The Woodland Restoration Projects
The “Habitat” and the “Corner”
at Fresh Pond Reservation
The Woodland Restoration Projects are two connected parcels of land, a total of about 2/3 of an acre in area, located adjacent to the Fresh Pond Perimeter Road about 1/3 mile north of the Cambridge Water Department. Both sections are being restored and managed by volunteer stewards with financial support from the water department and the Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation. The smaller area, the Corner, was created in 2007 as a demonstration garden of native plants that local citizens can grow in their own gardens. Visitors are welcome. The Habitat was established in 2012 as a refuge for the Reservation’s native animals and plants and is not open to the public.
Stewardship in the Corner and Habitat got off to an early start in 2019 when a warm day early in February lured several volunteers out to see what jobs might be done. We began removing cages from plants that have grown big enough to no longer need protection from rabbits, and we continued removing cages, as well as doing some pruning, during the rest of the month. After a cold spell early in March, our official gardening season began mid-month, with the planting of seven bare-root hickories. Other spring tasks included cutting back dead wildflower stems, moving logs and branches that fell during the winter, and pruning trees and shrubs.
We focused most of our attention this year on the area of the Habitat that we call “Richard’s woods” in recognition of our volunteer Richard Bosel. In 2017 he single-handedly removed a dense thicket of common buckthorns from the site. This large, newly empty, piece of available land proved to be an irresistible lure for us gardeners, whose instinct is to fill an empty space with desirable plants. That is what we have attempted to do – first by tackling the bumper crop of weeds that took advantage of soil disturbed by tree removal; next by scattering wildflower seeds; then by transplanting perennials; and finally by planting shrubs and trees. This project is ongoing. Nature has contributed to the vegetation by carpeting the ground with purple wild violets, and by planting several volunteer (native) trees.
Unusually warm, wet weather in April produced lovely displays of spring flowers: bloodroot, white and red trillium, trout lily, wood anemone, Jack-in-the-pulpit, marsh marigold, blue and yellow violets, wild columbine, meadow rue, blueberry, Juneberry, wild geranium, foam flower, golden Alexander, pussytoes, and false Solomon’s seal. The floral procession continued in June with blue flag iris, swamp saxifrage, black chokeberry, viburnums, and wild roses. Next came cardinal flower, Clethra, spikenard, woodland sunflower, and green-eyed Susans. Pollinators swarmed over the flowers of Joe-Pye weed, New York ironweed, boneset, our several species of mountain mint, and three species of milkweed. In September and October, the grand finale of goldenrods and white wood asters lit up the woods and inspired one visitor to exclaim, “This is like forest bathing!”
Regular rain all summer long meant that we didn’t have to spend much time watering. This gave us more time for spreading well-composted leaves from the large pile given to us in the fall of 2018 by the Water Department. We use the leaves to provide our plants with nutrients, protection from drying, and weed suppression. Everything we planted this year received a generous skirt of leaves as well as a protective cage. Additional new plants purchased by the water department for the Habitat included yellow birches, maidenhair ferns, New York ferns, swamp asters, and mountain laurels.
Many of the aging ash trees in the project area have begun leaning precariously. This year two leaned so far they had to be cut down. In addition, a number of large branches and limbs were knocked down by wind and required cutting with a chainsaw. We used the larger logs and limbs as borders on our paths, and we piled the smaller branches along our back border where we hope to create a brush barrier that will discourage deer from visiting and browsing on our plants. Richard Bosel continued his quest to eliminate invasive buckthorn trees from the adjacent woods, adding the uprooted trees to the growing barrier. Betsy Meyer continued her efforts to find and eliminate garlic mustard, a fast-spreading and destructive invasive weed.
Our gardening came to an early halt when cold weather and snow arrived at the beginning of December. We hastened to put up protective cages around our most rabbit-vulnerable plants before our fingers became numb, then loaded up the wagon with the supplies we wanted to store in the trailer, and bid the Habitat a fond farewell for the winter.
This year we recorded a total of about 850 volunteer hours, although the real number is certainly higher. We were sorry to miss out on the help of several groups of volunteers from local businesses, whose plans to spend a day weeding with us were scuttled by rain. We have appreciated their good work in the past and hope they will plan to visit again next year.
2019 Volunteer Stewards: Suzanna Black, Richard Bosel, Joyce Fitch, Pamela Hart, Betsy Meyer, Joanne Mullan, Chris Powers, Rebecca Ramsay, Elizabeth Wylde, Candace Young
Thanks for the Support of Water Department Staff: Vince Falcione, Dave Kaplan, Brian Mulrenan, Tim Puopolo, and Jean Rogers, as well as the arborists who pruned our trees.
Thanks to The Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation for covering the cost of various expenses, including the purchase of materials for making protective plant cages.
Thanks also to the volunteers who donated plants they purchased for the projects, donated plants grown from seeds, and donated plants from their gardens.