The big day is coming. This year it will be on November 15. That is the day that the Seedling Order Form comes online at the Missouri Department of Conservation website.
I’ve been ordering trees from the Department for years. The pecans, you know, have had a checkered success, and we’ve decided to stop trying to grow them in dry areas where can’t tend them sufficiently. (But some day we shall return!)
The pines have been a bigger success. Of the 50 we planted, I think 46 are surviving, and most of those are thriving. (It occurs to me now that the pecans might have actually done better in the soil at Blackberry Corner, but the pines would not have liked the wet areas below the dam.)
We’ve also ordered sumac from the Conservation Department. We planted those on the sides of the islands to shore them up, but I can’t say whether the sumac survived or not. If they are still there, they are swallowed up by the thick grass that has grown around them.
In addition, we planted 25 redbud seedlings among the trees overlooking the lakebed. In all of our hikes at Roundrock, we had never seen redbud trees growing. Not that they weren’t there, actually, but that we didn’t see them. It turned out that in some places, I was pushing existing redbud trees aside so I could plant new redbud trees. I didn’t realize it at the time because the leaves hadn’t come out, but now that the lakebed clearing has opened the forest, I’ve begun to see redbuds just about wherever I look. (Okay, that’s an overstatement.)
We also planted 25 dogwood trees. Dogwood is the official tree of the great state of Missouri, but we’d not seen any of these at Roundrock either. I’m confident that is because there really aren’t any dogwood at Roundrock. I don’t think the soil is suitable. As I understand it, dogwoods need a certain soil enzyme (or perhaps a certain soil fungus — wead Wily Wayne’s Wise, Wonderful Words bewow) on their roots in order to grow. Apparently, our county is deficient in this enzyme (or fungus). I’ve read that you should always dig a bit of soil from around an existing dogwood and throw that soil in the hole where you intend to plant a new dogwood. We didn’t do that. Now as we stumble through the woods and come across the little blue flags that mark where we had planted dogwood, we sometimes see the dessicated sticks of our past efforts. Once again, when we can be onsite more to tend to our babies, we will try again.
I’ve also planted a goodly number of hawthorn trees, though not at Roundrock. Hawthorn grows into a dense understory tree with sharp, imposing thorns. I had planted these along a disputed property line some years ago. Those planted on the ridgetop have done okay, and those in the deep soil of the valley are over my head already. The white hawthorn blossom is the official flower of the great state of Missouri, and the little apple-like fruits that grow from it make great wildlife food (and a pretty good jelly, I’m told). Unfortunately, hawthorns are highly susceptible to a type of fungus, and cedar trees in the area seem to help spread the fungus. Given that cedar is so common at Roundrock — a nearby county even has the name of Cedar — I don’t think we’re going to give hawthorns a try.
L and I have planted literally hundreds of trees from the Conservation Department, and I think our success rate with them might be a little bit above the expected average. In November, we will order more! I’d love to linger over the online catalog and dream about planting this and that, but the supplies run out quickly, and you have to act fast. Thus I’m making my plans now so that when the form comes online, I can make my order that day. Right now I’m thinking we’ll get another 25 pines so that we can replace those that died in Blackberry Corner and plant a few here and there in the forest as experiments. I think we’ll put some of these near the entrance to Roundrock too. The rest we’ll probably plant randomly throughout the forest to see what happens. The Dread Pirate Roberts had suggested that we plant a few pines in the dry areas where the pecans won’t grow below the dam. That’s worth a try.
I also plan to order more sumac for the sides of the islands. Try, try again.
There are also packages known as “quail bundles” that include plants — not trees — that are good for quail habitat and food. If I can think of where I might plant these, I’ll order a bundle of those.
A question yet to be resolved is whether we will have the seedlings delivered to our Kansas City home or whether we will make the three-hour drive to the state nursery to pick them up and then make the two-hour drive from there to Roundrock to begin planting them. The benefit to the former is that we save a lot of driving and time. The drawback is that they will arrive whenever they arrive. We need to get the seedlings into the ground as quickly as possible, and if they arrive on a Monday during a busy week at work, we may not be able to plant them until the following weekend. Whereas if we make the drive to the nursery, say on a Friday of our choosing, we can then devote the weekend to planting the tender young trees and generally reveling in the beauty at Roundrock. If I can somehow squeeze a really nice bed and breakfast stay into that weekend, I’m pretty sure I can convince L that the drive down is the better choice.
So I guess I’ll keep you informed as this little ambition of mine continues to evolve.