Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planting the future

Loaded up the car and took the family on a trip back to my hometown of Acushnet to share in the Luc QT and to get some trillium rhizomes in the ground. For about 15 years now, my parents have graciously allowed their frustrated landscaper of a son to cut new garden beds around the entire property and grow up pretty much anything I might want (Pop Tetreault : "whatever you like, as long as its not a willow tree...those roots get in to everything...I don't want anything destroying the septic system"). Most of the early plantings are now mature groups of Peony, iris japonica, allium giganteum or many multiples of the Pee Gee and oak leaf ydrangea.

Despite my fascination with this beautiful North American woodland wildflower, there was still one species that had not worked its way in to the soil until now.

The eponymous Trillium.

Five rhizomes of trillium grandiflorum (Great White), five of trillium erectum (purple/red), and three trillium luteum (a mottled-leaf yellow) were on the docket for the day, so I snuck away for 30 minutes to have a bit of fun in the dirt.

I selected a site in a garden bed that is best suited for these spring time ephemerals, and with some expected dapple shaded neighbors. A mix of native: marsh ferns (Thelypteris palustris) and tall/limbed up golden birch trees (species?) and introduced plants: a flowering japanese cherry and a collection of japanese maples (some named purchased cultivars, some originally seedlings now in their awkward youth from underneath mature specimen trees back in the city.

Unfortunately the soil in this section of the parents property is mostly glacial clay; a soggy root suffocating mess in the late winter/early spring and a parched solidified brick in the inevitable dry spells of the summer. The antithesis of the 'well drained, moisture retaining and high in organic soil' that trillium require.

Thankfully, my parents kept up the heaping compost pile, feeding it regularly with kitchen and yard waste. Pop will turn it a few times a year with the big kubota front loader and supplement it with some manure from my uncle's farm. Really beautiful, well rotted compost. Smells like the forest floor on which it lay. I peel back the outer layer of pulled weeds (unfortuately went to seed) and garden harvest that didn't make Pop's premium measure of quality. The center of the pile is ready to use and the perfect planting soil amendment.
After digging down ~12 inches, I took away 5 wheelbarrow fulls of the dusty, rocky clay coil, which apparently lives in the bizzaro world (it rained pretty well the night before) and replaced it with 4 of the compost and 1 of screened loam, the combination of which will help with drainage/tilth, nutrients and minerals.
The trillium rhizomes were disappointingly tiny. But they were firm and most had lengthy root systems ready to take hold in their new home. They will get settled this fall putting out a bit of root growth before going dormant for the winter. Pop will lay down an insulating layer of finely shredded leaves from the fall yard cleanup, providing further incentive for the earth worms to pay a visit to this site.

Hopefully the little plants will pop up their tri-lobed sepals in the spring and begin the slow but steady growth that will make this in to sturdy stand for the brewery's eventual forest's edge garden planting.

Walking back to the garage to return the shovel, Pop proudly pointed out a lone and youthful rhubarb ...his own recent propagation success story. He had gotten a bit of root from a friend in August and planted it in his raised boxes. The late summer sun fried the leaves to nothing. But underneath, the compost and soil nurtured, kept the roots cool enough to make it through the harsher days to the cool growing season.
After what some people would probably consider too long to be lingering around, talking about the growth of a single plant, we walked back in to the house, knowing that Pepere would have been happy to take part in the fun, and wishing that he was still around to do so.

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