Friday, October 24, 2014

Final Arbutus Survey

This is the current status of our original attempt to transplant arbutus from the wild.  Four separate plants form the central cluster.  A fifth plant appeared from seed but that seed must have been moved in the soil with the transplant.  Three of these arbutus are male.  The lone female made flowers for the first time this year.  It appears that these plants will soon reach the stone well that keeps them safe.  A larger stone well will likely replace the present one.

These plants are in the lower left corner of the above photo.  They were taken with this year's wild dug plants since it appeared to me that as many as five new plants from seed completed the clump.  If all goes according to plan, an attempt to separate them will be made in the spring.  Root disturbance has been avoided with a passion since I believe that damaged roots cause transplant failure.  One way to test my theory is to dig these up.  This will also afford me the opportunity to see actual root structure.  Great care will be taken both during the dig and after the move to try to keep these plants alive.  A close look at the picture revealed what may be a new plant from seed centered at the lower edge of the clump.

This picture was taken on moving day, May 07, 2014.  It rather clearly shows three different plants although matching their original placements with the present photo remains a puzzle.  The amount of new growth realized in one growing season following transplantation is incredible.  These young plants were placed in suitably poor unamended  soil and they were watered nearly every rainless day.  Now I am really looking forward to my chance to separate and relocate these plants.

This plant is growing in the black plastic nursery tray visible in the lower right of the first photo.  The tray was filled with soil taken under mature white pines.  Arbutus seed gathered here this summer was sprinkled on the soil surface.  Little has happened here and I believe that arbutus seed requires cold temperatures before it will germinate.  We really do not expect plants from these seeds until next summer.  If wishing made it so this would be a new arbutus plant, but I think that is something else.  It will remain undisturbed and we will watch and wait but little is expected.  A chance to look at the new plant growing at the edge of the recent transplants has changed or opinion of the possible identity of this plant.  It may just prove to be arbutus.

Arbutus is one of many plants that forms its flower buds ahead of the coming winter.  That seems risky to me but if arbutus has taught me anything it is that this plant will follow its natural time schedule no matter what.  Try to interfere as I must, the plant does its thing when it knows that the time is right.  These buds are on a  plant known to be male.  One of our goals for next year is to take a picture of a male flower when it is loaded with yellow pollen.  We have yet to see this since other garden tasks keep us very busy at that time of year.

These are the six plants were transplanted form the wild earlier this year.  They were taken from a ridge that exposed them to full sun every day.  All of the leaves growing under that condition were small and sunburned but the plants were heavily covered with flowers there.  Moved under a white pine, these plants now get only a few hours of daily direct sunlight.  Their leaf color has normalized and the new leaves are typically sized.  Here again the need for a larger protective wire cage is becoming apparent.

This bud cluster is on a plant known to be female.  Perhaps you can see a difference between the proportions of the male buds and the female buds.  There is so much left to learn about this plant.

This row of white pines was planted by the last man to try to farm here.  In the more than one quarter of a century that they have been growing here, natural soil conditions should meet the needs of arbutus.  Located near a formerly cultivated field, this ground has remained undisturbed save for the cows that were pastured here.  No hardwood trees grow nearby so smothering by fallen leaves would not be a problem here.  The exposure is south west but arbutus planted here could grow into the shade.  A mown trail lies just on the other side of these trees so water can be hauled here.  This looks like the best spot that we have to try to grow more wild arbutus.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Great Gardeners Deserve Great Onions!

After all these years the arrival of a seed catalog from a company that I love still gets me excited about the garden all over again.  Yesterday we were on the way out when we picked up the mail.  The name Dixondale Farms  on a thick manila envelope was a welcome sight.  I am a person with a powerful curiosity and I would have loved to rip open the envelope right there in the car,  However the envelope was carefully sealed with plenty of clear shipping tape.  There was nothing for it, but to wait until I got home to open it.  Waiting only intensified my excitement.  When I did get to open the envelope, inside I discovered these beautiful catalogs and a nice letter from Mary Caddell.

This year their catalog features a photo of one of my bodacious braids of  Red Marble Cippolini onions.  I have always loved to braid my onions.   I braid them between two strands of garden twine.  The more onions you add, the heavier the braid gets and the tighter the strings hold together.  I could not have been more delighted when I was asked for this picture for use in their catalog.  After all I consider them the very best supplier of onions plants in the country.  Plants and Stones has never done any advertising.  We are not in the business of endorsing garden products.  Any recommendations we make are unsolicited and reflect our true feelings.

What a great looking plate of sliced onions.  I love the way the brilliant  color goes all the way to the center of the onion.  How about a beautiful slice of onion on a burger.  My Dad used to get two nice slices of homemade bread, slather one with butter and make a sandwich using one big slice of an onion like this one.  When I look at a plate of sliced onions I can see him and the way he enjoyed those onion sandwiches.  Some of us would join him, leaving the others to complain about our onion breath.  It was so worth it!!!

These onions grow to a very nice size here.  We did plant a few close to keep them small.  Here I peeled a small Red Cippolini.  The outside skins are dark  red, but the onions themselves are almost magenta. This is one of my favorite colors.  I wonder how many people grow onions that match their winter vest?  What a delight it is to add this brilliant color minced in tuna or potato salad.  Pretty little purple onion rings make up for the loss of summer flowers in my salads.  However, don't use them for French onion soup. Long cooking  makes them sweet and delicious, but the color change to death gray is unfortunate and unappetizing.

I will have to decide which of my gardening friends will receive  the extra catalogs.  Fortunately you can get one of these great onion catalogs and your own picture of my beautiful onion braid  by clicking on Dixondale Farms and ordering one.

Let's not forget that  Ed planted and harvested the onions.  He weeded the center of the bed where I can't reach.  Without him I could never have so much garden fun!  Usually we wait to order our onions until January or at least December.  Perhaps I should get my order in early since more of my friends will be ordering onion plants too.  They have lots and lots of onions for sale, but I want to make sure I get mine!