Noe Valley Voice March 2013

Group Plants Shoots and Leaves at Library Garden

By Tim Innes

The Noe Valley Library Garden Group is looking for donations and volunteers for its latest project—planting a vegetable garden, flowers, and an apple tree behind the branch on Jersey Street. The east-side garden (shown) is already sprouting new shrubs.    Photo courtesy Lisa Erdos


The garden behind the Noe Val­ley/Sally Brunn Library is blooming again.

After lying fallow for nearly a year while a rotting retaining wall was being rebuilt, the wood planters are bursting with life. White camellias were the first to blossom. They'll be followed soon by sunny California poppies and a rainbow of red fuchsias, orange freesias, yellow coreopsis, and blue penstemons and iris.

The community garden—first planted in the early ’80s and redone in 2009 following the library’s renovation—had to be torn out so city crews could replace the sagging wall along the rear, or south, edge of the property. Once the new wall was in place, workers reassembled the planters and filled them with soil.

Like the library, the garden, which features a quiet deck where visitors can read or just relax, has undergone a transformation in recent years. Initially, gardeners tended individual plots. But the plantings were not always harmonious, and gardeners’ skills and dedication varied. It was “kind of a mishmash back there,” said 24th Street resident Eleanor Gerhardt.

Soil Fertilized by Grants

That changed when Gerhardt and other volunteers calling themselves the Noe Valley Library Garden Group stepped forward four years ago to take responsibility for the design and maintenance of the garden. With the help of a grant from the Friends of Noe Valley and some energetic Boy Scouts, they turned a weedy wasteland into a verdant Eden.

Now they’re at it again. According to gardener Lisa Erdos, the group has installed an irrigation system and planted flowers and flowering shrubs in the east side of the garden, which gets the most sun. The plantings were made possible by a $500 grant from the Noe Valley Association (the neighborhood benefit district) and a $100 private donation, said Gerhardt, who directs fundraising for the group.

“The garden is looking very nice,” said Adult Services Librarian Susan Higgins. “Once the [construction] work was done, they jumped right in. Our patrons are delighted.”

An Apple Tree for Miriam

But much remains to be done, and that will take more money. Some will come from the Noe Valley Garden Tour, organizers of which have pledged a share of the proceeds from this year’s event, scheduled for May 11. Past tours have raised funds for gardens at Alvarado and James Lick schools, landscaping at the Upper Douglass Dog Park, and hanging flower baskets in “downtown” Noe Valley.

“We still have some work to do on the west side, and want to redo the upper bed as well,” said Erdos, who lives on 30th Street.

“There will be camellias, azaleas, succulents, and a vegetable garden. We need to build a cabinet to store tools and such. And we want to plant an apple tree and place a plaque in honor of Miriam Blaustein.”

Blaustein, a neighborhood activist who championed community gardens and fought City Hall to keep the library open, died in 2005 at the age of 91.


Anyone wishing to help financially should write a check made out to “Friends of the Library,” with a “Noe Valley garden restoration and maintenance” written in the note section. Checks can be given to a librarian at the branch, located at 451 Jersey St. For more information about contributing or volunteering, contact Lisa Erdos at