The months roll by on the Bluecircle and soon the last of the Fall colors will be under the first blanket of lake-effect snow. Mowing is almost done for this year and both the machine and mower are ready for a break. The red oak grove and Douglas firs pictured here hide the spruce and pines behind, but the last leaves remaining at the top of the poplars show them towering over the field. After six years of planting, sun and rain this area of the farm is beginning to mature.
North Watervliet Road at the bottom of this hill marks the east edge of the property. Two-year tulip poplar, maple and oak seedlings here will eventually define a path into the older plantings above. White plastic “grow tubes” around some of the maples are needed to discourage grazing by the doe and fawns that traverse this entrance to the farm.
Looking northwest over a recently cleared and planted area with hybrid poplars and tiny pines in the foreground. Taller Scotch pines and wind-bent poplars are beginning to hide the storage barns. Behind this clearing rows of white and blue spruce seedlings will mark a corner of the Bluecircle.
In 1907 W.H. Nichols and E.F. Nichols gave an arboretum to the University of Michigan that extends from Hill Street to the river below. Almost seventy years later a grove of stately pines on the western edge of this land provided the inspiration for the pine seedlings now finding root in the Bluecircle. A recent visit to the Nichols Arboretum showed that much has not changed with the passing of time – students still share sports on the meadows and wine, snacks and companionship in the shady nooks. The pine grove remains stately in the evening sky, albeit taller than I remembered. But after more than 100 years the pines share a lesson not evident in their (and my) youth, since a few stand only as soaring grey monuments to lives lived at the top of a hill.
First December snow
On a couple of frosty, muddy mornings in March and early April the first rows of trees planted in the Bluecircle were Douglas fir and Norway spruce seedlings from Burgess Seed Co. and the Berrien County Conservation District. The summer was relatively wet, and both trees and the abundant weeds prospered. Even with mowing and some cultivation it has been hard to see the trees for the ragweed, red clover, thistle and even poison ivy, but with the first snow the survivors are now visible alongside their marker flags. Overall about 85% of the 160 seedlings made it through their first growth season, which was better than I expected. A lessons-learned note about poison ivy in the Spring – bared-handed planting in March is to be avoided even when your gloves are wet unless you don’t mind following up with 2 weeks of treatment for the ivy rash! A tree spade works just as well and doesn’t mind the cold.
Fir seedlings sheltered by sunflower giants, July