U.C. undergraduate students from William Berry's 2010 ES 125 class, Bay Area Landscapes, returned to the garden a year later to check on the planting they had done in the wetland as a hands on experiential learning project. It's a success, with most all of the plants surviving, the invasive species reduced and tadpoles swimming amongst the bulrushes and cattails planted in the pool.
We are restoring one of the planting beds in front of the house. Over time perennial plants & shrubs have died out and other plants from the garden (self-starters) with the help of birds,etc had moved in. It is time for an update and a chance to recharge the soil with nutrients. Dawn Kooyumjian, one of our staff gardeners led the group with a new design and newly purchased plants from the nursery. But first we removed all the plants to loosen the soil and remove old roots, etc. Then we mixed our own compost that we make on site from garden debris with a manure charged amendment, and added this mixture to the reworked beds. Next, the plants were laid out according to the planting design sketch. The plants were then planted by our crew of workstudy students & volunteers and watered in.
After several weeks of cleanup that involved our crew of staff,volunteers & workstudy students, the campus arborist crew, and finally professional arborists to do the crane work, the removal of the failed Italian stone pines is complete. The materials that we gleaned from the process provided logs for hewing into garden structures, mountains of great mulch for the planting beds and some "pizzas" for the Create-With-Nature-Zone.
On Wednesday we discovered a swarm of bees had attached themselves to the new bamboo tunnel structure in the hollow. On further investigation we found that they were honey bees probably from our hives that is just above. Chris Bauer, our beekeeper, was contacted and he came with his equipment to see if he could capture the swarm and replace them in the box. Chris wasn't completely convinced that they were originally from our hive, since after inspection our hive seemed to be full. The bees dropped down into a box he set out as he brushed them off the structure. He covered them with a burlap sack and carried them back to the bee box. The smoker came in handy to mask his smell so the bees would not continually sting him. Today we checked the area and found a small "mango shaped" group of bees clinging on the structure. Chris returned and moved them to the hive. video: [media id=18 width=480 height=360]
The UC College of Environmental Design held a two day event that included student presentations, lectures, and award ceremonies. Events were held at Wurster Hall and Oakland Museum of Art. The garden was asked to participate by providing flowers for the public events. Anastasia , one of our workstudy students at the garden, was the lead designer and made some colorful & stunning arrangements out materials collected from the garden.
One of the many sustainable practices we engage in at Blake Garden is collecting seed from our flowers and vegetables. The flower shown is Lavatera trimestris, annual mallow. Once the seeds are ripe, we collect, then separate the seeds from the rest of the flower. This year, we donated our surplus seeds to the Richmond Public Library’s Seed Lending Library where they are available to the public free of charge. This is a great community resource to which we are delighted to contribute. For more information about their program and seed saving, visit their website at http://www.richmondgrows.org/
Glenn Keator's Plant Materials Class from the College of Marin visited the garden today to look at our plant collection and our ongoing projects.
The stone pine cleanup continues with campus arborists, Bill, Doug and Angel with help from our staff, Mike and volunteers, Peter and Kevin. They are chipping the smaller pieces of pine creating some great mulch to be used in the garden beds. Larger pieces will be stored and used later for hand hewn benches & fences.
This has been a good year for Salamanders in the Garden. We are almost back up to our rainfall average and, since we have started hugelkultur and mulching at Blake, we have uncovered many of them -- especially Arboreal Salamanders (Aneides lugubris) and California Slender Salamanders (Batrochoseps attenuatus).
During one of the big storms this week, one of the 90+ year old stone pines (Pinus pinea) came crashing down blocking the path to the Mediterranean section. Luckily, it fell away from the house -- but it did do considerable damage to some young trees and shrubs just below. Our great crew has started the cleanup and we have been sorting which pieces can be chipped for mulch and which pieces can be used for bio-terracing and hand hewing to make benches and other structures in the garden. Stone pine is dense and good for building. Last year after a strong storm which knocked off a large branch, we harvested enough wood to make 5+ hand-hewn benches . For more on hand hewing see: Hand Hewing at Blake Garden.