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Friday, October 26, 2007

Reconsidering Mums

I've never been a big fan of chrysanthemums. They've always seemed to me to be drab and shrubby in the dullest possible way. But the L.A. Times has an article on mums this week including lots of great photos of some Japanese mums featured at an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden. Check it out, particularly the spider mums and the ozukuri, which are almost dizzying in their beauty. I doubt I'll ever think of mums quite the same way again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Difference Between Watering and Raining

Last night we had the first really good soaking rain that we've had in a long time--a few months at least. Walking around the back yard this morning, I couldn't help but notice how perky everything looked. Even the end-of-season, on-its-last-gasp stuff like the tomatoes and the pumpkin vine seemed to have a bit of renewed vigor and it brought me to a sudden and what should have been obvious conclusion: I haven't been watering deeply enough.

My routine this summer has been to hand-water with the hose twice a week, with occasional extra spot watering with a watering can when the weather got really hot or something looked particularly parched. I think that schedule is OK, but I realize now that it probably would have been better if I'd used a sprinkler on the hose and let it run in each bed for about five minutes. While the sprinkler ran, I could have been doing odds and ends of other tasks (pruning and weeding, for example) instead of just standing there like a moron holding the hose. I thought that by hand watering I was able to give more customized care to each plant or bed. But I think I was kidding myself. And I'm even wondering if the less than spectacular results that I've had this year with blooming and fruiting, which I've been blaming on soil problems or pest problems, may actually have been at least partially due to inadequate watering.

It's too late to test this theory this year. We've got another storm coming in at the end of the week and possibly a third due early next week. And the rainy season typically kicks in around November here (although is weather ever "typical" anymore?). But I'm noting this for next year. And one of these summers maybe I'll actually get my act together and install some kind of drip irrigation system in the back yard. I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Greening Up an Alameda Public School

I got an e-mail recently from Shirley Watts, an Alameda landscape designer I posted about a couple months ago. She wanted to tell me about a pro bono project she's working on to put in new landscaping at the recently revamped Haight School and asked me to spread the word. Installation begins at the end of this month and they are in need of volunteers and, of course, some green stuff--that's right, money. Here's what Shirley wrote me:
We are doing an all volunteer landscape installation at the Henry Haight Elementary school in Alameda. The school is located on Santa Clara Ave in Alameda. It is a Title 1 school and was closed for a year last year for retrofitting. I was contacted by some parents to help landscape the large area in the front of the school. The school district was planning on throwing down sod which is considered low maintenance landscaping.

We have designed a simple project which we will be installing with volunteers working 4 Saturdays starting on October 27th. We are looking for people to help with all phases of the installation. Apart from being a good thing to do, this will be a good opportunity to experience a serious landscape installation and work with some of the skilled professionals we have on board.

If enough people are interested we may set up some kind of orientation meeting the week before we start.

The installation will be as follows:

Day1 Oct 27th:
Installation of large circular forms for concrete planters which will be prebuilt and ready to set up. Setting posts for steel trellis. Building concrete forms for new front path with rebar. Installing irrigation valves.

Following weekend:
Concrete pour and finishing. We will have a one or more trucks, pumping, finishing etc. More irrigation work and installing steel trellis.

Following weekend:
Remove forms, fill planters with soil, set up irrigation

Following weekend:
Planting and emitters

We are looking for serious people to help with all aspects of this project, particularly the first two weeks, which should be a great experience for anyone who hasn't been in on a concrete pour.

We are also soliciting donations of money and materials. We have some funding available, but need to raise at least $15,000.00 to get this done. Checks should be written to the Haight School PTA 2025 Santa Clara Ave Alameda CA 94501 With a note that it is for the Beautification project.

Anyone who's interested in donating or volunteering should contact me at .
This seems like a really worthy cause. The elementary school I went to had landscaping that consisted of wooden benches and asphalt--the most depressing environment you can imagine. I think that surrounding a school with beautiful, well-designed landscaping goes a long way to keeping students inspired and give them some pride in their school. I hope to be able to post some pictures of how the landscaping turns out.
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