Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crab apples to apples

Here is a picture of an apple tree that has grown up from the roots of a crabapple. This picture was taken a week or so ago as the flowers are gone now. But I thought it was interesting how the crabapples must have been grafted on to the rootstock of an apple tree. Many of the crabapples have suckers coming up from the base. The crabapples are rather sickly and it is not uncommon for one of them to fall down. One fell down this spring. The result depending on the mood of the mower is either a gap in the grid pattern or a bushy crabapple or apple tree. The above picture is the largest apple tree among the crabapples.

In Bloom:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Winter Damage on the Red Osier Dogwood

The dogwoods are a good example of how hard the road side is on trees and bushes. On the North slope (see first image) all the dogwoods look healthy with vigorous growth. In the square on the southside of the berm that is over 40m from the road the red osier dogwoods are just surviving with significant winter die-back(see second image). The Pagoda dogwoods are doing even worse in the square with some dead and others only budding along the main trunk. In the bush area closest to the road but still over 25m away from the cars, the dogwoods only show signs of growth low down on the branches (see third image). Since there was little snow build up last winter in this exposed location, the limit of growth along the branches probably represents the snow depth for much of the winter.

Lilacs and rabbit

Went for a walk along the berm this Victoria day to inspect the trees. This past week has been very good for the trees, with lots of rain and warm days. The newly planted trees in the Newhaven Extension are doing great. Most of the trees are growing vigorously, even the Burr Oaks that take a long time to get started are starting to leaf out. There are about 20 Burr Oaks in the new planting and only 2 or 3 do not show signs of life yet. The only tree that does not yet have signs of life are the shagbark hickories. I still have some hope, but because they tend to form a tap root they have a reputation of not transplanting well.

I snapped the above picture when walking along the northern fence.

In Bloom:
Garlic Mustard
Solomon's seal

Monday, May 16, 2011

A raccoon?

This past week all the trees leafed out. There were 4-5 days of warm weather and then this past weekend it was rainy giving the newly planted trees a good soaking. As I was walking along the back fence on Sunday looking at the interesting flowering bushes (see the Canada plum flowers in the above picture) I noticed a beast scurry a way in a neighbouring backyard. I only saw it for a second and from the back but I believe it was the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It was the size of a small dog but had the heavy body and overall body shape of a raccoon. There are many paths such as the one below between the backyards and the berm so I'll count this sighting as one raccoon for the berm.

In bloom:
winter cress
common speedwell
Canada plum
Downy serviceberry
choke cherry
daffodil (escapee)
solomon's seal

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The 2011 Planting

It was a beautiful day for planting on Saturday, almost shorts weather. There was a good turnout with about a hundred volunteers coming out to help including our local MPP Lisa McLeod. The soil was very wet because of the large amount of rain we have had over the past few weeks. One of the city trucks got stuck in the mud trying to drive over the grass. This year the city provided mulch for around the base of the trees so we will see how that helps them with the rodent problem.

The 440 trees and bushes were in the ground by lunch time. As before it is a real mix of deciduous and conifers. New for this year are Burr Oaks; we received about a dozen of them. I am not entirely sure they were Burr Oaks. The trees are about 6 feet tall and have only a few thick twigs. The twigs are thick with a corky ridged bark. There are few signs of them budding yet so they are a couple of weeks at least behind the maples.

Yesterday afternoon while walking along the top of the berm I noticed a loud rustling among the dead leaves of the 1995 planting. When I got closer I spied a large brown bird with a long tail and its mate close by. It seemed to be deliberately moving the leaf litter about in order to find bugs under the leaves. There were also grackles and robins about but the noise was mostly coming from the brown birds. The other birds had a quieter feeding strategy. After consulting my bird book I believe they were brown thrashers. The pair were quite timid and I couldn't get near them for a good look but they were about the size of a grackle, with a brown back and lighter front.

In Bloom:
scilla (escapee by north fence)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


It was nice short sleeve weather this past weekend. When I went out and visited the berm the insects were out but so were the insectivores. There were many small dark brown spiders scurrying over the grass. I'm not sure if this type of spider creates a web but I did notice the grassy slopes were practically covered in thin strands of silk. The late afternoon sunlight shimmered off the gently swaying strands as the light breeze caressed the grass.

At this time of year there is also a light brown spider that likes to cast a tangled web from the tips of the highest twigs on the saplings. I suspect they might also be responsible for the strands covering the grass. I wish I could identify these common spiders, the internet is of limited use when you ask it what is that light brown spider I saw on a twig today?

On Sunday I went out for an evening walk along the berm. It was a pleasant evening and the road traffic was quiet. Towards dusk as I was walking towards the Newhaven gap, I heard frogs croaking from across the road where there is a bit of a marshy area in the experimental farm. Then I noticed something flutter over my head and realized there were bats flying around. I crossed over the berm to exit at Newhaven and saw even more bats flying around the small glade at the end of Newhaven. So all in all I saw arachnid insectivores, mammalian insectivores and heard amphibian insectivores. A good showing from the insectivores.