Monday, November 14, 2016

Early thanks and late planting

By Beth Sullivan
It is November, and it is a good month to take stock, clean up, and begin planning for next year. That is the essence of hope. But we have not had a really hard killing frost yet, and the ground is soft, moist from some beneficial rains, and we are taking advantage of these conditions to keep planting.
Fall is not just the time for planting spring bulbs.

Still planting season

We all know that this is still a good time to plant beautiful spring blooming bulbs because they still have time to settle in, put down roots before hard winter. Well, it is somewhat the same for other plants, and on the preserves we continue our efforts to restore natives to areas we have cleared of invasives.
On Dodge Paddock and Beal Preserve, we have come to the end of our big grant from Long Island Sound Futures Fund from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Aquarium’s generous efforts. There are still plants ready to go into the ground. Native Seaside Goldenrod is a natural to work the soil, break up old Phragmites roots, and begin to make the land more accepting to native seeds of marsh grasses and other plants. We have some beautiful Shad bushes, just gorgeous with autumn color, to go up on slightly higher ground to give the birds and bees some variety in pollen and berries and give the neighbors some lovely native shrubs to enjoy. These will go in with the help of Pine Point students who are beginning a new phase of collaboration and education on the site.
At Dodge Paddock the Seaside Goldenrod takes hold and works into the soil.

The roots of newly planted native marsh grasses will grow to support the sides of the channel.

Beautiful Knox preserve

On Knox preserve we have accomplished so much with the help of an amazing group of volunteers who persist in tackling invasives, clearing walls, and preparing for restoration. Visitors to the preserve remark on the unbelievable transformation since 2011. We have had several very generous donations to help us fund our efforts. Over a year ago a member supported the purchase of high quality, native grass seeds to restore several large areas. Being frugal, I am still squeaking every last seed out of those bags, and the results are beautiful. Then last fall, another Avalonia life member joined a group from StoneRidge on a walk through the preserve, and all were enthralled by the views and overall enjoyment of the trails. Several of those hikers chose then and there to sign up to be Avalonia members. We always appreciate new supporters. But one couple chose to make a more generous donation of $500 for our efforts there. I knew what my plan was, and I held onto that. Then the Mystic Garden Club gave us a grant for another $500 to support the restoration effort and educational signage on the preserve. So this fall we ordered a number of native shrubs: Viburnum, Bayberry, native Rose, Blueberry, Beach plum, and some of those beautiful Shad bushes. Last week a group of hardy diggers were pleasantly surprised to find easy soil, no big rocks and obstructions and we got them all planted, watered, and mulched. We are working on another sign like the others there to help educate visitors on the importance of using native plants in any landscape and especially resilient ones along the shore.
A beautiful native, Shadbush is a perfect addition to the landscape at Knox Preserve. 

The pollinator garden benefited from some new plantings this fall.

After years of work to clear invasives, we were able to plant two dozen native shrubs.

This week, another member is digging from her personal nursery to supply Swamp Milkweed, Joe-Pye Weed, New England Aster, and others so we can add native diversity to the wet meadow at Knox.
We will dig them in, and they will have some time to settle, maybe extend some roots in the still warm ground. But then they will go dormant for the winter. When spring arrives the plants will be ready to send out new roots and growth, and we will be able to enjoy the flowers, and the wildlife that will enjoy them as well.
This Jack in the Pulpit, which grows from a bulb-like corm, was found blooming on Halloween. Trick or Treat!

Thank you to all who have supported these efforts.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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