Sunday, May 22, 2016
New Arbutus Cage
Trailing arbutus has taught many lessons here. One is that this plant follows its own time schedule no matter what. Its season for flowering has past and now is the time for the plant to send out new growth. The former cage was too small to contain these plants and new stems were trying to find their way under the stone wall that secured the cage. A larger cage needed to be placed now.
We prefer to locate our transplants under white pine trees. This patch is on a gentle west facing slope. The old cage rested against the trunk but the new cage needed to fit around the tree. Understanding that this larger cage is once again a temporary measure, we have allowed some space for the tree trunk to grow. Some of the bottom edge of the cage will have to be cut away from massive roots that now pass under it in order to keep the bottom edge of the cage in contact with stones that extend into the planting bed. These stones that reach into the growth area are what keeps rabbits or woodchucks from simply slipping under the cage. If the growing tree roots push the cage up, that protection will be lost.
Four interior stones with visual interest are placed to prevent a heavy rodent (Big Fat Woodchuck) from simply climbing on the top of the cage to force its top down allowing easy munching on arbutus leaves. As new plant growth extends around these stones they will be less obtrusive and may even look like they naturally belong where artificially placed.
Two days work were required to remove the old cage and its stone walls and place the new cage. At this point the cage will keep out the foragers but much finishing work remains to be done. This is also the time to complete other garden tasks. A second potato bed needs to be weeded and made ready for planting soon. Nineteen cardinal flower plants wait in pots for their time to be planted out. The unfinished grading work here at the arbutus bed will have to wait for another day. Unused stones will at some point be moved to one of our temporary stone piles. By my calculations these plants will reach the edge of their expanded safe area in about three years. We have no idea of what to do then since 6 feet is the maximum available width for this wire. By then we will have these twenty-five square feet densely covered with arbutus leaves. As problems go that is not a bad one to have. Presently we remove the cage so that a nose or two can be placed very near to the sweet smelling blossoms. We also remove the cage to keep the plants clear of fallen oak leaves and weeds. Seed harvest also demands a removable cage. When the arbutus plants grow through the new cage, we will simply get by with leaving the cage in place.