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SF Native Plant Tour Report

There were 25 gardens on yesterdays San Francisco native plant tour, and only 4 hours in which to see them. David said we'd see 5, I circled 10 on the list. We ended up seeing, sure enough, 5. It was a gloriously sunny, and really very hot day in the City, and we wished we had brought along some water, but a mid-tour stop for frozen fruit bars kept us from wilting before we finished.

My favorite landscape was a section of the Visitation Valley Greenway at Campbell and Rutland. This slice through a block has curving sidewalks wending through native grasses and other native plants to a children's playground at the bottom. There is tile work and beautiful welded metal gates. There are also areas where children have planted flowers. The feeling is spacious and luxurious. It is part of a 5-section greenway that wends diagonally through sections of four blocks and includes a plaza, a community garden, and an area in which to teach children about agriculture. The designer and organizer is Fran Martin, who has taken classes I taught at City College. She has combined community organizing, plant knowledge, and design skills to wonderful use in this project.

I was also delighted to discover the Living Library gardens, begun by Bonnie Sherk, one of which is just a block off of Ocean Avenue on Oneida, between Otsego and Delano. These gardens center around various schools that cluster in the area. There is a spectacular tile and mirror mural along the building that flanks a narrow lot, and whimsical tile pathways in the upper garden at the edge of a schoolyard. They just planted 200 native trees, a beginning of creating natural areas where the kids of James Denman Middle School and the San Miguel Child Development Center will be able to study, read, and play.

We also saw several private gardens. It always amazes me, on native plant tours, to see the variation of how people use native plants. Some sites are so natural they are really not designed, just planted, while others use natives in sophisticated designs. Some blend native and non-native skillfully, while others stick to the natives entirely. I was also pretty amused by the description of one garden that included the information that it had been overrun by Poison Oak before the gardener worked on it. Poison Oak is the native no one wants. It feeds California quail and other wildlife, but doesn't fit into our native garden plans for some reason.

I hope the Native Plant Society does this tour again, and perhaps adds an hour or two so we can see a few more gardens next year.


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