Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Woodland Restoration - Adding in Mature Trees

One of my major projects is the restoration of a woodland adjacent to my house. I think I should start to call it a garden restoration, since as I've continued to clear away at the under-story of buckthorn, I'm finding more and more decorative plants. I've even found old wire supports for peonies which are sadly  all faded away.  I also found a new favorite wildflower - the privet. This year as I was clearing I came across 10 or so bushes in bloom. The fragrant is so wonderful! Can't wait until next year as these mature some more!

Anyway, the parcel I'm working with is approximately 294 ft long x 62 ft wide. It's the eastern portion of the woodlands that is closest to my house. That's right - it's 0.42 acres. Nearly a half acre that used to be someone's showcase garden, and is not trash.

Woodland restoration satellite view - google maps. 
In the photo to the left - this is the area between the two roughly horizontal roads and approximately three-quarters of the distance between the major road on the right-hand side, and the end of the photo on the left hand side.  I call this my "guerrilla garden."

The photo is wintertime clearly - so it's hard to see just how dense the trees are.  In the next photo below, the perspective is from the intersection in the lower right hand side looking back against this parcel. There is a little rock garden I carved out, a big overgrown rose bush, and a big burning bush (almost 12 feet tall!). Almost every thing else is buckthorn and poison ivy.

Before restoration, east side of woodland - looking west.
Happy days - removing buckthorn by the truck-full
I've started clearing from the south and east sides of the woodland (garden.) Mostly because this is the side that I see all the time!  For the past 10 years I've been planting the little saplings givin away for free on Arbor Day in this space. I think about half have thrived.

Nobody else in this neighborhood had the vision that I did for the restoration. This includes the owner of the land whose house is way off to the left hand side of the first photo (which is why they don't care about it at all.) Every time I was out there hacking away at the "trees" - someone would stop and complain, or I'd just get dirty looks. I generally have the buckthorn piled up in the street for pick-up so I have also gotten actual notes in my mailbox about what a mess I'm making in the neighborhood.  This sentiment was particularly acute when I had completely cleared the eastern side - the after clearing photo below. More open, light streaming through, room for growth....plus, the property owner was now so pleased she is begging me to keep going!

After clearing Buckthorn - wide open spaces

Digging a big hole for tree
It was pretty interesting watching them plant these trees.  They are to be planted in  a low area. I was worried about the quality of the soil. There were a few surprises. For example, we found lots of pavement chucks and stones. Looks like someones dumping ground for road work. :(  On the positive side, the soil is rich so we didn't need amendments.  The trees were planted to sit about 8-10 inches above ground level. This is because the water pools here with heavy rains and we wanted there to be some portion above water. Then soil was ramped away from the trunk to match the existing ground level. Then we applied mulch over that. Later I'll also apply a layer of wood chips.

In addition to these evergreen trees, I planted two serviceberry and one crab apple that I purchased at the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance plant sale a few years ago.  In addition I had a few native plants from local sale - a button bush and two chokeberry. I also picked up a few items from close out a Lowes (distressed for $1 - $5 each ! Yeah)  These were three golden privet, and two mountain fire pieris. Lastly, I picked up some daylilies and hosta for free of craigslist and scattered these in front of the trees.  I had some leftover stone from a porch demo that I used to create a little pathway.  In fall I'll distribute the existing flowers from the left had side along the front as well.

June 2013 - Woodland Restoration with new trees

Taking the long view - I really hope the next owner is passionate about this garden. In the past few days as I've been out there working neighbors driving by have actually yelled "great job" as they fly by!  In a few years I'll start redistributing some of the saplings into the open spaces created by continued removal of buckthorn, dying elm and ash.  I envision my kids coming here years from now and showing their own children the "little trees" then cared for as a child - which should be reaching for the stars.

Dreaming big!

Teresa Marie

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