You may notice a few non-plant additions to the garden recently. On 20th Street near the Florida Street intersection, a vertical sign gives details about the purpose of the garden and its funders and supporters. The garden was designed by Jane Martin, a local architect and founder of PlantSF, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sidewalk landscaping. Not only does this garden beautify the block, it is designed to absorb 100% of the rainwater runoff on the block, a fact we’ll all appreciate in the coming months. Watch this space in future for the story of the garden and its special design features.
Also added are a few gentle reminders about dogs. Yes, we know dogs can’t read –the signs are for the owners. Not you of course. You are a good neighbor and responsible dog owner. But a few other people do get distracted while Fido runs amok. We love our furry companions, but dogs can be very destructive to plants. They interrupt honeybees and other valuable pollinators, and can produce some unsanitary waste. So please, keep your BFF under control and we’ll all benefit.
California Aster with honeybees
As for the plants: this month it’s all about the aster family. Not to be confused with the New York socialites, this large plant family produces daisy-like flowers. California Aster (Aster chilensis) is going crazy this month and the bees are taking full advantage. (There are hives on the roof of Salumeria and Flour and Water). Native moths and butterflies also appreciate this plant’s nectar. Watch it now, it tends to disappear in winter.
Orange Arctotis flowers, also aster relatives, are also coming into their own. These plants are native to dry slopes in South Africa. The flowers on native varieties tend to close up when it’s cloudy, but many garden varieties stay open longer.
California sage (Artemisia californica)
The yellow flowers of California sage (next to the curb in front of Salumeria) are just appearing. They do not resemble daisies, yet this plant is also in the aster family. It is not a sage, but the silvery fragrant leaves are reminiscent of that plant. Apparently Native Americans burned the leaves to counteract skunk odor and made a tea of the leaves to combat fevers.
I love the smell of the foliage, but some people hate it. I attempted to make a smudge stick out of California sage once but the dried foliage is very fragile and falls off easily. Dried leaves and stems burned in a small bowl produced a fragrant smoke, but in my opinion, not as pleasant as the fresh foliage.
Enjoy the warm weather, the rain is coming soon!
Ellyn Shea is a gardener and garden educator in San Francisco.