Yikes! Oxalis!

Yikes! Oxalis!

At GFE, our south orchard is full of Oxalis pes-caprae, otherwise known as sour grass. This horrible weed originated in South Africa in a climate so similar to ours that it has gone crazy in California, invading everywhere. It’s bright yellow flower and clover-like leaves can be found on roadsides, in restored or disturbed natural areas, parks and gardens. It is relentless and it never sleeps. Many a gardener has spent hours weeding this pest, only to come back a week later and find it fully re-established. So what can we do?

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Winter Bouquets

Winter Bouquets

One of the great pleasures of climate-wise gardening in the Bay Area is the beautiful winter bouquets we can cut from our flowering trees and shrubs. When the rainy season starts, climate-wise plants wake up from their dormancy during the dry summer and fall. Many of them start blooming immediately. Salvias, tea trees, tree aloes, and grevillias are just some of the plants blooming now at Garden for the Environment.

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Winter Projects

Winter Projects

It’s been a long, dry summer, with plenty of bad news. The Sierras were on fire, we were flushing our toilet with buckets from the shower, and the city gardens and streetscape were full of dead, dying, and stressed trees and plants. It was hard to feel inspired to get outside and work in the garden. But now the local soils are starting to hold some moisture, there’s snow in the mountains, and fingers are crossed for a wet winter. Here are some easy projects to help tempt you back outside.

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Space, The Final Frontier

Space, The Final Frontier

It is good to know that now is the second best time to plant water-wise plants. The deeper soil layers are still moist from our December rains, and the soil is also beginning to warm up. As the sun feels stronger, plants shake off winter and start to grow and bloom. But wait! Before you run off to the nursery to buy new plants, take the time to make some space in the garden. Grab your pruners and saw, your gloves and your green bin, and head outside. A lot of what’s hanging around in your garden belongs in the green bin.

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To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

During the summer months, this had been a butterfly garden, full of dozens of different pollinators. Now, with late fall turning into winter, it was time to cut back and shape the garden for next year's pleasure. One of the Verbenas needed to be moved out from under the shade thrown by a huge Salvia karwinskii. There was never a better day for a sharp pair of pruners.

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New Look for the Water-Wise Garden

New Look for the Water-Wise Garden

As environmentally responsible gardeners, one of the most important advocacies we can engage in is to create change in the predominant garden aesthetic. The thirsty lawns, clipped hedges, Japanese maples, rhododendrons, roses and annual beds which defined a beautiful California garden since the dam-building era cannot define beauty for the future.

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Winter Beauty

Winter Beauty

What makes a garden beautiful in winter? Although our mild climates let some blossoms from late summer and fall hang on plants into January, it is not flowers that make a beautiful garden in the dead of winter. In winter, the shape and structure of the garden is unclothed. Here are some factors to consider as you look out your window at the wet or chilly garden this month.

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GFE Walks Its Talk: Tough Choices in the Border

GFE Walks Its Talk: Tough Choices in the Border

Sadly, part of winter work this year at the GFE includes removing our beautiful Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima or Nassella tenuissima). This lovely, mobile, golden grass has been a signature plant in our border, framing our gates and stairways. But we have learned that this grass, while well-behaved in our garden, has become weedy and invasive in neighboring wild lands.

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January Showers Bring January Flowers

January Showers Bring January Flowers

One of my favorite things about our climate is that even in January we get a new generation of bloom arriving in the garden. Some of the fresh January treats are familiar in old San Francisco gardens, such as the tall, sexy calla lilies with their lush curves, and the bright tree aloe, whose dramatic red-orange flowers support hummingbirds through this hungry time of year.

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Revisioning the Garden: Losing the Lawn

Revisioning the Garden: Losing the Lawn

Winter is a time to reimagine the garden. Deciduous trees and shrubs are bare, winter pruning is done, and the spaces in the garden open up visually. Winter visions at the GFE also involve moving the garden step-by-step closer to its goal of demonstrating sustainable gardening principles. Where can we improve, and make our walk match our talk more closely? One winter renovation this year has been somewhat drastic. We removed the small lawn in the outdoor classroom area.

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A New Gardening Year

A New Gardening Year

In the final days of January, the buds were swelling on the purple plum trees that grace San Francisco streets. The tiny new moon heralded the Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of another growing season. By the time this newsletter reaches its readers, the plum trees will be in full bloom, as clouds of pink blossoms assert Mother Nature’s confidence, despite a dry winter in the watershed and in the economy.

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