Sunday, May 31, 2015

Finally Some Rain

We recently had more than two weeks without significant rainfall.  Soil turned to dust and plants began to wither under afternoon heat.  Water was hand carried to a select few plants daily in amounts that just kept them alive.  We avoided working with plants that were experiencing great stress.  Last night saw a decent rainfall that was heavy at times.  Taking a trowel to plants now seemed more reasonable.

This clump of arbutus was taken during our most recent transplanting expedition.  It included more than a single plant.  My intention at the time was to move this clump so that I could try to divide it if it survived transplantation.  A look at its root structure seemed possible.  Today was the day to act.  My only concern during the re-potting was to quickly get the plant into the soil.  I never took just a moment to peer at the partially exposed roots.  Indefensible softness.

First, suitably wild soil had to be gathered and prepared to fill the pots.  Briers have invaded the hillside and the trek up to the aged white pine was an unpleasant and painful experience.  A 5 gallon pail was filled with natural soil taken from under the tree.  Screened through one half inch square wire mesh, larger stones and root mass tangles were removed.

I suspected that the clump consisted of three plants.  One was easily separated.  The remaining clump resisted division so it was left intact.  If two separate plants actually are present here, they will have to live together since their roots occupy shared space.  If they are gender different, they will appear to be a single plant displaying both male and female flowers.  That could lead to some false conclusions.

Returning the potted plants to their former location became a major undertaking.  Hammer and chisel were needed to remove parts of a sizable rock that extended under the larger patch.  The resulting earth tremors should have done no damage to the older plants.

The two newly potted plants were returned here because they will be easy to water in this location.  If they survive being potted up, they will be planted out in a suitably wild spot.  The nearby black plastic rim marks the location of our attempt to grow arbutus from seed.  So far only an occasional weed has appeared here.  We continue to tend this barren ground in the hope that plants from seed will someday grow here.  There remains much to learn about this native wildflower.

When the fieldstone well was built to support the protective wire mesh cage, we knew that the arbutus would someday grow to the stones.  We did not expect it to happen this soon.  This new growth seems like perfect candidates for another attempt to try cuttings.  So far all that has resulted from our arbutus cuttings are dead sticks.  Richters offers for sale a rooting product that is different from others on the market.  Our nutmeg scented geranium cuttings grew into attractive new plants when we used the new rooting compound.  The recent lemon verbena cuttings are now showing new growth.  These successful applications of this new rooting compound will likely send me out to try arbutus cutting yet another time.  We shall see just what tomorrow brings.

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