Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Adams Garden

It's Christmas Eve 2012 and we are getting our first snow of the season here in Knoxville, MD.  This is a great treat for family visiting from Texas.  I don't know if it will last, but it sure is pretty right now!

Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Progress, Inch by Inch

As the leaves are falling and the undergrowth is dying back I am able to get a better idea of what is actually growing on my new property.  My goal is to (re)establish a population of native plant species that is consistent with this geographical area (Mid-Atlantic Piedmont).  The first step is to learn what is already present.  That is becoming more difficult as the leaves and flowers of most to the plants are now gone.  I am moving ahead with step two, removing those invasive species that I had already identified.

Ailanthus trees are fast growing, these ca. 10 year old trees were about 25 ft tall.
My most recent targets are the Tree Of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima, that are scattered along the edges of the woodlands.  Spring to early summer are better times to cut this tree down, after the tree has used up much of its stored energy putting out new growth.  However, now that the undergrowth is thinning, I have better access to the trunks to cut them out.  I will need to follow up with cutting and/or treating the new growth in the spring.  The Virginia Department of Forestry has a detailed bulletin on Control and Uses of Tree-of-Heaven. From this I learned that Ailanthus makes decent firewood, so rather than throwing them in the brush pile, I'm stacking up the pieces for use in the fireplace next season (Ailanthus has a high moisture content and needs seasoning to burn well).

Ailanthus wood, when properly dried, can be for building furniture,
but burning it as firewood will be more satisfying
Other species currently on my removal list are the Multiflora Rose, Winged Euonymus and Oriental Bittersweet.  I will thin the thickets now to make them more accessible so that I can cut-and-treat the main stems in the best season (late summer for the Rose and Euonymus, and nearly anytime for the Bittersweet, as long as the ground isn't frozen).

Sycamores along Israel Creek.  
While I was clearing the trees I realized just how beautiful the bare trees can be.  The the native Sycamores, Platanus occidentalis, have strikingly white branches against the brown backdrop of the woodlands. The white bark of these trees made be think of Paper Birches, more common in the northern forests; although the Sycamores have a very different branching form.  I have also begun to appreciate the forms of the other trees, especially when the sun is low and they are silhouetted in the dim light.

Beautiful color at sunrise on a partly cloudy morning...

...but ground fog creates a more dramatic effect.

I was very surprized to find a few blooms on a Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.  These vines are everywhere, but this one close to the house is the only one in bloom right now.  Since we didn't move in until late September, we missed the peak blooming of these vines earlier in the summer.  I'm looking forward to seeing how many of these vines put out blooms.

For the rest of the winter my main chore will be to continue cutting back the thickets of invasive shrubs as I make out my shopping list for native shrubs to replace them in the spring.