|Mike and Kerry Prochoroff|
Last summer, I interviewed Mike Prochoroff of Dripping Springs for Landscapes magazine about the native Texas madrones (Arbutus xalapensis) that he raises. He calls his nursery The Madrone Way. I so enjoyed the time I spent with him and his wife, Kerry, at their remote ranch where an existing madrone colony provides the seeds that he meticulously germinates in his greenhouses. After our interview, Mike emailed me and said that he wanted to give me a madrone for our Wildscape. Oh, my, what an honor!
Last Sunday morning, Mike and Kerry came by with the madrone child, which is about four years old. Mike looked at our yard and advised us on the best planting locations. Then he gave James detailed instructions on how to plant the tree. After they left, James got right to work.
Per Mike's directions, James first dug a hole that was 16 inches deep and 36-by-25-inches wide. Mike said the hole needed to be at least twice as deep and wide as the biodegradable fiber pot (8 inches high and 6-by-6 inches).
To check the site's drainage, James poured a gallon of water into the hole. Half an hour later, he checked to see if it'd drained. That's what you want–good drainage. Madrones hate wet feet.
Most of the water drained, but to be on the safe side, he worked up a sweat and busted up the limestone rock that was down under. Later, he went out to our land northwest of town to gather up a 5-gallon bucket of juniper (cedar) needles. In their native caliche soils, madrones often germinate and grow beneath junipers.
The next day, James prepared a base mix, which consisted of 3 gallons of caliche, a couple handfuls of juniper needles, and 2 gallons of compost. Then he poured the mix into the hole. The depth measured 4 inches.
Before setting the madrone in the hole, James slashed the sides of the pot with a box cutter.
|Before the big moment, I gave my new friend a BIG hug...|
Then into her new home she went! To allow for optimum drainage, we made sure the top of her pot was an inch above ground level.
James filled in around her with a mix that consisted of fresh soil (no clay), juniper needles, and several handfuls of caliche. All done! And all told, James must have spent more than five hours working on this very important project. Mike said our madrone will be a demonstration experiment to see how these biodegradable pots perform. In the meantime, we will give her a gallon of water once a week, unless it rains.
Welcome to our Texas Wildscape, little madrone!