The Acer macrophyllum on my property are now bare and the glen is no longer buried shin-deep in leaves the size of Ichiro’s baseball glove. A pile of shredded leaves roughly the size of a king bed awaits distribution. My right wrist is swollen and sore with some kind of repetitive-motion pre-injury as a result of prolonged pronation/flexion using my leaf-sucker-shredder for hours at a time over several days. Apart from the smaller leaves of slide alder and some twiggy scrub down by the
quagmire wetland, I am done with leaves for the year and may never speak of them again–this is the first year I have really dealt with them and they have been notable only for that reason. While I am still very pleased with my time-and-labor saving tool, I am bored with leaves and ready to move on.
And I did, just a bit, over the weekend. I added a very handsome little triple-trunked
subalpine fir, a bent and twisty specimen that nicely fills one of those empty areas that autumn reveals so well. Having cleared the great drifts of leaves in my glade, I ventured into the deeper forest beyond and scouted up several sheets of forest moss; I carefully harvested a dozen or so plugs and transplanted these into the clearing. My deep woods are disconcerting this time of year, as they maintain a constant twilight that is eerily still, and mid-November is only on the cusp of black bear bedtime. I can’t help but wonder as I bellow ‘HEY BEAR!’ whether I am warning them off or merely alerting them to the presence of slow-footed longpig.
Out in the clearing, the difference between last year–all weeds and leaves and soon-to-be-dead twiggy things–and this year is remarkable to my eye. In the gloaming of late afternoon, the many varieties of moss lend jewel-like tones to the earth and the Yellow cedars give a still and anthropomorphic middle ground toward the forest margin, like shepherds watching over their flock…only they may not be doing that good of a job.
Way back in the spring, after buying ten one-gallon native rhododendrons at $12 apiece, I couldn’t help but notice that the orange apron store sells hybrid rhododendrons for $8.95 for a 15 gallon pot. I’m not the sharpest tool on the chandelier, but it seems to me that if I can buy a three-foot tall-and-wide shrub for less than I can purchase a 6 inch tall seedling, it might be a good buy…especially if the leaf shape, color, and bloom closely mimic the species. Maybe eventually my species rhodies will grow to large, leggy forest understory, supporting brilliant trusses of light pink or yellow blooms, but I’m an American, dammit, and I WANT WHAT I WANT, AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW.
So I am not saying I did this, because I can’t plant non-natives in my woods, and if I did do this, I wouldn’t include them in my plant count. All I am saying is that right now eight of my 13 rhododendrons, including two particularly choice specimens in my front yard, have been gnawed to the root crown by that perpetual Red Baron to my Snoopy, the Mountain Beaver. Rhododendrons, in my opinion, supply the garden with fifty weeks of bedraggled-y looking foliage and two weeks of glorious bloom. Those two weeks would have been glorious, sure, but losing them (if the plants were there, ahem) leaves me conflicted: I wanted them, I paid for them, I don’t feel like I need to provide habitat in an area with 17 foofillion vine maples…but non-native plants don’t count, so it doesn’t matter that they might not be there anymore. Except for the ones up front. Losing those makes me mad.