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.