I came into the garden on Tuesday morning before Christmas and heard a bunch of crows "cawing" loudly behind the greenhouse. Continuing the morning duties of unlocking doors and opening gates the sound of the crows was replaced by "shack, shack, shack", a flock of Steller's jays in the same location. As I wandered out back to see what the ruckus was, little woodland birds frantically flew left and right. Raven sounds ,"crunk, crunk" replaced the jays. High on a branch, through the fog, back lit by morning light, I could make out the silhouette of a great horned owl and two ravens attacking from either side. One raven would peck high and other low. Then the owl let out a strange sound that resembled simultaneously a hiss and a growl. It raised its enormous wings and then flew silently away.
Redwood steps on a trail in the redwood grove made possibly in the 70's have rotted and pose a bit of a hazardous trail. Recently three redwoods in the area died of root rot and had to be taken down. The downed trees are being hand hewn by three volunteers in the garden: Peter, Craig and Kristoffer with a draw knife to scrape the bark off and then hewing square a with Swedish broadaxe. Two of the treads are ready to put in place. They will be drilled and held in place with 1/2" metal re-bar.
We are in a drought we have been thinking of any or all ways to capture and conserve water for the garden. We intend to redirect water that flows down the driveway during a rain storm into the flower bed. In order to this and not wash out the flower bed we will construct a french drain/rain garden 1 to 2 feet deep, 2 feet wide and about 30 feet long along the road and at the top of the slope. We will redirect the runoff with sand bags into the swale lined with tumbled stones that we dug up in another part of the garden. Most french drains are constructed of stones with a perforated pipe at the bottom of the swale to redirect water somewhere. Most rain gardens are held in place by plants to filter the water. Our design will be borrowing from these two ideas. Our swale will run perpendicular to the slope and water will perk slowly through the permeable subsurface down the slope to the lawn. We have begun the project with a U.C. Berkeley Landscape Architecture undergrad student, volunteers and our interns from Albany High School EDSET program.
Area artist Keiko Nelson with the help of Steve Capper from Wildrose Gardens & Ponds has installed a sculpture entitled "Reflection" in our reflection pool. The sculpture is made of bamboo and bamboo chopsticks and was originally installed in the Japanese pool at Lake Merritt for the "Festival of Lights."
(In)Land Project (In)Land students from U.C.Berkeley Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Summer Program came to the garden to work on a project entitled “Revealing the Landscape”. Students paired up and chose a site in the garden that interested them and created a temporary installation with simple materials. They gave a brief presentation to a review team of professionals (landscape teachers, landscape architects and architects, and artists) with drawings and photographs along with models of their ideas, processes and finished installations.
Geoffery Agrons, a local photographer, always finds something of interest to photograph in our garden.
In order in to keep our compost piles productive we add oxygen by turning and water by hosing it down to keep the piles as wet as a wrung-out sponge. While turning we can observe what decomposers are present: red worms, sow bugs, roly poly bugs (both are actually crustaceans) ants, centipedes, millipedes. We also look for signs of beneficial bacteria & fungus which are microscopic, but they do leave evidence of white skeletal patches. All these creatures eat or absorb the organic matter we have added to the piles (leaves, branches, garden waste) and turn it into fabulous compost. Why is compost good for the garden? We process a lot of garden waste with this system so it doesnt have to be hauled off to the landfill, compost is organic matter and holds water in the soil, and it adds humus, a kind of glue that holds soil particles together. It also adds beneficial fungus and beneficial bacteria that break down the soil releasing nutrients that are needed by plants and protect the roots of plants from non-benificials. We have sped up the video to illustrate the pattern of turning and watering the piles . The result is three piles: one we add "greens & browns" to on a daily basis, a second pile that is composting (we only need to turn and water it once in awhile) and a third pile that we are currently harvesting through a screening system.
Our managed wetland has been weeded and pruned by one of our Albany High School EDSET (Environmental Design Science Engineering and Technology) student interns. Staff, volunteers and EDSET interns have been replacing the decomposing acacia fence with a split bamboo railing to keep foot traffic off newly planted upland native grasses. along with bee and butterfly plants. We also planted some water loving willows and a new tree, Box Elder, Acer negundo to provide more diversity for the habitat. Pacific chorus frog tadpoles were spotted in the shallow pool.
Crestmont kindergarten students came to the garden recently to study birds and bird habitat. We started off by observing the robins looking for worms in the irrigated lawn. Next we learned how to use binoculars by first trying to site the bird then pulling up a handmade binoculars( two taped card board rolls) up to our eyes. Next we tried the real set of binoculars. We toured the garden listening to bird song, looking at different bird habitats and seeing if we could spot the male and female mallard that have taken up residence in our ponds. After a snack we looked at bird nests found in the garden and then worked collaboratively on our own nest in the Create with Nature zone.
The garden's yearly event, the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department's Awards Ceremony, happened this weekend. About 250 students, faculty, staff, friends and relatives attended the event. The weather was beautiful and the garden was in full bloom and looked fantastic for the event.