Thursday, December 16, 2021

Arbutus Cleanup

This is our first patch of transplanted Arbutus.  Our goal was to reestablish this native treasure in a natural setting.  The visible tree trunk is a White Pine that provides a new layer of fallen needles each summer.  Their thick coating allows generous amounts of sunlight to reach the low growing plants while their decay deepens the highly acidic soil layer that is so beneficial to Epigaea repens.  If nothing else grew nearby, these plants would likely make it on their own underneath their protective wire cage.  Yes, a galvanized wire cage is not natural but the sheer number of hungry rabbits or woodchucks here may not be natural either.

Unfortunately, the small Oak trees growing nearby are now huge and their shed leaves form a thick layer that totally blocks out sunlight.  No Arbutus plants would survive the winter if kept in the dark.  One solution would be to cut down those trees but that seems extreme.  Still the Arbutus will not survive if kept in the dark.  Those leaves would possibly blow away in the wind but the wire cage keeps them trapped.


It was above 60 degrees F today so the time seemed right to clean up this mess.  Down on hands and knees is the only safe way to pick away the fallen leaves.  Pain is ever present and getting up is not graceful.  No fall accompanied this work but several bobbles were seen.  The wire cage fits inside of the low stone wall so that it cannot be pushed aside.  The four interior stones were placed to give me a handhold to reach distant leaves.

An old blog post featured a photo of a young plant sporting reddish buds.  The text identified this as the from seed plant that grew here following transplantation.  That plant and the four moved here have formed a dense mat preventing me from finding the plant that grew from seed.  If we remember to look for pink flowers when winter ends we may finally find it.  Other plants have reached the edge of the cage.  Our plan is to try once more to root cuttings.  We now have three different strengths of rooting compound so success may finally find us.  We certainly are looking forward to the end of winter despite its failure to find us yet this year. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

December Rain

It is not uncommon here to find huge curls of plowed snow lining the edge of our driveway by the middle of December.  Advancing age seems to have tempered my never fear anything attitude.  The coming weather has made me more that a little uneasy.  This summer we hired driveway work and the gravel used was mostly small sized broken stone.  I fear that if we need to plow before this surface freezes much of the new gravel will be pushed into the ditches.  My preference would be a solid freeze ahead of the first plow.  For now this private road looks quite impressive.

One of our long term goals is to establish the native plant Cardinal Flower here as a specimen  requiring no human interference to keep it alive.  Early spring warm days followed by hard nightly freezes keeps this most beautiful native plant seldom seen in this part of NYS.  These plants are near the Unadilla River where its impact on night cold has kept these plants alive for the past several years.  Their growth habit is to replace one old plant with up to six daughter plants has created crowding.  Spring division would result in dozens of new plants but we are trying to let nature take its course.

This native plant has proved troublesome.  It appears to struggle each summer producing no flowers while holding on to life.  We expected it to die out but new plants are now visible.  Native plants frequently require several years to adjust to their new home so we patiently wait.  The visible wire cage keeps the deer from damaging these plants while the pine needle mulch builds acidic soil that may be a requirement for Rattlesnake Plantain.  It would have been more natural if we had applied newly fallen pine needles last month but that will now wait until spring.


Woodland Phlox is another transplanted native plant growing here.  Two years ago Becky was clearing around the parent plant when a small piece broke off.  She instructed me to plant that rootless piece and I did so expecting no new growth.  It still amazes me that a broken stem could grow into such an impressive plant.  The deer seem to find this foliage tasty so a wire cage encircles this treasure.

There are so many signs that our plants will return when the seasons change.  We know that snow is coming.  If we look forward to what is certain to follow, then all will likely be alright.