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.
The U.C. Berkeley Conservation Resource Sciences Department holds it's alternative graduation celebration in the garden every year. We had another succesful event with cooperating weather and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge within a beautiful flowering garden.
The wetland restoration project has been ongoing for several years. This semester one of our Albany High School interns, Suzanne slipped on a pair of rubber boots, went into the muddy water and eradicated invasive species, and trimmed the tule and the cattails in our small managed wetland. We have been and replacing the invasive species with riparian California natives. The area is expanding into a surrounding upland native species area as well. In order to protect the area until it gets fully established we have been fencing it off with materials from the garden. At first we used branches from coppiced Acacia dealbata trees from the hillside. After several years they have become brittle and have fallen apart. We are replacing them with bamboo, Phyllostachys bambusoides, timber bamboo that has gone to seed in our and our next door neighbor's garden. With help from our 5 Albany High School EDSET (Environmental Design, Science Engineering and Technology) Interns we have put in the posts around the area. Next we will fabricate and install cross pieces to close off the area.
A Girl Scout group from Kensington came to the garden to learn about composting. We put them to work by piling browns (leaves)and greens (weeds) onto one pile and adding water. Other scouts shoveled decomposed compost from another pile onto a screen. After sifting through 1/2 inch and then 1/4 inch screens the result is rich dark brown compost that smells like the rain forest. Through the process the girls discovered many of the decomposers doing their job in the piles. Red worms, sow bugs, springtails, benificial bacteria and fungi are what we saw or saw evidence of. In an hour we made a wheelbarrow of compost to add to the garden.
Strange folding forms appeared growing by the front gate. The fasciated plant is Echium candicans or commonly known as "Pride of Madiera". Fasciation describes the way a plant grows in unusual or ribbon like forms. And it can happen to different parts of a plant, the root, stem or flower of many different species of plants and can be caused by bacteria, fungus, genetics, environmental, or insects. Some plants such as Celosia or cockscomb are actual grown with this defect to create an unusual "flower" that resembles the top of the head of a male chicken.
It was a perfect California spring day when speeches were given, songs were sung and messages were written in celebration of the retirement of Professor Joe McBride who has been teaching in the U.C. Berkeley Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning department for many years.