Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Here We Go Again

This first arbutus seed berry to open was caught in the act.  Three of the five covering flaps have peeled back exposing tiny ripe black seeds.  Imprints made by the developing seeds are clearly seen on the open flaps.  White spots mark the black seed surface in an amazing display of miniature complexity.  We have seen no young plants yet from the seed scattered last season.  More than one freeze thaw cycle may mark the natural process of germination.  Since ever advancing age places time limits on how long we can wait, harvesting some seed, carrying it over in the refrigerator and starting it inside in late winter is the present plan.  Three additional unopened seed clusters lie hidden under the open one.

Creating arbutus plants from cuttings has totally eluded us.  The number of plant pieces killed must now approach one hundred.  Given the success we have had using Richters natural rooting powder with lemon verbena, more arbutus stems have been nipped.  Heel cuttings will be taken just ahead of the stem cut.  These larger leaves may allow us to identify which method was successful.  Stem cuttings will be taken near the growing tip.

The stem cutting on the right still has its growth tip.  We have in the past seen continued growth from that point despite the fact that no plant crown or roots formed.  The heel cutting on the left will have to grow  its leaf larger.  Our potting medium consists of equal parts of white builders sand and screened soil taken from under a white pine tree.  Plastic saucers allow the water to rise up to the top keeping the rooting medium in place.

We are not using ordinary tap water here.  When the soil was removed from under the white pine tree, masses of roots crisscrossed every shovelful.  Screened out, the roots were placed in a bucket to collect rain water.  That is the source of the brew that will water these cuttings.

Old juice bottles with their bottoms removed provide a humid environment for the plant parts recently severed from their roots.  When the time seems right, the bottle caps will be removed to lower the humidity inside the bottles.  At that time everything will be moved into brighter basement light.  After another wait, the bottles will be removed.  In the past, arbutus leaves remained green at this point but rootless.  The brown color of plant death quickly followed.  So the wait begins again.

Here is the current status of our older transplanted patch.  Bright green leaves mark the extensive new growth.  The white seed berry shown above can be found in the lower right corner of the picture at the base of the first dark green leaf encountered  moving up near the edge.  The new growth heading into the stone wall at the top of the photo was the source of the cuttings.  The three pieces taken will not be missed.

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