May 2011 Archives

Planting Planreservoir planting, long crop
Score a point for the city planners: their new landscaping at the Stanford Heights Reservoir, in the San Francisco neighborhood of Miraloma Park uses locally appropriate native plants in simple bold strokes of panache.  The design is a triumph of simplicity.

We are so frequently dismayed by the busy, overwrought planting plans brought forth by cookie-cutter "native plant designers" taking the wildlands as their only inspiration, who employ a hodgepodge of (too) many plant species because "that's how it looks in nature."

Here, the design chooses two beautiful species as a foundation for all the plantings adjacent to sidewalks: Carex pansa and Pacific Coast Iris.

The Pacific Dune Sedge (Carex pansa) looks like a  meadow grass, and it spreads underground by rhizomes like running bamboo.  It grows well in heavy soil (though it prefers sand) and can tolerate sun, drought, and the traffic of dogs.

The iris is gorgeous and locally authentic; Its blue flower and long pointed leaf may be as emblematic of San Francisco as any plant I know.

Together they bind the perimeter of the reservoir with sustainability and beauty.  Water-wise, insect-friendly, pleasing to the eye, and mostly self-sufficient -- what more can you ask?

The plan also called for sowing seed of blue-eyed grass (which didn't come up) and California poppy (which did).  Count my vote a yawn.  Haven't we had enough poppies?  So many other local and lovely annual wildflowers to choose from -- anybody for Clarkia?  Collinsia?  Lasthenia?  Limnanthes?  Anybody?

Talk & Slide Show at Brisbane Library

Join Madroño founder and president Geoffrey Coffey for a talk and slide show at the Brisbane Library on modern gardens using locally appropriate native plants.

May 14, 2011 from 2-3 p.m.

250 Visitacion Ave.
Brisbane, CA 94005

Sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

A Word on Modern Fences

Modern Fence in San Francisco
Urban living means density, and for city back yards that means fencing: we need clean lines of agreement on where my property ends and yours begins.

But so many existing fences in the city are ugly, common, built on the cheap, installed by rote with no insight, like mere place-holders.  We swoon at the magnitude of lost opportunities.  If well designed, the fence can strive for art even as it performs its necessary, divisive duties.  The key to the sublime lies in transparency to sunlight.