Monday, October 20, 2014

Wild Arbutus Protected

Recent beady snow in the air has changed our focus.  Garden work must wait while our attention shifts to tasks that must be finished before freeze up and snowfall.  Several days have been devoted to repairing the gravel driveway.  Washouts and ruts are being filled so that the snow plow has a reasonably flat surface to clear.  This naturally occurring arbutus group also needed help.

Growing at the edge of the gravel bank seems like a poor choice.  Bulldozed more than one half a century ago, this ground has had that time period to revert to a natural state.  Uneven ground filled with large and small stones would not seem to promote the growth of this difficult wildflower.  Some years we enjoy the sweet early flowers here while at other times we can find no trace of the plant.  This past early spring, I found rabbit pellets in great quantity where the arbutus grows.  As an evergreen plant, arbutus is one of the few sources of fresh food at that time of year.

Snow melt revealed no visible trace of arbutus plants here.  Arbutus delays new leaf and stem growth until after the business of flowering is complete.  These plants had no flowers but still they remained dormant until the time was right for new leaves and stems to grow.  Left with only a scrap of crown and an intact root system, these plants began to show new growth.  Their recovery seems to be a miracle of sorts.

The combination of a field stone wall and a wire cage should keep the foragers at bay.  Nestled in a depression, the cage cannot be pushed aside by a woodchuck's snout.  Hopefully the rabbit will not be able to find wiggle room sufficient to slip under the wire.  We will visit this site frequently to see if our precautions meet the challenge.

New leaf growth was the single job done here this year.  No flower buds were set.  Another full normal growing season will be required before any flowers appear on these plants.  That is a long time to wait for flowers but wait we will.

For now, this job is finished.  Fallen leaves were spread to cover most signs of recent work.  The stones were left exposed but moss and lichens will soon hide them.  An old heavily used rusty wire cage almost goes unnoticed.  The stones were carefully set and they should remain in place for many years.  The wire cage will rust away leaving a shallow stone well to puzzle those who follow me on this land.  If they are persistent, they may find an occasional arbutus plant in bloom.   

One note on the unusual clothing in use.  Many years of time spent working in sunlight has left sun damaged skin.  A Solumbra helmet liner and a long sleeved  shirt protect almost all of the skin but create a strange visual appearance.  We have not way of knowing what passersby  think when the see the wild man strangely dressed working among his posies.

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