Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Meet our madrone child!

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!


Melody McMahon said...

SO happy for you and your new little addition! I love madrones and remember the first time I saw one at The Wildflower Center in Austin. I wrote down the name and did some research hoping to have one someday. Unfortunately, our soil isn't right for one so I can only enjoy them from afar. I'm wishing you and your tree many long years together! BTW.... James did an impressive job with that hole! Congrats to you all!

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

Hey, thank you, Melody!!!

Unknown said...

Do you happen to know how much Mr. Prochoroff would charge for a tree like yours?


Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

No, I don't. But you can contact him via his website. :-)

Rock rose said...

Good luck with your baby. I know they are not easy trees to grow. We saw incredible stands of them in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. What a joy.

Anonymous said...

Just happened upon your site through the Rock Rose blog and had to click over when I saw your post on a baby madrone. My husband and boys went to the Guadalupe Mountains and he fell in love. Glad to have your blog for a reference so I can surprise him with one.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...


Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

And thank you, Rock rose!!!

Anonymous said...

How did it grow this year?

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

It's doing well. I post periodic updates. Search for "Madrone update" on this blog. :-)

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