The following document was given to me

by botany graduate students from San Francisco State University,

in collaboration with students from University of San Francisco

and botanical garden nursery volunteers

they asked that I

push it out into the world

like a cork topped glass bottle on the sea

When I read it

I was uncertain of its veracity

so I went to talk to the old curators

the old docents and volunteers

and the old society staff

and checked it out as best as I could

they said yes its true, the botanical garden will not be the same place in a few years

this is the direction that it is going

they also said

“nothing can be done about it.  most botanical gardens are doing the same thing.”

“botany is a dead science.  there are few economic incentives to drive further exploration, taxonomy, and collection.  Count how many botany majors there are this year in our classes, less than a handful.  theres simply no jobs for botanists.”

“the only thing that matters is what happens after you die, this is all an illusion”

I agree with these old time plant gurus, and see the wisdom in their ways.  the study of flowers is no longer as important, as relevant, nor as essential, as it once was.  What is in your heart and mind and spirit, at every moment, trumps the material world.

So please.  save your strong emotions for another topic.  no letters, no protests, no indignant speeches, rallies, and marches.  Sit back, be like a plant dreaming in the sun, anchored in the earth.  Just go out and be in the world of plants, and know that tomorrow, they may be gone.  Say hi, enjoy their presence, notice how they are all so unique and different and special, and know that change is the only constant in nature.   Give thanks, for it is they that have created the world that we live in.  The air, the marshes, the forests, the valleys, the food.  Homes, fuel, life itself.  Plants are the producers, we are the consumers.

Sorry kids, y’all gonna be living in a little sadder world than the one we grew up in.  You will not know your kindred relatives or recognize your brothers and sisters who are animals and trees.  But, this has been coming down the pipe lines for a whiles now…. nobody cares, all that matters is…

Here is the document submitted to me.  Rest in Peace:


San Francisco Botanical Gardens                      November 1, 2019

Plant casualties in living collections

The casualties in the past two and a half years +  are as follows:

Beds 48N and 48G. The grove of some 50+ yew trees Taxus baccata that created the ceremonial circle in the redwood grove.  Accession XY-2642 likely sixty to seventy year old specimens.  Cut down completely.  No more circular enclosure for the benches and podium.

Bed 53G. Tetradium daniellii, a large tree in the Rutaceae family, the bee bee tree, approximately 60 years old – cut down.  The only one mature specimen in the garden. Not rare, but the only one of its age and kind in a public space in San Francisco.  Replaced by Bergenia, Acorus, and ferns.

Bed 4B. Thujopsis dolabrata and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana.   The Thujopsis was the largest and oldest of six Thujopsis plants in the garden.  Both 60 year old +.

Bed 48O. Across from the succulent and cactus gardens.  A collection of mostly Australian plants.  Everything cleaned out except for one transplanted grass tree.  The bed was seeded with California annuals like Phacelia and California poppy in the winter of 2018.  Now it is a dried out meadow with Ehrharta erecta grass and Echium fastuosum seedlings.  Some of the older specimens lost were:

Banksia media 1978-0171.  41 years old.

Banksia sphaerocarpa.  1978-0172.  41 years old.

Banskia spinulosa 1973-0629.  46 years old.

Beschorneria albiflora 1973-0622.  46 years old.

Cassia artemisioides.  1977-0048.  42 years old.

Leptospermum liversidgei.  1971-0332.  48 years old.

Glandularia peruviana.  1975-0202.  45 years old.

Peumus boldus.  1973-0141.  46 years old.

Three of the five total species of Kunzea at SFBG were in Bed 48O.  Kunzea baxteri, K. pomifera, and K recurva var. montana.

Xanthorrhoea macronema, age unknown.  The only X. macronema in the garden.

Not too long ago, Xanthorrhoea was well represented in the San Francisco Botanical Garden, especially so in Bed 48O. In Bed 48O, there were four species, nine individual plants, based on records from 2012 by past curator.  There was  Xanthorrhoea australis ssp. australis, X. macronema, X. quadrangulata, and an unknown Xanthorrhoea species.  Now, there is one transplanted plant left in Bed 48O, and another transplanted grass tree up with the succulents and cacti.  In the garden as a whole, records from 2012 show a total of eight species and 22 individuals.  A search for the remaining Xanthorrhoea in September of 2019 showed two young plants of Xanthorrhoea preissiii in Beds 60B and 64C, and two more young plants of X. preissii in Bed 64E and in Bed 58B.  Also, there is a clump of Xanthorrhoea species in Bed 75A which appears to be two or three individuals planted right next to one another, the label says 2012-0264A, so planted about 9 years ago.  None of these plants have the stature or the form acquired with time.  Gone from the garden are also Xanthorrhoea fulva, X. glauca, X. macronema, X. quadrangulata, and X. semiplana.  Overall, about eight individuals left, down from twenty-two.  Three Xanthorrhoea species left, down from eight.

Another example is the genus Banksia, which was well represented in Bed 48O.  In the garden as a whole, 2012 records indicate 34 Banksia members – three cultivars, two subspecies, one variety, and 28 species.    By chopping down all the plants in Bed 48O, the garden lost Banksia blechnifolia, B. burdettii, B. caleyi, B. media, B. menziesii, B. sphaerocarpa, and an unknown B. species.  Moreover, in the whole garden, over the past few years, the collection has lost B. aemula, B. baueri, B. ericifolia ‘Compact’, B. ericifolia ssp. macrantha, B. grossa, B. occidentalis, B. oblongifolia, B. occidentalis, B. ornata, B, praemorsa, B. prionotes, B. spinulosa ‘Schnapper Point’.  So from 34 Banksia species/cultivars/varieties/subspecies,  down to 15.

Beds 3A – 3R, Bed 5C.  Exhibition garden.  The entire Demonstration Garden was gutted to make way for the Exhibition and Wedding Celebration Garden.  There were many common plants in this area, and so the loss in terms of local biodiversity, rarity, and significance was not so great.  What was axed that was somewhat rare, old, or unusual were:

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii:  The featured plant on the SFBG website for June.

Jasminum azoricum.  Status was Rare.

Pittosporum erioloma.  Status was Rare. 

A collection of numerous plants in the Restionaceae family – African rushes. 

Beds OA, OB, OC, OD, OE, OG, OL, OV. Botanical garden nursery.

A large proportion of the potted plants of varying age classes collected and traded in from botanical expeditions to Asia, Mexico, South America, and Europe were thrown out by the current director in a clean out in 2017.  The identities and records are lost and were thrown out along with the plants.  Some of the specimens which show up in past records, but that are no longer in the nursery, are:

Lobelia excelsa OB4.  Status is Rare.

Lomatium insulare OA2.  Status is Rare.

Lotus crassifolius var otayensis OV.  Status is Rare.

Malacothamnus palmeri var. lucianus.  OA2. Status is Rare.

Miconia ravenii.  OG3.  Status is Rare.
Persea donnell-smithii.  OC1.  Status is Rare.

Pinus cembroides ssp. orizabensis.  OE1.  Status is Rare. 

Pinus maximartinezii.  OB1, OC2, OL8.  Status is Rare. 

Saxegothaea conspicua.  OC2, OD2.  Status is Rare.

Sidaldea stipularis. OA2.  Status is Rare. 

Trachycarpus geminisectus.  OL6, OLB.

unidentified Ceroxylon species from South America. 

Plants that were salvaged by nursery volunteers from the garbage, and that are not in the garden nor in the records of the 2019 SFBG plant finder data base include:

Cleyera japonica var. wallichiana SFBG XY-0201 A.  Pentaphylacaceae.  From Indian, Nepal and TIbet.

Pterolobium punctatum.  SFBG 1998-0422.  Fabaceae.  From China and Laos.

and many more…

Overall. Other plants have been decimated either due to active destruction or careless neglect  over the recent years.  A comparison of paper based curatorial records from 2012 -2013 and the GIS Plant Finder of SFBG online records 2019 indicate the following trends for these sample genera:

Abies:  27 species/cultivars/varieties/subspecies in 2012, 22 in 2019

Erica:  42 species/subspecies/varieties/cultivars/hybrids in 2012, 26 in 2019

Fuchsia:  98 species/cultivars/hybrids/subspecies in 2012, 68 in 2019

Juniperus:  21 species/cultivars/varieties in 2012, 11 in 2019

Lonicera :  20 species/cultivars/varieties/hybrids in 2012,  11 in 2019

Lupinus  9 species/cultivars/varieties in 2012, 3 in 2019

Mimulus:  18 species/cultivars/hybrids in 2012, 13 in 2019

Monochaetum:  15 species/hybrids in 2012, 8 in 2019

Oenothera:  13 species/cultivars/subspecies in 2012, 3 in 2019

Passiflora:  50 species/cultivars/hybrids/varieties in 2012, 13 in 2019

Phlox:  9 species/cultivars in 2012, no results for 2019 ( no plants found/exist)

Quercus:  53 species/hybrids/cultivars in 2012, 45 in 2019

Ribes:  29 species/varieties/cultivars in 2012, 23 in 2019

Salvia:  255 species/cultivars/hybrids in 2012,  182 in 2019

Silene: 24 species/cultivars in 2012, 2 in 2019

Solanum:  14 species/cultivars/varieties in 2012, 1 in 2019

Tibouchina:  10 species in 2012, 6 in 2019

Vaccinium:  18  species/cultivars in 2012, 11 in 2019

Verbascum:  11 species/cultivars in 2012, 4 in 2019

Viburnum:  37 species/cultivar/hybrids in 2012, 17 in 2019

A similar trend is true for almost all taxa in the garden.  Diversity has been on the decline.


Here are two examples of curatorial practices:  sample pages from 2012 records,  and a cut and paste of the same taxon group from Plant Finder GIS San Francisco Botanical Garden 2019.

These are the pages for Erica from the old paper based database about six to seven years ago:

    Botanical name         Family     Origin # Bed number Rare? 

erica 1

erica 2.jpeg

Compare and contrast.  A search for the genus Erica using the 2019 SFBG Plant Finder shows the following entries in this order.

erica aa.jpg

erica bb.jpg


These are the pages for Solanum from the old paper based data base:


A search for the genus Solanum in the 2019 Plant Finder yields one species:

Solanum aviculare


Its okay kids!  Remember that change is the constant.  Accept it.  Embrace it in all its facets.  Can’t go backwards, only go forwards.  Stay POSITIVE!!!



well it’s been twenty four years

since I first stepped in the Strybing Arboretum and botanical gardens

and started weedin the area known as cape province south africa

its been twenty four years

since I was hired to work alongside

master Don Mahoney in the nursery

taking out the trash, cleaning the corrugated roofs of algae with a long brush

driving the loaded electric cart up and down, watering the plants

its been twenty four years

since I planted the shrubs and trees in the childrens garden out back

with little kids alongside digging

while the red tailed hawk tore apart a gopher on the pine tree overhead

kids screaming and full of excitement

its been twenty four years

since general King Sip took me on as an intern

and encouraged me in my horticultural pursuits

twenty four years

since I met my wife working in the garden

marrying in the garden

weeding and planting in the garden

twenty four years later

i am still here, doing the same ol thing

volunteering to

pulling out long vines of blackberry

sweeping the pathways clean

weeding the basin of prized specimens

amending the poor sandy soil

keeping the love alive

for plants

for people



the curator was a botanist

the curator knew their plants and families

this is

very important for a botanical garden

botany, plant identification, an eye for the flowers

back in the day

there was a gentleman named Bian Tan

f _ _ _ing amazing that is how I can describe his skills

he be there in the office, going about his business, smiling

door is open

you just go right in like I got a question about this plant

he give you the name right away if it was the least bit common

or if it was some obscure weird creature from the hinterland tropics of asia or caribbean

he would look at it, look at it some more

and say

its this family, lets find it

and he would pull one of them tomes off the shelf, flip to the page, and boom


let me emphasize this

what Bian possessed is accumulated over years and years and years

still today, no app can surpass this breadth or this complexity

of the natural world

he knew his families of flowering plants

he was kind and present and knowledgeable

willing to share

loved plants



the nursery was full of happiness and joy

Dr Don Mahoney was in rare form

the eye of the storm

the host of the party

the arbitrator of all questions and disputes

plants or human related

that being questions of how to cultivate and grow a cloud forest rubiaceous bush

that being arguments that arose over territory and table space in the greenhouse

at the communal pizza and chips lunch

Don Mahoney was in excellent form

eating the burrito he has eaten religiously for some thirty odd years from gordo’s

all the volunteers would be crowded about the table

gossiping, laughing, but mostly asking questions

about plants

and Don, because he loved plants so

and spent all his days reading and potting up and watching the weather channel

knew the answers

and the volunteers were hilarious

mostly ladies but a few gentlemen

the median age was about 82 years old or so

Ora Walker grew the roses and passion vines

Ora had the hahah grin of a little girl

who bought a bunch of plants from home depot, to sell at our botanical garden plant sales

at double the price hahahaha

Ora had the grin of a green thumb

who accidentally grew cannabis in her san mateo county back yard hahaha

Then, there was Virginia Obrien of the shrub section with Chuck as a helper

Margaret, 90+ years old, who drove to san francisco from walnut creek for her begonias

in a little red nissan

Jean and her salvias

Liz and her trees and her attendant Jason

Nan and Jim of the rhodies, still of the rhodies

Margery Edgren who piloted the california native section of buckwheats and ceanothus

and many more

back in the day

the nursery was not well funded

was not state of the art

was janky around the edges, plenty DIY

the nursery was built in the coldest lowest part of the garden

the greenhouse roof was asbestos

the hoop houses were hand made of PVC frames, scrap lumber and 2-5mm plastic

the upper growing area was terraced with old logs and found concrete block

you would look at all of this and be like

“this is the grow area of one of the premier botanical gardens in the country?!”

back in the day

we had less frequent plant sales

we took cash from customers as they stood in line

receipts were written by hand

and we were happy to make 1500 dollars at a sale

1500 dollars !!!

fern section made 100 dollars, natives made 300, rhododendrons made 50

and so on

that is to say, we really did not make a whole lot of money


in spite of the less than ideal growing conditions

in spite of the lack of cash flow

we grew beautiful adapted strong plants in field conditions

we grew rare specimens and introduced them to the bay area horticultural community

The lines were long, but the mood was friendly

It was not a mad dash of gimme gimme gimme

It was pure joy

the volunteers were the heart the core of plant knowledge

the volunteers were the living libraries accumulated under hundreds of years of 

soil and roots and petioles and perlite and dirt under the finger nails

we enjoyed watching plants grow and shared this passion

this love for sprouting seeds, elongating stems, and bursting flowers



the botanical garden society was in thick with teaching and learning

thick i tell ya it was the center stage of all education activities

plants related

for San Francisco bay area

classes, conferences, visiting botanists, seed exchanges, field trips, travels abroad, plant doctor, newsletters, the works!

these names to me are legendary now, but likely forgotten

unless I jot them down

Kitty Fisher, Betsy Flack, Margaret of the bookstore, and Barbara Pitschel of the library

To me, Kitty was the best of the best, and exemplary of what it was like

back in the day

okay let me just get this out of the way first

she was black, she colored, not white

she started as a secretary at the botanical garden society staff

so she is no phd botanist, she did not get the job cause she got friends in high places

she was not brought in for the purpose of development and fund raising

she not one of them sit around and tell people what to do kinda person

she not one them bitter looking shut yourself in the office

one of them all day look at a computer person who is there because

it pays good, its a ‘job’, it a non profit

no no no, she was motivated by other forces

she was brought in to type and take notes and keep the office tidy

what was refreshing though was her attitude and soul

she had a purpose, she cared about plants and people

so with time and opportunity

she became in charge of the education department at the garden

and I would see her

copying the handouts for the instructors

making the coffee and tea for the students

cleaning up afterwards

early morning, late nights weekends

always organizing structuring and getting ready

for the next Dr Glenn Keator or Dr Frank Almeda or Dr Chen from Kunming Institute in China

keeping things rollling

keeping the care and love for the garden alive

with community involvement and


all heart




working for the city as a gardener

even at the botanical garden

seemed a lot looser of a gig

sure there are some gardeners who

treated it like a slacker city job

get away with what you can

do the minimum possible

take extra long breaks and lunches

suck up to the supervisor to get extra benefits

sit on your phone

abuse the sick time and holiday time

play the system to their own benefit

but most of the gardeners

are in the botanical garden

because they love plants and love diversity

because they love frogs and hawks and spiders and the whole bit

because its not just mow and blow and pick up the trash

you actually get to grow plants and talk to them everyday

back in the day

the gardeners were respected for their plant knowledge and authority

the gardeners were the caretakers and the perpetual presence on the beat

the gardeners knew what sprinkler valves were working

the gardeners knew how to keep the magnolia in good health

a gardener knew what it took

to care for three thousand unique specimens in a six acre beat

the gardeners knew how to

maintain myriad of water features

care for and cull the sick and dying trees

how to pull three tons of pond weeds from the pond wearing waders

and not drown in the mud or pull a hernia in ones back

how to haul thirty tons of decomposed granite and not get hurt

shovel up shovel down cushman up cushman down

because of the vast scope of responsibility and skill required of a gardener

the botanical garden gardeners

back in the day

were given much independent authority to take care of their beat

as they saw fit

they were not pushed around at every turn

to do things that were not

actually taking care of the plants

(that is the job you know, a gardener)

back in the day

the gardener’s internal drive and love for the garden

was stoked by this trust

and encouraged by the management

as a result, the garden flourished

and people worked together

not because of an external cattle prod that forced cooperation

but because of a shared love for plants, and a work ethic

that demanded it

thank you to King Sip and Terry Seefield and Jake Sigg

thank you to Mike Corbin and Steve Drosos and Steve Merrick

thank you to Andy Stone and his chainsaw

thank you to Paul of the demonstration garden rest in peace

thank you to Walt

thank you to Sue rest in peace



the managers were more relaxed

on the rec park side

the managers had field experience

field experience in working

working like with your hands and on your feet, well your brain too, but working working

not keyboard tongue sitting down working

not plantation boss slave driver working

the bosses came up from the bottom

the bosses once worked as an apprentice as a gardener as a supervisor as a superintendent

weeding planting watering blowing pruning picking up garbage raking

that made them more understanding

of the work that gardening requires

they knew the difficulty that comes with

getting up early, picking up human feces

the challenges of keeping your joints from breaking down due to repetitive labor

the importance of leading through action not just words

they had realistic expectations

of people and budgets

they understood the specialness

of an urban botanical garden in a metropolis like san francisco

they were more relaxed


and kind

you could see it in the sparkle of their eyes

in their down to earth body language

in the way they addressed you as an equal as a friend or even as a subordinate

they did not approach the garden

as an ego project

as a stock broker real estate developer

as another trophy to be had, a game to be played and won

as a war to be fought with tactic strategy and control

they approached the garden

with respect and love



on the society side

the managers were more hands off

(the botanical garden is governed by the city – a public entity

in cahoots with the botanical garden society – a private non profit)

the society was responsible for the curatorial, education and community aspects

the city was responsible for the physical upkeep and maintenance of the garden

even back in the day

I hardly ever saw the society directors in the garden

this is because their primary focus is fund raising

so some of them

could care less if they were fund raising for

starving kids in africa or homeless in tijuana or disadvantaged kids in the ghetto

the issue at hand is money money money

flowers and kids and gardens are the backdrop and the hook

to raise money money money

and when the money doesnt come through, or you get burned out

or a higher better paying job comes up

or you get caught with your pants down corruption milking the public system

you go, you cut your losses and go

back in the day

the directors would change every few years or so

the development staff would change every few years or so

this is natural

if you dont love plants and dont love people who love plants

you will keep moving and moving and moving on

to the next green pasture

its just a job, remember, its just a job



habitat gardening was looked upon in a positive manner

at the botanical garden

there was the recognition and smarts

that left patches of ground covers and weeds

brown seed heads and fallow ground and open sands

dense natural form shrubs and tree branches (their skirts) that touched the ground

remember the hundreds of quail that sought refuge here in the garden

the only best safest part of golden gate park?

k cooing k cooing as they raced throughout the menzies garden?

remember the hundreds of damsel flies that used to land on your fingers at the conifer pond?

the ones that laid their eggs on the water primrose?

remember the red legged frogs that hid under the wooden bridge, the hundreds of tadpoles that captured the imagination of children?


its the dense leafy tips touching another’s feathering canopy

its the unsprayed meadow of ripe seeds and humid understory of rhizomatous perennials

its the snag of a tree for the coopers hawk to sit on

the hollow of an agave stalk for the sap sucker to raise babies

habitat is magical and beautiful nature

I remember Barbara Deutsch the butterfly lady

she serenaded us with countless larvae and host plants

painted ladies swalllow tails checkerspots skippers alight aflight

in addition to the flowers

Barbara gifted us workers with burritos and an invitation to see her potrero hill serpentine outcrop

I sure appreciated this – thank you Barbara thanks for being here!

well, for those of you that do not remember or never learned this

know that clean and green

tidy and weed free parks

come at a cost

and I am not just talking about pesticides or hurt knees and shoulders

and a stress filled army sergeant like whip cracking control minded supervisor

the cost is the broken disjointed lack of connection to the lives around us

the cost is the lost of wonder and joy of discovery

the cost is a lack of tolerance and ability to see the beauty of the world

the cost is real, and we pay for it in subtle ways that ends in a condition called

soul suck

the cost is costing our kids, that is what it comes down to

the kids



there were rules of engagement in the garden

these rules were posted

no picking the flower no pruning the trees

stay on the paths dont go in the flower beds

no active sports on the lawns and no bikes and trikes and things on the paths

and so on

the point of all the rules

is that a botanical garden is for the plants

a delightful spot for people to appreciate the plants

a place where trees don’t have to worry about their roots becoming compacted by stompage

a place where delicate and seldom seen shoots and bulbs can emerge unharmed

a place where you can meet plants from the other side of the world

there is plenty of space

in the rest of the park

for human centered activities

the botanical garden is for plants, pure and simple

you might even say that it is a temple for the trees

a church for the flowers, a synagogue for the birds and the bees

back in the day

everyone helped out

to make sure people followed the rules

back in the day

rules were rules

we weren’t afraid to call each other on it

we did not think discipline was a bad word

we did not think that rules are ‘negative’ and that we should always be ‘positive’

back in the day

people felt shamed and embarrassed if they broke the rules

they would not start yelling back at you and giving you the finger or pulling rank

in addition to breaking the rules

back in the day

they would not have that fixed uncaring gaze

they would not ignore you look right past you

as if you were not worthy

as if

the whole world was a screen the whole world was a phone

instead, they would look sorry, say sorry, and stop what they were doing

back in the day

people agreed and worked together

to protect the garden and its plants

for everyone to enjoy



you did not cut things down, unless they were sick and dead and a danger to the public

if you wanted more planting room

there was plenty of stuff that died of natural causes, of fungal pathogens and beetles

of el nino storms and winter saturated wetness

the big coast live oak in the native cali garden meadow comes to mind

as does the redwood tree and big leaf maple by the nursery

another tree that fell

was the silver tree full of good seed in the south africa section bout year 2014

on and on, nature takes its own toll

over time over the years

you do not have to cut stuff down for no good cause

you could prune it hard, you could shape it

but you would not go start chopping chopping chopping

because it takes time to grow

because it is cool to see an old thick tree in the city

because time and age is not something that you can make or sell or speed up or slow down

because we are looking out for kids of today and the future

this is called being conservative, this is conservation

well to be fair, some directors did cut stuff down for control or for design

like that sixty or seventy year old healthy holly tree in the front of the county fair building

relegated to the wood chipper by then director Scot Medbury

I still remember its clear no knots trunk and gleaming white wood cross section

but besides this

back in the day

there was very little ax work done

there was room for the trees

the trees were left to grow big and grow tall

the trees were left to flower in abundance and swirl their roots deep

the issue was not a better more improved shiny and new landscape able to host

a million visitors and two food trucks and a billion video icon likes subscribes

it was about the trees

back in the day

the trees


Change is constant in nature

change is the way

there is only one way

and it goes from here forward, it does not go backwards

back in the day

back in the day had its problems too

I am sure I left out some details

mistakes and omissions and interpersonal interactions that were not

totally harmonious


there are many good things from the

good old days in the botanical garden

which if not recognized documented understood evaluated and practiced

in the context of time and nature and the toil of humanity

will lead to a poverty of the senses

a despoiling of the garden as a paradise and sanctuary

destruction of peace and tranquility of the human mind

and make our children into

slaves and zombies

slaves to cold hearted stiff eyed task masters with no joy in their heart

slaves to the ego of data and cash and resume building

zombies of hard wired machines with no quivering soul

zombies to false visions and fake ideas and lies and more lies and more lies

that is why a garden is important

because it is true and full of life and requires intense constant work

to work in a garden

you have to be present

you have to be humble and knowledgeable

you have to be willing to listen, engage, learn, share, and work together

you have to have love

that is the most important ingredient of them all

the thing that surpasses all the others

love for plants and love for people


As part of the Landscape Design OH70A class, we take a field trip to see nature’s designs at work.  The place we go to is San Bruno Mountain.  It is close, it is ancient, and it reveals much about our landscape and our history.  We do the summit loop trail to learn about how what plants are adapted to the site, and in what kinds of combinations.  We talk about the importance of soil and drainage, and how all the forces interact to create the magnificent scenes we behold.    We check out the view of the surrounding cities.  Okay, here we go!

Startin’ off at the summit, you get a good plan view of the tip of this peninsula which comprises San Francisco north, Colma and Daly City to the west, Brisbane to the east, and South San Francisco to the south.

On the west side.  Alright, let’s pick out the main green features.  Theres ol’ Lake Merced, which was once salt water, part of an estuary that mixed with the sea.  The big green spaces are mostly all golf courses and cemeteries.  Theres a few little parks, but in town, most of the rest is houses and retail.  


Yup, thats about it until you go south towards San Mateo and Skyline and Crystal Springs reservoir where ridges of coastal mountains couple with old douglas fir trees.  Note the onshore wind and oceanic fog that influence the plant matrices and how they grow.


On the east side going north from San Bruno Mountain.  This is the more protected side of the mountain, veering towards shade as the trails start to point north towards downtown San Francisco.  There is the small town of Brisbane, its lagoon, and the dump site by the railroad tracks.  Green space wise, a little northeast of San Bruno Mountain is McLaren Park at 313 acres, and to the east of McLaren park you can see Bayview Hill and the dirt lot that was once Candlestick Park where the Forty-Niners played football.



North – you can see the forested hills at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, the Presidio.  And a little to the left of that is a stretch of trees that comprise Golden Gate Park.  Marin Headlands  is in the distance.

Well the ecologists call em dominants in a vegetation community, some designers like to call them the bones of a design, or the structure.  Oftentimes these plants are evergreen and persistent.  They are plants that course throughout the landscape and give definition to the garden as a whole.  On San Bruno Mountain, in this coastal sage scrub community, the dominants are coyote Bush, California sage bush, monkey flower, lizard tail, and coffee berry. 

This is coyote bush and some lichen friends:



This is the sticky monkey flower in orange singing along with the lizard tail in whitish green, with a pinch of the coffee berry behind both of them:


Another neat way to fill the garden with plants is thinking about the space in various heights.  In ecology we would be talking about canopies and understories.  In permaculture design they are always going on about layers and probably stacking functions.  Designers will chime in about how the highs and lows make a garden dynamic and interesting.  So do not forget about the groundcovers that enjoy a little bit of shade from the shrubs above.  A neat plant on the summit trail sneaking underneath the coyote bush is yerba buena – a tidy little crawling mint.  It makes one great tea:


Hummingbird sage with its sweet leaf aroma and pink two lipped blossoms are a treat for any garden.  It also likes to wander under other plants on a north north/east facing slope.  This time of the year it is looking real real dry…


Sometimes, here and there will be a plant of a little larger stature that sticks out.  A designer might call it a focal point or an architectural specimen.  For reasons of space or water or light or all of the above, they are less frequent than the shrubs.  On the summit trail two plants seem to fit this description.  One is California wild lilac Ceanothus thrysiflorus that flowers in nice purple blue.  Thats it in the back there, without its famous blue blossoms.  In the foreground is one nice drift of the sword fern.  What lines!!!


Another focal point is the tree/large shrub that is always in the wet drainage along where two hills meet.  There you will find stands of red elderberry Sambucus callicarpa which was good for making flutes and clapper sticks and cigarettes and bows and all sorts of other things back in Ohlone days.  Thats them in a line with twiggy looking stick branches along a ravine where the water gathers. 



As always it is good to be attentive to small details and diversity.  We came across four species of ferns on the summit trail.  The clumpy sword fern.  The popping up here and there somewhat solitary feeling bracken fern.  A California Polypodium fern on the slopes gripping with furry feet into the dirt.  And around the corner up the road the Polypodium with stiffer leaves the one known as the leather fern.  Yes, in general, ferns like moisture.

There are two succulents that are easy to spot on the trail if you are paying attention.  Yup, succulent like euphorbias and cacti and jade plants and the like.  But these two have been on the mountain for oh say a few hundred or a few thousand years or so.  One is named stonecrop and is a host plant for the San Bruno Elfin butterfly.  It is here posing with the seaside daisy – a low drought tolerant groundcover with nice purple yellow flowers. 




The other succulent is named live forever.  It is really choice. Dudleya farinosa.  Farinosa like farina like white like flour.


The one plant that you must know if you hike in California is the poison oak plant.  This time of the year it is starting to turn red the leaves.  Leaves of three let them be.  If its shiny watch your hiny.  You are not likely to plant this in the garden because it gives most people rashes.  Plus it is not commonly available at the local nursery.

P.jpgAs a designer and gardener,  you want to make memorable plant scenes – combinations of plants that sit well with each other as they drink the fog and twirl in the rocks below.  Some verticals and motion coupled with a rugged yet delicate harmony.  This the the goal.  Try to mix and match woody shrubs with herbaceous evergreen perennials.  Repeating in a curved chorus.  These are a few samples from one of the most epic and ancient places in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Nutka reed grass and manzanita.  Down low is California blackberry and good ol yerba buena.

Q.jpgLichen and douglas irs.  This one is a wild garden special.  Gonna be hard to replicate this one in a home garden.  Takes time. Time. And more time.

R.jpgThis here is one of my favorites.  Huckleberry and manzanita.  Tucked behind the rocks there is a nice fat clump of live forevers.  Hey this is why we go hiking!

S.jpgOkay.  Nature is the master designer.  Be attentive and all the principles of design can be understood in the crystal filled canyons and fog drenched forms.  Enjoy San Bruno Mountain!!!


SBM from Bob.jpg

SBM key.jpg


Heres the chalkboard notes for our day of hardscapes.  Stone patios, decks, retaining walls, pebble strewn riverbeds, brick walls, calculations of volume, and more…  The  standout concepts from the day are:

  1.  Whatever you design is going to interact with the world and grow over time.  Swell and contract, erode and and settle, get swamped and drain.  So keep in mind the natural forces of water, wind, warmth and light, soils.  Do not forget about gophers and coyotes, rats and raccoons, wood rotting fungus and termites, as you lay down a layer of wood or stone or concrete over the earth.
  2. A couple big catch words these days are Permeability and Sustainability.  Permeability is the ability of the landscape to breathe and allow water to penetrate infiltrate down down low to the groundwater and aquifer below, filtered through the soil.  Sustainability is a bunch of big question marks – what can we keep using without depleting?  At what rate can we cut things down or pump things out or burn stuff up?  What is the value of an intact primeval ancient river bed or forest?  How can we beautify the world through the design and construction of gardens?
  3. When calculating the amount of hardscape materials needed.  Remember to always multiply using consistent same units.  That is to say, in estimating volume, multiple feet x feet x feet, not feet x feet x inches.  Also, use proper and correct conversion factors.  For example, 27 cubic feet is one cubic yard.  One cubic yard.  Even though at the stone yard they just always say ‘one yard’, it is one cubic yard.









These are the chalk board notes from the OH53 Landscape Horticulture class.  This is our garden legend and hero Gus Broucaret talking about the importance of awareness and working safely in the field.  Sorry you were not in class and missed out on all the stories and adventures at work.  Well at least here are some of the drawings and vocabulary:








Was filling in the curriculum for a class called Introduction to Horticulture.

Here’s a few more drawings for the ‘reader’.  It is specific to residential commercial and public gardening in and around San Francisco.




















The garden is a dynamic creature, hatched and etched in the mind

The beast is sometimes drawn on vellum or on paper with borders

Drawn to scale one quarter inch is one foot, one eighth of an inch is one foot

It is birthed and grows awkwardly

Stumbling through the natal stages called planning groundbreaking and installation

Well, a garden is not a set, not a one time deal, not an exhibit in a gallery

It is a creature very much alive, a demanding life form that requires care and love and


Imagine the garden as a mutually beneficial, symbiotic endeavor between people and plants

Words can only approximate

The scene behind the magnolia tree the dew hanging poppy and the cheerful summer iris

Maintenance seems a word

Better suited to five years or 50,000 miles, car maintenance

Or keeping up with a certain standard of living – maintaining ones status

There is a monotony melancholy mistaken misery in calling the action filled gardening tasks of

Pulling pruning planting propagating, digging turning building amending cultivating


Do you call tooth brushing facing washing eating breakfast stretching exercising working

The basic duties of life –

Maintenance?  How sad that sounds, where is the joy in ‘maintenance’?

Perhaps there is no better word though

Let’s just fudge and nudge this one, rather than invent something new

Okay garden maintenance it is

Maintenance is design


In the best garden designs

There is a human built into it

Because you recognize that – no human no maintenance no design – it is that simple

Because the tree grows big and grows old

Way past the 10 foot circle drawn on the original landscape plan

A shrub limbs stretches and bows and starts to swallow the sun loving lavender lily loropetalum

A good gardener can prune a shoot here, take a tip there, keep it in line

Then scoot a perennial this way, and move the lemon tree outa the shade

Encourage the ground cover, and meticulously pluck the weed seeds emerging

Mold it, work with it, adapt it to fit, so the design holds and stays intact

The flow the mood the balance the unity  – the design


In the best garden design

The person who thought up the design

Is, was , will be until they die, a gardener

A gardener of dirt imbued with the scent of daphne philadelphus pittosporum

A gardener who has been educated in the finest university lab research vessel of all time:

A little plot of sun lit land putzed over and over and over again

A learning studio of a few rows of daisies and columbines fading and seeding

A rectangular lot with warm rays and moss bit shadows

Tulip tree leaves gathered on the ground in conference 

Tulip flower petals fallen in the sun, unveiling the bare ovary

The best designer is a gardener – 

A plants person trained by time, wetted by rain splattered by mud

Scarred and attacked by berry thorns and yellow jackets stingers and sticky spider webs

They know what plants need, how plants grow, why plants die

These are the forces you have to meet and greet, the forces that you have to work within

To dream up a nice garden design

Field knowledge is foremost, accumulated by you and gardeners like yourself

Working sharing discussing observing experimenting

In a world of experience and stories

Tilting the academic and theoretical knowledge on an edge –

The long charts graphs spreadsheets what the current research says the latest book of facts

Second hand third hand fourth hand knowledge –

The beveled edge cushioned against the mind and the body and the earth heart the earth guts

So stay intimate stay close to whats goin’ down

Be a good gardener playing in the dirt, the fading sun on the left cheek and sweaty forehead

Then you will be a good designer


So to summarize thus far

In garden design, remember that

1)  A person a person a person has to care for the garden over time

2) The garden is a living creation that will grow and change

3) The best designer is a gardener, a maintenance gardener


The worst garden designs – there are so many

Part of the problem is that the design feedback loop is not complete

The circle is not a circle, it is just a climbing wiggly line

The designer does not learn from the mistakes of oneself or that of others

And who points out stuff like that? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all’

Hard to learn from things gone wrong, when they go wrong not at the beginning

But one year two years three years five years ten years down the line

By then the designer is outa there

And the errors problems methods continue to advertise and repeat and fester and spread

Leaving the clean up improvement rearrangement editing to the gardener

Leaving the yanking butchering root digging ransacking demolition of a garden that never was

To the maintenance gardener


In the worst designs, the designer does not know the site

They do not design based on drainage compaction hard pan runoff rodents disease

They forget to acknowledge the wind and the fog

They dismiss the power of the southern sun and the darkness of the north side

Suffice to say that without an understanding of how life forms fit together, dwell with one another

The design flops

Such a garden betrays the relationship of interconnectedness, forfeits a chance at communion

And, destroys the union of plants and human beings

Nature has her own design principles , they are easily seen – If you take a walkabout

In the mountains rivers foothills forests grasslands scrub vacant lots and open fields

Examine life, and the design patterns will light up


In the worst designs, the designer has no respect for maintenance

Has never done maintenance – pure design

Been to school, but never sowed a seed, made a cutting or scarified a legume

Never fixed a valve on a sprinkler, have a pipe break and have to dig it up

Never repotted a plant or pruned some roots or lowered the canopy

Never had to clean the algae off the walkway or whitewash the greenhouse

Never hauled a half ton boulder, or bucket carried 20 yards of decomposed granite

Never had to clean the gunk out of the fingernails or take a wood splinter out of the hand

Never had sore knees and a pulled back and the shoulders a wreck

Never never never never

Then they design , in the top down style

Of all things, a garden

And you wonder why why why why why why why why why

Who what how who what how who what how

A gardener, a person, takes care of a garden

A gardener must have plant knowledge, site knowledge, and knowledge of oneself

In the garden – the planner and the doer are one, human and design work in harmony

At the end of the day

In the garden, we are sitting around, tools have been put away, hands are washed

We are enjoying the fish tail fronds lit up by pink red orange clouds

While a big white waxing moon smiles in the blue sky

Good designs

My friend Dave, AKA party boy, is one of the most dedicated surfers I know.  He asked me why I did not write “surfing” down as one of my hobbies in a short autobiographical statement.  Thought about it and came up with this poem essay.  Okay here we go!

Surfing is not a hobby
A hobby is something you do on the side
You have work, career, vocation
Then you have a hobby
A hobby to pass the time
Make new friends
Learn something new
In a hobby you can become an amateur, an expert
Rock collecting, video gaming, gardening, woodworking
Hobbies are fun when you are young and forming an identity
Hobbies are a pleasure when you are old and retired
Surfing is not a hobby
Surfing is the main frame, not the sideline

Surfing is not a sport
Well, it is for some people
Heard it will be in the Olympics one day soon
Surfers participate in contests on a circuit
Collect prize money and trophies
Kisses and bouquets from bikini ladies
Judges and scores, penalties and infractions
Whistles and time limits
Money on the line
To bring in the fans the followers the viewers
Championship finals with
Consistent standards and perfect waves to match opponents
One against another
Winners and loooooooosers
A sport like golf or tennis or cycling or gymnastics
The sport of surfing
I don’t know the sport of surfing
Its players
Its drama and rivalries
Its excitement
Sorry I am out of it
Like somebody who has not heard of the Superbowl
Or somebody who doesn’t know what MLB stands for
Its like you start a conversation about Wayne Gretzky or Martina Navratilova and I am like who?
Sorry I don’t follow the sport of surfing
But I honor
Maui of Polynesia
Tafa’i of Tahiti
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku from Hawaii
And our Lady of Black’s Beach

Surfing is not a lifestyle
I don’t even know what this means
It is something sold in magazines and advertisements?
Is it the hair and clothes?
Blond and baggy
Casual and comfortable and beyond cool?
Or is it the transport?
What happened to the wood panel doors and VW vans?
Is it now the Jeep and the Subaru?
Is the lifestyle the gnarly all out parties?
The look of care free surf all day
Surfing rules
Surfing is more important than anything else
What is the surfing lifestyle?!
Somebody who knows please explain it to me
Surfers I know have a diversity of lifestyles
Off the top of my head there’s
Hare Krishna surfer
Mad shitter surfer
Venture capitalist surfer
Pyramid dweller surfer
Pharmacist dealer surfer
Sailor surfer
Navy seals surfer
Cable car driver surfer
And that is just the men
Then there is
Black surfer
Guitarist surfer
Brain surgeon surfer
Activist Latina surfer
Got surfers tumbling out of pickup trucks
They got so many lifestyles
In and of itself
Surfing is not a lifestyle

Surfing is not religion
Some say that nature is holy ground
The temple of trees
The mosques of mountain peaks
The church of winding rivers
The synagogue of serpentine wildflowers
The shrine of the alkaline lake
The cathedral of desert sands
The pagoda of lava tubes
The monastery of the sea
This may be true
But most religions have creeds and beliefs
Rituals and codes of behavior
Creation stories and fancy costumes
Crusades and martyrs
Holy wars and peace bringers
Surfing does not have these elements
Surfing don’t care if you are evil and cruel
Surfing don’t care if you are a repentant killer
Surfing don’t care if you are full of compassion
Surfing don’t care if you do good deeds for the needy
Surfing is not religion
Nope, surfing is not like going to church
For sure it is not like a day of chanting at the temple
Sorry no go

Surfing is basically an unproductive activity
That is to say, there are few material gains at the end of a session
You go to work, you bring home some cash and bacon
You go to the workshop, you emerge with a turned bowl or a welded frame
You go fishing, you come home with a catfish and crabs
You go hunting, you come home with a few legs and antlers
You go to war, you come back with medals, and free college tuition
You go surfing, you come back with nothing
You come back with a wet suit, a wet pair of booties, a drippy nose
Nobody saw you go
Nobody saw you come back, they are all still sleeping
Totally unproductive, but not a waste of time…
Surfing is…
I love surfing
Surfing is great
Surfing brings great smiles
Surfing is like sunshine

Surfing is a paddle out
Through territory that is turbulent and chaotic
The ocean she is a good boxer
Don’t know how much power
A wave hits you with
Even the little ones hit you
Hard enough
The big ones square on your head
The big ones rumbled shut
The big ones whitewater thundering skyward with a bounce
Hard enough
You got to face them straight on
Not to the side
Not half assed
Not thinking of anything else
Straight on and push through
No matter how many come at you
Be persistent, be consistent
Push on through
Go under the wave
Go over the wave
Go through the wedge face of the wave tugging and pulling
Push on through
She is strong
She falls over with the circular motion of a three thousand mile long storm
She hauls with her a spinning density of about a thousand kilos per cubic meter
Push on through
Once in a while you never make it out to the outside where the waves are breaking
The shore pound was too heavy
Spacing interval between waves was too close
One after another after another
Two three big set waves land right on top of you
The curl the sucking action the big slam all right on top of you
You are all jarred stars are circling
Mind disoriented breathing is difficult gasp for air in the foam
Then you turn around and retreat to the beach
Try again paddle out at another section
Try again paddle out at a gurgling rip
And if nothing, go home that’s it for the day
Surfing is a paddle out
If you are lucky and she is kind
And you push on through
Then you are outside hahahahaha
Outside where the lines are stacking up
Peaceful and still
Bottle nosers are cruising in twos and threes with babies
Dorsal fins torn and etched with lines
The ocean heaves and sighs
Up and down
Up and down

Surfing is timing the wave
Some spots the surf zone is rock steady
A reefy point that breaks at the same place with precision and accuracy
Beach breaks where I surf at are shifty
The peaks are here then there here then over there
So hunt them down
They are not coming to you
Spot and stalk on the lookout
If you hang out around the raised bumps on the inside closer to shore
You might get hammered when the monster set waves march in
Be alert, watch the indicators, watch for dark lines
Scan where the straight line of the sea meets the edge of the sky
Be ready to go go go go go go
You have one flash one opening one cloudburst of rain gap
To get into position
One moment to go
Hesitate – its over
If you are not committed – missed it
If you don’t give it your all – the ride leaves without you
Surfing is timing the wave
Line up properly on the cusp
Not too inside, not too outside
Don’t aim for the wave that closes all at once
No peel just a heavy metal steel warehouse door banging shut
If you judged wrong the depths will stare up at you
The darkened rim, the watery bowels
Too late to pull back
Over the falls you go
A pebble in the sea
A grain of sand on the shore
Turning and tumbling smooth and round
Maytag frigidaire whirlpool
Game over
Go back to paddle out
Surfing is timing the wave

Surfing is the ride
You are standing amidst a liquid light tube shining
Center stage of iridescent blue green beams
Shimmering reflecting rainbow solar rays
The mother the sea she is the audience
She is clapping and laughing hurrah hurrah hurrah
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is being swept up in a moving energy vortex
Water is coming up and around
Water is hurdling down whipping in a curve
You are holding tight onto a magnetic spot of flow
Staying where the attraction is strong
All relaxed and happy
With no great effort
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is at the crux of two worlds
Balancing in a sluggish churning medium
In dynamic changing motion
Surfing is the meeting of gas and liquid
States of matter
Thick bars turning to sliding sluices to fat drips to crystalline spray to
Air wisping in eddies through
A juicy circle a moist tube a fluid ring
Bending and sloping into a spitting ellipse
Surfing is the ride
It is a feeling of contentment
A feeling that the world is perfect
An emotion that is filled to the high tide line
With infinity and awe
Surfing is the ride
This feeling this state this presence of mind
Carries over
Drips and sprays
Slams and gushes and explodes
Pumps sloshes and pounds
Into all other realms
Of day to day life
Surfing is the right sized wrench with good positive fit
Turning and turning in circles in barrels
Surfing is the razor sharp shiny metal bevel of a broad head arrow
Little bits of shaved metal from the file misting out the back of a wave
Surfing is the set of three pyrometric cones bent over in the the white heat of the kiln
One outside incoming, one middles about to break, and one bent to left on the inside
Surfing is a fern frond curling into the sun
Spiraling in a round drizzle atop your head
Surfing is the family gathered all around in harmony
Old folks and young’uns, cousins and siblings
All are present
Whales, stripers, halibuts, terns, cormorants, grebes, otters, seals, porpoises
Everybody is different
Everybody is here, cheerfully doing their own thing
Surfing is a ride
Life is a ride
Life is a short ride

Surfing is the moments and hours after you exit the water
Nobody knows where you have been
Nobody even cares
But you know
And you are glowin glowing
Like you got caught in a nuclear radiation meltdown
You are filled with the stoke the fuel the fire the water
The joy
Of this earth of this blue planet spinning on its axis
There it is
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
You are the car that slips through the yellow light
You are the last bite of bibimbap Korean barbecue beef at the bottom of the bowl
The seeds you planted two weeks ago germinated and are showing their first leaves
Its three in the morning and the mockingbird is still singing in the moonlight
A little kid gives you a big hug
Your wife asks, even though she already knows the answer:
“Where have you been!?!?!?!”
At Sloat
“How was it?”
About 2-3
“Any dolphins? Barrels?”
There were three dolphins out, but no barrels, kinda sloppy
“That’s it?”
Thats it…
She knows where you’ve been
You have been
In the embrace of a fertile mother
Caressed by a saline companion
In a brawl with a liquid beast
Getting pummeled by hydraulic hammers
In a glistening tunnel of salty wet love
Catching the splendid light dancing across the rolling canal
In silver sheets, in pulled threads, in flashing mirrors
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
Surfing is the moments and hours
In between visits to the sea


Big thank you to the BMC Book Club for writing and literary help!

Was asked about curriculums in school gardens
Heres some thoughts and pictures from my experiences at the local elementary school

Make it fun
The garden is not a classroom
It is a place of endless learning and adventure and wonder
But it is not a classroom
You don’t sit around listening to one person talking all the time
You don’t sit there in groups talking to each other
There is no busy paperwork
Work to keep you occupied, work to be scored and graded
Work like a fishhook through the lips
You don’t sit in the garden, spacing out on the phone
On the tablet, on the computer, on the screen
You engage with plants
Talk to bugs
Dig in the dirt
Kill weeds
Pour concrete lay brick saw wood
Cook in a clay oven
Water the chives
Plant sunflowers
Eat strawberries you planted in the spring
Dig up potatoes
Make a stir fry with veggies you harvested
Bring in your own rice cooker to complement the stir fry
Make it interactive make it mutual make it flow
Make it fun

Organize it well
You are going to have twenty some lil kids
Maybe five year olds, maybe 10 year olds
They better be on task, working together, working in the garden
Or else its gonna be chaos
They gonna get distracted
Somebody gonna get hurt
One kid gonna run off to the side not participate
The others gonna follow
And its game over
Then you gotta be the teacher
The mean teacher who tells people what to do or else
No no don’t fall into that, let the plants be the teacher
Organize it well
Our usual scheme is divide and conquer
So split em up into groups, squads, teams, units, crews
Four or five people or so is a good number
So you have room for hand tool use
Room to space yourself out
Room to talk and supervise and instruct
If you don’t have enough adults to work in small groups
Then a bigger group will have to do
But in an open garden it is easy for kids energy to go everywhere
Scatter and fall like buckshot at 500 yards
Best if it can be focussed
Organized it well
The garden must have different areas to work in
Stations and specific activities that are seasonally dependent
There is endless work in the garden that must be done
Everybody needs to work together
That is the key
Waste into fertilizer, composting, cutting weeds, piling them up, shoveling manure
That is a good station, very popular
Hunting for bugs, putting them in a terrarium, eating a termite or two, breeding worms and snails
That is a good station too, very popular
Harvesting greens, washing them, tearing them up small to get ready to eat them
That is a good station, extremely popular
Making flower bouquets or herb bundles of calendulas and sages, lavender and rosemary
That is a good station, over the top popular
Making a short brick wall, a concrete block raised bed
Quite popular
Pulling weeds, pickaxing weeds
This is not always popular, but some kids really like it!
So, organize it well and you will have plenty to do

The problem is the solution
Some kids you have seen them in the classrooms
They are hyper and jumpy and bored cant sit still
They cannot concentrate and don’t like to read much
They have a hard time hanging with their peers
You know these kids
Some kids they are on some kind of psychiatric medication
Their parents in the big house or doped up or alcoholic
Their parents are splitting or fighting or leaving or somewhere else
Their breakfast is a bag of chips and a soda
Some kids they seem to have all the material riches
They believe that money is love is money is love
They believe that power and popularity are the only games on earth
They never had a chance to learn about
Nature and the nature within
The sun lit worlds outside and inside
Worlds that don’t work according to economic law and latest fashions
Worlds profound
The sky the waters and the soil we walk on
Worlds that bring peace and contentment
Right sad that is if you do not acknowledge these worlds
The kids missing these elements
You can see it in their eyes in their being
They are a shell a skeleton a zombie a hollow
They are plastic and know it but don’t know what to do about it
They are just kids
They don’t know
Kids like this, kids starved of life and reflection
Often take to the garden like a lion in the savannah full of acacia trees
The problem is the solution
Before the kids get dragged into the world, the career world, the cut throat world
Show them the garden and all its infinite gifts
And they will have something happy to hold onto for the rest of their days
The best school gardeners, managers & helpers
Were not always the best in the classroom
Or the best on the play courts full of balls
But they were the best
In the garden
They cleaned up the beds
They shoveled dirt
They found every critter hidden under the rocks, under the leaves
They protected the flower beds and trees
They made stick and bamboo forts
They showed natural curiosity
And a propensity for working
Doing things
That made a difference
Doing creative, nurturing, and cooperative things
Actively engaged with the world
Actively engaged with alien creatures
Actively engaged with reality
Not fake stuff, theoretical stuff, mental stuff
Not competitive stuff, I’m better than you stuff, what’d you get stuff
Water, sun, dirt and flowers
The problem is the solution

Take it easy
The garden is infinite
Take it easy
with the Don’t touch that!
with the That is the wrong way to do it!
with the No you can’t no you can’t
The garden is abundance
Take it easy
Its a good place to learn how to take and give
Pick apples and plow in manure
Its a good place to learn to be thankful
Eat carrots pulled out of the earth
Its a good place to sit around with your friends after working hard
Drinking a cup of yerba buena mint tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon verbena tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon aid, squeezed fresh from the lemon tree
Students planted five, ten, fifteen years ago
You are in the garden
It is paradise
The garden is infinite
Partake of the bounty
Take it easy

Know your material
Take classes
Talk to grandmas and grandpas
Walk mountains, ford rivers, paddle streams
Know your material
Your material is plants and cultivation
Work in the community garden
Work in the greenhouse
Work in the nursery
Work in the woods
Know your material
Your material is plants and their uses
Go to the markets
Go to the kitchen
Go to the paddock
Go to the reservations
Go to the slaughterhouse
Go to the butchers shop
Go to the farms
Go to the forests
Go to the wetlands
Go to the desert
And stay there for forty days
Know your material
There are plants everywhere
There is nothing worse than
A garden teacher, a garden director, a garden administrator

Who does not know anything
About growing plants, loving plants
A garden teacher with a BA or a MA or a MS or a PhD
Maybe has multiple licenses and permits and certifications
Maybe has worked and traveled all over all over the whole wide world
But has never
Grown a plant
Funny and really sad at the same time
Botany majors, biology majors, landscape architects
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of hours of education
Never grown a plant
Then they become a garden teacher
They think aha such an easy gig
And make the kids sit in chairs
While they lecture for forty five minutes
Last five minutes of garden class
Paperwork – label the parts of a flower with the correct spelling
No I am not joking, seen this sort of behavior too too too many times
The worse part is the arrogance and close mindedness
That comes from a formal rigid expensive education
I’m right, you’re wrong
I’m smart, you’re dumb
I know, you don’t know
The kids can sense it
The kids can feel it
The kids know that your heart
Is not
In it
You phony and selfish
Not real and generous
The kids wonder
Was the old dude ever a little kid? What happened to him?
Why does this young lady keep talking and talking instead of working
With us with us together
In the garden?
Don’t let this be the fate of your school garden
Be a good teacher
Be hands on, not hands off
Be hands on, not only-brain on
Know your material

Take the bull by the horns
You know that the garden is low priority right?
Reading writing arithmetic
Social studies language and science
Teachers got tons of standards to cover
Teachers got exams to prep for
Teachers got tons to do
There is never enough time
For gardening
The parents
The parents are busy too
Back and forth, lesson to lesson, activity to activity
Bus stop waiting, car sitting in traffic, flat tire and family emergencies
PTA, sports leagues and bake sales, field trips and school auctions
And the principal? Good luck
So if you want a garden program for the students for the kids
You got to
Take the bull by the horns
Nobody else is going to do it
You got to
Commit and charge!!!
Take the bull by the horns
It is worth it
The garden is worth it
All the sweat all the achy muscles and backs all the dirty fingernails all the scraped knees
It is worth it
The kids will learn things from nature
That they will not learn anywhere else
The kids will learn things in the garden
That will last all their days
Nature is joy in action
Nature is a reflection of the human soul human psyche human mind
Nature is beauty

Nature is authenticity
Nature is true
Valuable valuable valuable lessons for kids to learn when they are young
Take the bull by the horns

Okay thats it!
  Enjoy your garden!
The pics:

sphinx moth larva.jpg

Well thats a good lil package
A lesson about lifecycle and bauplan
Mandibles and proboscis
Theres always the human overlay and stories
Associated with transformation and metamorphosis


Have you ever eaten sunflower seeds right off the flower head?
This one of those activities that take some planning
In the spring you plant the sunflower seeds with the kids
Then all summer long
When nobody is around at school
You gotta make sure
They are watered and cared for
Because when kids return to school in August September
That is the brightest thing in the garden
Crack goes the shell


Plant flowers
No reason
No reason
Plant flowers
All day long
At recess
At lunchtime
And after school too

bench 2011 sept.JPG

Mix up some mortar like cake mix
Plop it on
Lay a brick
Cut some lawson’s cypress
With a hand saw
Everyone gets a chance to cut
On the pull or on the push
Then hammer and bolt it all together
One day you can build houses
One day you can build bridges
To stay warm and dry
To cross the waters
And make peace between lands
Separated by seas

upper nov 2010.jpg

Not every garden needs a pond
Water features got pumps and filters and cables and pipes
Water breeds algae and mosquitos and is a drowning hazard
Water features are high maintenance
Still, with proper care
A pond is a lot of fun a lot of education
This pond started with a 2G rock foundation
And a six person volunteer group from Salesforce
The rest is a liner and many many sacks of concrete
A few tons
Wheelbarrowed and hauled and mixed and poured and formed
100% kids with a little guidance
Good project

alvarado trees1.jpeg

The trees
Gotta go meet and greet them
Good creatures to know
The trees
Theres a lot of different kinds and species
So I drew some maps
For the kids, for the adults
So that they could go say hi
To the trees
Walkabout walkabout walkabout
Dream of trees dream of forests dream of elegant dappled cathedrals
Of trees





People, humans
Are lumps of meat and bone
Tasty to many creatures
In life and after death
Protein carbohydrates and yummy fats
Blood and minerals

We are growers of plants and animals
Domesticated plants and tame animals
Plants and animals without a wild sense of survival
Plants and animals without noxious toxins and tough fibrous tissues
Soft, tasty plants and dumb dumb animals
In rows
In pens
They are susceptible to

We are inventors and prolific makers
We mine and burrow and dynamite
We burn and assemble and move stuff in transit
We produce lots and lots of stuff
Not all of it gets used
As a result, there is a lot of surplus
A lot of extra
A lot of garbage
A lot of trash
Its all food for
Our roads our transport our depots our stations
Is how pests
Move and disperse and gather

There are pests that feed on us
There are pests that feed on our friends and property
There are pests that follow us around wherever we go
Pests that thrive in our nooks and crannies
Armpits and crotches
Bed boards and sofa cushions
Cracks and basements
Sewers and dumps
I hate pests

I hate mosquitoes at the campground at twilight
I hate rats in the garage chewing up textiles and leaving pill shaped turds
i hate gophers that swallow my tulips
I hate fuzzy mold on my oranges and spaghetti sauce
I hate colonies of aphids sucking on my broccoli and collards greens
I hate black fungal dust that blows off the grain stores
I hate pigeon poop left on the playground swings
I hate beetles burrowed into my acorns
I hate white mycelium webs that have infiltrated the wooden deck
I hate the dividing bacteria in my infected swollen leg
I hate the sound of a million cockroaches waltzing across the kitchen floor at night
I hate the buzz and sting of the hive of yellow jackets that I step on
I hate them all

So it is war and survival
With pests
Theres is no tapping out, this is not a sport on a mat
There is no time out, this is not a game
There is no start over redo, this is not a training exercise
Winners and losers, whistles and flags
It is a war about
Food or famine
Health or pestilence
It is life and death

How do you win a war
Against small creatures with tiny brains or no brains at all
How do you win a war
Against creatures ten times, hundred times, thousand times
More ancient than ourselves
How do you win a war
Against an unrelenting enemy
Hell bent on feeding and reproduction
How do you win a war
When it is
Seven billion humans versus
How many pests? How many pests?!
Infinite pests
You cannot win a war
Against pests
They rule the world
Discretely, quietly
With no arrogance or grand gestures
They rule
They have their sphere of influence and territory
They adapt and overcome

You can learn to live with pests
And minimize their numbers
Have them below a damage threshold
Be willing to compromise and accept some loss
It is not – all or nothing
It is tolerance and acceptance
Coupled with a fight for survival
Be proactive in your approach to pests
Prevent them
Discourage places where they thrive
Attack them when they are weak
Live with them

This way you can make some cash
Feed the family
And still have a sane and balanced mind
Sitting around, throwing your hands up at the pests of the world
That is not an option
The path of humility
The path of understanding
The path of survival

Cleanliness is Godliness
Wash your hands after going to the bathroom
Wash your cuts with soap
Remove the rose leaves and litter full of fungal spores
Cut off the infected branches
Sterilize the potting soil
Keep the watering nozzle off the ground in the greenhouse

Plant the right plant in the right place
Breed disease resistance plants
Practice crop rotation to prevent buildup of pathogens
Proper irrigation and soil preparation
Plant cover crops, mulch
Amend the soil, conserve the soil, treat the soil with care

Know your enemy
Know their lifecycle know their habits
Know where they spend their days and nights
Know when they emerge and when they go to rest
Learn to distinguish your enemy from its look alikes
Its look alikes who may actually be your friends
Learn to attack your enemy when they are the most vulnerable
Learn to tolerate your enemy because you will never kill them all
Learn to respect your enemy

Use the least harmful method of control that you can
For pests
Because like karma
Whatever you put out in the world
It comes back at you
The nastier the poison
The more effective the kill, the more long lasting are its effects
Ha ha pests all dead
The poison stays around in the loop of life
And comes back at you
Might be a generation two generations three generations away
But it comes back at you
You like hahaha I got away with it who cares about anybody else
Who cares about the ‘environment’ or the ‘future’
I am good ‘now’
My belly is fat
I got my bottle of foamy drink
And meat on the grill
But maybe you care about your kids, or your kids kids, or your kids kids kids
Or maybe your brothers kids, your sisters kids, your neighbors kids
Maybe you still hear, on occasion, the voice of the little kid, within
You want them to live in a world with frogs and dragonflies and singing birds
A world of fantastic laughing creatures
You do not want them to live in a world
Where all they know
Is made of plastic and metal and plastic
A world lived in a dark cave of only human constructed lifeless objects
Shiny glossy titillating tempting and addictive
But empty
A world where you do not see the beauty of creation

You cannot eradicate the cockroaches of the world
You cannot annihilate the rodents of the world
You cannot make flies go extinct
They are more powerful than you
They are tougher stronger
And more hungry than you

That is why it is important
To try and see beyond
A world at war
With itself
A mind at war
With itself

So that is why we choose peace and tolerance and love
So that you can appreciate a bee a sunflower a setting sun
A day out by the river with the family and friends
That is why there is this thing in horticulture and farming
We call Integrated Pest Management