Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Leaves Have Left

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just 6 AM here on the mountain, windless, quiet, 48 degrees. The Rains of Ida have ceased after dropping I don't know how much water on us last evening and well into the night. I retired the rain gauge three weeks ago because it's a bother when hard freezes threaten, so I have no firm idea on how much fell. In a half hour when the sun begins to rise, I'll check the unofficial rain gauges, the five gallon buckets left in the yard for fall planting, and I'll get an idea what fell.

Karl the Wonder Dog just visited me, gave me a kiss on the hand and returned to bed. He apparently knows it's Sunday and I won't leave to get my paper until my work here is completed. He'll be snoring again in seconds, dreaming about a ride in the truck which he loves so much. Outside deer hunters wearing wet boots from yesterday's almost pointless slogging around will be heading into the woods, hoping for a dry day and at least the vision of some wildlife.

Yesterday afternoon I headed to the garden as a light rain fell, hoping to cover up three trees I planted this spring. A couple are weeping tamaracks that should do fine but one is an Atlas blue weeping cedar which is zone 5 at best. I knew when I bought it that there was some question involved and people of the know reminded me this summer that I was a little nuts to spend time and money on failure. I placed it in a dry part of the new hosta and shade garden where it is out of the wind more than in other places but where the sun shines each day. With changes in climate, it's worth the money and effort to try borderline items and sometimes succeed when others suggest you'll fail.

The tree is about 6 feet tall so I took four 8 foot X half inch reinforcing bars and sunk them in the group 2 feet and then tied them together up top to form a tee pee-like frame. Then I cut the top and bottoms out of several burlap bags and slid them over the top of the frame and filled them with shredded leaves from the ground to the top. This will slow down the winter dessication. I packed the leaves well at the bottom to slow down the freeze-thaw cycles we now see in Vermont. I also circled the burlap with polypropylene string to keep the burlap from shifting and I said a quick "Hope to see you in the spring." and walked away.

For some reason it came to me that I had never transplanted the astilboides tabularis to the perimeter of this new shade garden as I wanted last year. I love big leaved plants and this one is special to me. Come spring they start slowly here and then the unfolding leaves just grow and grow. As they mature, each leaf is about 3 feet in diameter, sometimes a bit wider, and they look so nice to me as they serve as landing pads for floating leaves and tree needles and various insects in need of a rest. I have even seen chickadees and small warblers sitting atop pecking off insect snacks.

Astilboides tabularis have that Jurassic look about them and they do for me what I wish the gunnera manicatas would do. If I lived in Seattle like one of my sons, I could happily grow the gunneras but here in Vermont they are just another plant that needs to be moved to a warmer place for the winter and that's the reason I gave up on glads and dahlias and calla lilies many moons ago. Plant astilboides in a dry setting and keep it watered or in a damp setting with some sun and your landscape architecture will offer a perspective your friends and neighbors will show envy for.

Well, the sun is up enough for a walk. I'll wake my buddy and leash him up, put on my safety vest and head down the road for a morning look-see. Karl's sniffer will be in full operation as the animals have been hold up since yesterday with the hard rains and are no doubt out and about making up for last night's missed meal.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a single loon calls a primitive "Good Morning". Walk with me if you wish.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm


Liisa said...

I am a huge fan of Astilboides, as well. I just planted mine this year, so I am hoping they really get going next spring. Good luck with your weeping cedar, I hope to see pictures of it in all its glory next spring.

Salix said...

Hi George - I haven't visited for a while and I truly enjoyed your post.
You indicate that the astilboides will grow in moist (to wet?) conditions so I'll do some research to find out if they will grow in my moist clay. Just love them.

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Your interesting post is being reposted here along with numerous other garden bloggers posts (mine included). I've tried emailing them but get no response.