Long shadows, short trees

The Solstice approaches and long shadows are everywhere.

IMG_1463 Where weeds grew taller than kindergarten trees their seed pods and frost-ravenged skeletal remains no longer hide the progress of the conifers.   What snow had accumulated was rained away and green grass remains a significant part of the landscape, albeit peppered with faded oak and maple leaves.  The annual inventory of surviving pines and poplars came to just over a thousand.   Overall success this year was very good except in a planned windbreak of red cedars.  This planting at the crest of a hill suffered from being in heavy clay and too far from a water source.  So far only hybrid poplars appear to thrive just about anywhere.

IMG_1459 Pines, either Scotch, red or white now outnumber the short-needled spruces and firs. A few that were planted as “3-yr transplants” instead of seedlings now stand chest high or better. The 5″ pine seedling on the left took root in the shadow of grasses but should rise above them next year.

A dawn redwood after the frost

A dawn redwood after the frost

New this year were a few Dawn redwood transplants. They grew well but it’s too soon to say how they will handle a snowy winter.

Planning the plantings and watching the clouds

The lingering Winter makes it hard to believe that many of this year’s Bluecircle tree seedlings will be planted over the next 4 weeks.  The Chief River Nursery Co. of Grafton WI and the Berrien County Conservation District will again be my chief suppliers.  The conifers  will be scaled back both in number and variety to Scotch Pine, Black Hills Spruce and Red Pine.  I expect these to be more drought-resistant than White Spruce, and the new well stands in reserve.  However, success or defeat depends largely on timely rain.IMG_0912

For the first time this year we will supplement poplar cuttings from hybridpopular.com with some from the Bluecircle, more on that in later posts.  The early failures of the majority of poplar cuttings last year may have been due to premature emergence of leaves, so for the first time these cuttings will be sprouted on the Farm.

For the first time red oak and sycamore will be added to the plantings, albeit in small numbers.  Some of these will have the additional protection of nursery pots so drip irrigation can be added if the clouds fail to deliver enough moisture.  Both species represent investments in the next century inspired by the still-standing stumps of native oaks that graced these fields 100 years ago.

Near the Conservancy

Near the Conservancy