

— Coda — Apparently an elderly driver got into an accident because of the reduced visibility caused by the wildflowers. Unfortunate for him and the wildflowers.

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