13. Circle Drive hill garden

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May 31, 2016 by missionazul

Several years back, off of Circle Drive, facing north, looking towards Mt. Davidson, was a large triangle landscape that was bordered by the sidewalk, stairs,  and a ramp.  It was sodded with no-mow fescue, the fescue mix that grows a bit wild, flowers and goes to seed.  The grass that looks like a herd of deer would be happy bedding down in it.  In amongst the fescue were some cypress trees.

With time, a break in the steam pipes, the drought, the north facing exposure, and weeds, the fescue ceased to be the dominant feature.  With permission and blessing from the most excellent supervisor Steve Petersen, we set out to grow a garden.  Between the Garden Practice OH101 class, the Introduction to Horticulture class OH50, and the landscape design classes OH70A and OH70B, we slowly made some progress.  This was our ‘slate’ at the beginning:


We made some berms with the existing soil.  Added some rocks and hardscape to define the space.


The first planting:


Rose Byers and Jessica Vizcaino working hard:

3.1rose byers and Jessica vizcaino.JPG

After the first initial planting we got a nice crop of Aloe ciliaris and they joined the party.


Year one:  the garden started to smile – Mexican sage Salvia leucantha (in the back) and the Chilean Calandrinia spectabilis (in the foreground).


It took a while for the plants to get comfortable.  Then they settled in and made themselves at home.


Ron Castagnetti made some nice wooden plaques for our gardens around campus.  It says “This garden created by horticulture students”


This spring semester, some of our best designers stopped working for a moment and sat for a picture.  From left to right – Nick Tremblay, Valeria Bykova, Cassandra Furlow, Lauren Homer, and Patrick Carter.  In the back, parsley and swiss chard were flowering and going to seed.


Before summer let out, we went out to weed one last time.  Hummingbird was flying about, drinking nectar of fuchsias and cupheas.  Then Hummingbird took a nice rest on the warm curb of the stairs before zooming off again.


This garden is special in several ways.

(1):  Other than a one time initial irrigation at the time of planting, there is no further irrigation.  It is all rainfall fed.  Soil fed.  The soil is mostly a dense clay that holds moisture exceedingly well.  It stays wet throughout the summer.  Plants are planted bare root, without the fluffy easily dried out potting soil mix of bark and perlite.  As plants grow, they grow in harmony within the limits of the landscape.  As a result, they are compact and well grounded, adapted and tolerant of the wind and hard soil.

(2):  Diversity is valued.  Even ‘weeds’ are valued and included in the planting matrix.  Rather than making a clean slate, using herbicides and extensive grading, we have worked with whatever plants were on site and whatever plants have come in.  We select for good ground covers that clothe the earth, regardless of whether we planted them, or if they came in by themselves.  We planted plants from all the world.  They are all natives!!

(3):  Ornamentals, medicinal, and edible plants are all planted together.  Yes!  Cabbage and swiss chard can be beautiful to behold as well as to eat.  Its okay to chew some parsley seeds before heading up to biology class.  Let’s pick some autumn berry and make a jam for chemistry class.

(4) We let plants go to seed, and only selectively deadhead.  Brown leaves and dried fruits are okay, they mean seeds!  Reproductives!  More plants adapted to the site for future generations!  Nature in all her glory!  We welcome her throughout her lifecycle.

Stay tuned!  Planting is ongoing and the plant list is to come…


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