Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Conventional wisdom says to never transplant trailing arbutus, Epigaea repens, since it will die if moved. We found a location where arbutus grows in the path of a lawn mower. Regular repeated mowing will likely kill these plants where they are. These facts allowed me to sail in the face of conventional wisdom. Actually, I frequently choose my own path in an uncommon direction. A search of the lawn was made to find small plants of arbutus at generous distance from others. Since arbutus grows from an underground network of branching roots, small isolated plants might be levered out with their root mass intact. A complete root system seems to be the first requirement for a successful move. A five foot pry bar was used to unearth large deep clumps of ground. We do not want the plants to know that they have been moved.
A planting site was prepared well in advance of taking the plants. Some specific micro-bacterial activity is reported to be a requirement if arbutus is to survive. An area under a white pine tree was prepared to receive transplants since some believe that the necessary bacteria or fungus grows on white pine roots. Large flat stones were placed over the site to kill weeds and encourage organic decay. We believe that the combination of organic matter, moisture and stones causes a unique and beneficial kind of compost to form that we call duff. These stones were placed around the edge of the transplant circle to direct rainfall onto the arbutus, keep down the weeds and clearly mark the location. We need to remember to water here for two years when the rain does not fall.
It is likely that our transplants will fail. If that is the outcome, we will report that here. If these plants live, we will also report that here. For now we have a total of four different arbutus plants so it is likely that both genders of the plant are here. Viable seed may occur here. For now I will prepare another transplanting hole to receive the stem cuttings that I plan to take six weeks from now. A different source of these cuttings must be found. Perhaps I can hobble the friend's mower.