Living on our new little acreage, my desire to plant things and to grow things has BOOMED. I want to do so much here. Sadly, moving in just before winter has left me in near limbo, waiting for spring. I can barely wait. I want to have some houseplants too, but my real desire is grow things outside. There is so much I want to do, from creating beautiful areas in the immediate yard (around the house - about one acre) to replanting some the of the largely natural area in the back two acres. The back of the property was "parked out" years ago. They took out all the undergrowth and left the larger trees. I'm sure it looked beautiful and park-like at some point, but in doing what they've done back there, they basically left two varieties of naturally occurring poplars, and all of a very similar age. The lifespan of these trees is relatively short - maybe 20 to 50 years at the very most (probably shorter than that), and because many of them are reaching the end of their life, when we have a big wind here we lose some of them (they fall over). Added to that is something going on in the region that affects/kills some of these poplars before their natural lifespan.
So I want to reintroduce some of the undergrowth back there and I want to plant natively for the most part, but with a much wider diversity so we don't lose the forest entirely. I want to plant some hybrid poplars back there as well as other trees that are possibly native to the region, but not necessarily native to our immediate area.
There are areas that I want to plant some screening trees. I could plant evergreens, but I will be old and possibly dead before they are large enough to really do any screening (very slow growing), so I have been focusing on deciduous trees that are faster growing (although have shorter lifespans) and rely on diversity and naturalization to let nature take it from there. Part of my rough plan involves a lot of native trees of course, because the areas that I want the screening are largely natural areas - so I don't want to plant anything that will take a lot of care. I want them to be able to flourish on their own.
For some the screening, I can easily rely on Willows of various kinds. The nice thing about WIllows is that they grow very easily from cuttings and I can take cuttings anywhere and everywhere, root them and plant them. Easy. It will take a few years before they have any screening effect, but it will be faster than planting conifers. I will still plant conifers, but I won't have to rely on them to screen in the near term.
So cuttings are one thing. Free trees with little effort! And really, spruce and pine are also easy to propagate from seeds and since I gathered so many for my Christmas decorations, I can easily start as many young trees (spruce of some kind, pine and mugo pine) as I want.
While I was out searching for cone to use for decorations, I realized that the town nearby had many decorative shrubs along the streets and many of them had berries. I also notice a lot of ash trees and I know that there are also numerous elm trees. Here are some ash like I see everywhere here: http://www.mda.state.md.us/images/eab/g ... _seeds.jpg
Here are elm seeds: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8583446@N05/4910609195/
Free seeds, free trees! I've missed the elm seeds from last year. They don't seem to hang on the trees like the ash do, but I can watch for them next year along with another interesting find...a bur oak. Now, I didn't know that oak trees even grew here, but there is a nice old oak tree on public property in town and if I can beat the squirrels to some of the acorns next fall, I can also grow oak from a tree that has obviously flourished here for decades...how wonderful!
As for shrubs, there was one berry-laden shrub (MASSIVE amounts of yellow-orange berries) that caught my eye...so with ziploc bags stuffed in a pocket (and a pair of snips hidden in another) I went to gather some of the berries. I didn't know what the shrub was until I got back home. Turns out it is a Sea Buckthorn. What is interesting about the Sea Buckthorn is that it will grow virtually anywhere that has good sunlight (doesn't like even dappled shade), is hardy and easy to grow, and it's being developed as a commercial crop because of all the lovely beneficial properties of the berries. And there it was, berries for free.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea-buckthorn
So now I plan to plant the Sea Buckthorn in any sunny place that I think it will thrive here. Not as a cash crop, but partly because I know that I can eat the berries, the birds can eat the berries, and the deer will appreciate them as well (if they leave me any!).
I also gathered berries from Cotoneaster and from Flowering Plum. I have lots of plans for Cotoneaster hedges near the house, so I hope those germinate. As a backup, I'm also trying to root some cuttings. We'll see what happens. I know that success in cuttings sometimes depends on what time of year you take the cuttings and I know that sometimes germinating seeds is a challenge so I will be researching all that a lot more. I've found some great resources on the internet to help with that.http://grow.ars-informatica.ca/plant_index.php
The last shrub that I really want a fair bit of here, is old-fashioned Caragana (or SIberian Pea-shrub). Very hardy here, and they can grow to a decent enough height to help with screening. They require no maintenance if you want to leave them a bit wild, or they can be pruned into hedges. I drove around the countryside here looking for them and hoping I could gather some seeds from the little pea pods they produce. I found some, but all the pods had fully opened and I didn't find a single little seed still stuck in any pods. So there too, I grabbed my snips and took some cuttings (being sneaky). If the cuttings fail, then I have since found a friend who has some on thier property and I can gather seeds next year as well as taking cuttings from Willows on their property.
After preparing the seeds I got (defleshed the berries, rinsed and soaked the seeds and put the seed in some germinating mixture in yet more ziploc bags) I put them aside to see if they would start to germinate in the bags. After just a couple of weeks (if that) the Sea Buckthorn germinated already! So I planted those. I'm still waiting for signs of life from the Plum and Cotoneaster.
I've also started making lists of some plants I want around the house, and have begun to dream about making the yard a (hopefully) magical place with shrubs and trees that will require little maintenance. Also, there is one open area in the little forest out back, where I think I would like to do a spiral of shrubbery of some kind, so that eventually, when you walk into it, you won't be able to see out of it...but spiral into the center of it where I would like to have a small bench. Just a little whimsy in an otherwise largely naturalized area. Not sure just yet what I will plant to create it.
I've also got plans for the old vegetable garden area which will have to be fenced to keep the deer out. It could be rather ugly, so I've been looking for ways to create some magic there as well. I love the image on this blog: http://tyras-greenhouse.blogspot.com/
I love the fence. I will be planting many willows...some suitable to use for crafting or furniture or fencing, but it will take a few years to get them going well enough to begin to take canes from them. I know I may never have a greenhouse that fancy, but I will have some kind of small greenhouse. The garden area will be small.
I've also designated a compost area in the corner of the yard here and it's temporarily created with two chain link gates that we found in the lower shed. Next year I hope to build a two-bin compost area. I'm already hoarding every scrap of compostable material I can from the yard and kitchen. It can't compost in the winter, mostly because it's just new and too small to generate enough heat to compost, but in spring it will start to work it's magic. I hope next year to buy a small wood chipper so I can speed up the composting process and utilize more materials for composting.
Dreaming, dreaming, dreaming...and waiting for spring!