Monday, June 29, 2015
Final Arbutus Move
Four years ago four small wild arbutus plants were moved to this spot. A fifth plant appeared from seed and the patch has expanded to its present impressive size. Bright green new growth has almost totally covered the older darker leaves. It is impossible to tell where one plant ends and another begins. As an evergreen plant, old leaves are carried over from one year to the next but at some point older leaves must expire. Dead leaves are almost never seen so we have been unable to determine their life span. Now that the older leaves are covered by new growth, they can die and decompose hidden from view.
One month ago our year old transplants were separated and placed in pots. My original plan was to examine their root structure since I have never seen a photo or drawing of the underground parts of this plant. When the moment of opportunity came, I could not disturb the soil and quickly potted both plants. Today was moving day.
This site was selected for arbutus planting two years ago. What little grew under the large white pine tree was levered out. Last summer arbutus seed was scattered in the area outlined by the three dead sticks. No arbutus plants from seed appeared so this is where the two potted plants were placed. Never cultivated because of its increasingly steep stony ground, this is wild native ground. It should prove to be a perfect location for arbutus.
During its one month in the pot, much new leaf growth has appeared but no new root growth pushed its way to the edge of the pot. Once again we are denied a glimpse of arbutus roots.
Fallen decaying white pine needles were brushed aside. Soil from the hole was carefully placed in a bucket to be used to fill in the voids surrounding the potted plant's root mass. Once the holes were filled, pine needles were brought up under the leaves and stems. This plant displayed a single female flower this year. Despite generous pollen tracked into the open flower, no seed was formed. The companion plant produced no flowers this year so its gender is unknown. Needless to say we are hoping for a boy.
Water and a wire cage were brought in to finish the job for the moment. Stones in the background were moved to the edge the adjacent cultivated field generations ago. Back then the stones were piled in a wall but the growing pine tree pushed them downhill. The next picture you will see of this spot will find the rusty barbed wire gone and the stones piled once again in a wall. It may be an artificial composition but I have long wanted wild arbutus growing into an old field stone wall.
The arbutus seed collected earlier has been drying on a paper towel. Today the seeds were moved into a waxed paper envelop, placed inside of a plastic bag and tucked away in the refrigerator. When winter seems like it will never end, these seeds will be placed on soil under lights in the basement. How we will handle tiny plants that may spring from seeds that are about the size of the point of a pin remains to be seen.