Monthly Archives: January 2012

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service

Around the nation today, thousands of people joined together in volunteering to mark Martin Luther King, Junior Day. This federal holiday was first observed in 1986 to mark Dr. Martin Luther King’s, birthday. In 1994, in honor of Martin Luther King, Congress designated the third Monday in January as a Day of Service; it is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” As described by the Martin Luther King, Jr. website, “the MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Once again, people in the Bay Area fully supported their Golden Gate National Recreation Area by quickly filling up the volunteer opportunities. Park-wide, 587 volunteers registered!

On Alcatraz, I had the pleasure of working Sifting compost for MLK Day of Service. Photo by Shelagh Fritzwith a variety of community members. A family with two daughters learned all about composting from our own Worm Man of Alcatraz, Dick Miner.

While the other group of volunteers was made up of 10 youth from BuildOn, a non-profit that builds schools in third world countries, and four park enthusiasts, who have volunteered for the Park before. For many of the volunteers, this was their first time to Alcatraz.

Working together, the groups accomplished clearing an overgrown pathway and sifting a yard of compost that will be used in the gardens.



Joining in by cutting back Ivy and Mirror Bush. Photo by Shelagh Fritz



A fulfilling morning with the cleared pathway. Photo by Shelagh Fritz


 Thank you for supporting MLK Day and your Park!

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Cutting Back

We have been busy the past two weeks cutting back perennials and pruning the roses. This is the ideal time of year in Northern California to clean up perennials before new growth starts. The perennials in Officers’ Row have been tidied up and the bare bones of the garden are taking prominent stage at this time of the year.

Fast growing Beard Tongue, Penstemon,

Penstemon that have been cut back to control the sprawling plants. Shelagh Fritz photo

Valerian, Centranthus ruber, Fuchsia, and yellow bush daisy, Euryops pectinatus, were all cut back hard this year to encourage denser new growth. The sprawling beard tongue tends to overtake its neighbors if not kept in check. The fuchsia and yellow bush daisy is fairly low maintenance and only needs to be cut back every other year. The growth of the yellow bush daisy tends to become very heavy and weighs on the branches, eventually cracking and breaking the stems. Pruning is not essential it helps to keep the plants more compact otherwise the plants will become ‘leggy’, having very few leaves at their base, if left on their own.

As well, boxwood and spirea bushes were given a light haircut, adding shape to their formal appearance.


Karolina Park, our Garden Conservancy gardener since February 2009, looks forward to pruning the roses back each year. Removing any damaged and older canes from the point of origin, she selects four or five newer canes that are angled outwards. This will direct new growth outwards and will encourage light to enter the center of the bush when growth resumes in the spring. Each cane is cut back to about one foot high, with strong, healthy buds pointing outwards at the top. Again, this will direct new growth outwards.

Karolina pruning the roses in Officers' Row. Shelagh Fritz photo



A pruned rose bush with a basin around its dripline. Photo by Shelagh Fritz









 Fallen leaves and debris are brushed away from the crown of the plant to prevent insects and disease from overwintering. Basins are then formed around the drip line of each bush, to hold irrigation water.

By the end of the day there is a huge pile of trimmings for the compost; and the garden feels refreshed and ready for another growing year.

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A Record Year for Volunteering


The opportunity to garden on Alcatraz has always been one of the more unique places to volunteer in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Volunteers are

Volunteers tending the pelargonium trough. Photo by Fergal M. Moran

drawn to the island for many reasons: to learn about gardening, to meet new friends, to learn the real stories about Alcatraz or to simply brag to their friends that they gardened on Alcatraz. The popularity of the volunteer garden program continues to grow and 2011 was a record year with 7987.25 hours being logged.

This staggering total was achieved with the help of 138 volunteers that turned out for the regular Wednesday or Friday volunteer program, and from 711 people that came to garden as part of a work group. Over the course of the year, 47 work groups participated in stewarding different garden areas. Many of these people were first time gardeners.

With 4.5 acres of gardens that are seen

Dick using the chipper. Photo by Fergal M. Moran

by 5000 people a day, it takes special dedication to have the gardens looking their best every day. Working alongside Garden Conservancy staff, volunteers are an integral part of caring for the gardens. Many volunteers have their own area that they tend faithfully while others are happy to do whatever is needed. Still, others enjoy the big projects of re-setting brick walls, stabilizing terraces and turning mounds of compost. I believe there is a job for everyone, no matter what color their thumb is.

Thank you to everyone that supported the gardens this past year, the gardens continue to thrive!





Habitat for Humanity. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Bay Area Whaleboat Association

Boy scouts


Charles Schwab

City College of San Francisco

Cloudkick / Rack Space

Cresswell High School

Denver Academy

Gay and Lesbian Sierrans

Goldman Sachs

Government Services Association (GSA)

Hotel Vitale

InterContinental Hotel

Americorps volunteering in the Rose Terrace. Photo by Shelagh Fritz


Lanier Law Firm



Merritt College

Msquared Consulting


Nixon Peabody LLP

Ruth Bancroft Garden Inc

SCA commuter group

Sleep Train

Goldman Sachs tending the north road calla bed. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Stuart Hall Sacred Heart School for girls

UC Irvine

Union Bank

Wells Fargo Bank




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