Of weeds and transplants

It was a very full and satisfying day. Chockablock with practical activity and thought-provokation.

Iris fernaldii, Fernald's iris (left), Eriogonum nudum, naked buckwheat (middle), Heuchera micrantha, alum root (right).
My dearest one, AKA Dusky Footed Wood Rat is going to tack on a small building behind the greenhouse, for tools and dry storage. This is great! Unfortunately, that space, until this morning, was already occupied, by some of the healthiest and happiest of my propagation successes: At least they looked happy to me, and made me happy just looking at them. In the photo above, they're a bit dusty from me flinging mulch away to get to the soil.

Besides the Fernald's iris, alum root, and naked buckwheat shown in the picture, there were also one each of golden yarrow, Eriophyllum confertiflorum, and hairy honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula. All getting along together just great. The alum root in particular was just doing spectacularly well in the rich garden soil, with shade and regular garden water - though in other parts of the property it is surviving quite well with 6 hours of sun, leaner (native) soil, and only occasional water. I like this plant! I was so looking forward to seeing these ones bloom, but I wonder if they will now, after being transplanted.

So, with some regret, I dug deep around the roots, keeping about a foot away or so, and levered them out. Rat helped, and I scooped them into a large waiting container, ready to transport them to their new home across the way.

I wish I had remembered to dig around the roots last week. If you are transplanting, especially shrubs or trees, it's a good idea to dig around the plant, chopping the roots as necessary in the process, then leave the plant there for a while -so the roots can branch out and gain some strength after their amputation. Then lift the plant. Tip I learned from Jeffrey Caldwell.

But we got quite a lot of roots and soil so I'm hopeful. Alum root has fibrous roots. Iris has fairly thick meaty roots, with fibrous ones too. Eriogonum has tough long roots, with little fiber. (I'd have taken pictures but  my hands were full!)

Last weekend I had done a bit of preparation in their intended new home, beyond the pool fence, cutting back the blackbery vines (Rubus ursinus), and ripping out the weeds with little concern for getting the roots or anything. I just didn't have time to do a decent job. I did bag up the seedheads of some, but it is really too late to make much difference

We dug holes just big enough under a small coast live oak tree, which will provide high shade, and plonked them in, careful to keep the plant crowns above grade and not covered in soil. I firmed them in and watered them well to fill in any air pockets that would make the roots dry out.

This location is visible from the pool garden (on the right of Rat, below), and near enough to a garden hose for me to be able to water them easily and keep them from drying out totally, till they are truly settled - probably this fall. I hope nothing will decide that these juicy well watered newbies are good to eat.

Rat is a champion digger. He's getting better at not standing on the plants, too.

Unfortunately I haven't worked back in this area for a few years, and the weeds have regrouped and increased massively - especially our unfriend, sour grass, aka Oxalis pes-caprae. One weekend per week is just not enough! Also I found weedy geraniums, grasses, - not so much leafy spurge though, which is good - and Conyza canadensis, mare's tail. It's a bit early for some of the other invaders.

Well, I figure if I plant something, it'll give me motivation to get back there more often and keep the weeds cleared back, root nodules and all.

I plan to extend the area under active care to the length of this north-west facing slope. It's about 12 - 15 feet wide and 40 or 50 feet long, and lies between the pool fence and the woodland path that goes along the curve of the valley. Many fine toyon grow in this area, and they respond with vigor to pruning, which they need, in this case. I think some currant bushes are sprouting there, too, but they may be from any of the ones I planted - Ribes malvaceum, R. indecorum, R. aureum, and R. sanguineum - when I thought there were no native ones left growing here. But I hope they are local native ones. We'll see, maybe, or we won't. Native grasses grow here too, brome mainly, and there are also three kinds of ferns. I am looking forward to getting into propagating ferns. I have a task ahead of me.

So these transplants are my trial run. I might also try planting some bunch grasses and lupines that I've been growing, in sunner spots. And I want to see what grows there all by itself, over time, when there are less weeds. That's always exciting.

Later in the morning I headed down for the semi-urban CNPS field trip with Randall Morgan that I signed up for. It was very interesting and enjoyable, and I met many fine people and enjoyed their company. But I'll save my trip report for another time. However, a main takeaway for me, as I reflect on the weedy state of this slope, is how inclusive Randy is in what he appreciates. Made me rethink some of my attitude to some of my weeds. Solanum americanum is one I've been extirpating, but Randy pointed out that the wildlife does appreciate the berries and that they are not horribly invasive. More of Randall Morgan anon.

In the late afternoon, I pricked out this year's crop of alum root seedlings in the greenhouse, while listening to an NPR podcast about non-fiction writing. Oh so lovely. I do love listening to radio programs while pottering in the greenhouse..

Not as many seedlings as last year, but still, a whole flat of 1.5 inch liners. This year I'm going to try planting them in the ground before spring is out, if they cooperate and grow more sturdy in time. Instead of potting them on into 4 inch, then gallon pots, and keeping them in the pots over summer, like I did last year. I'm curious to see if they'll thrive like the self-seeding clarkia, so thick and tall, compared to the spindly ones nurtured in 4 inch pots.

Working with plants is wonderful, as I'm sure you'll agree. I love experimenting and trying new things, and gaining a thirst for understanding and slaking it. And just watching stuff grow!

Not a weed! (but what is it?)