Woodland Restoration Demonstration Project
2010 was a very eventful year in the woodland restoration demonstration project at Fresh Pond. Colloquially called "Suzanna's Corner," then shortened to "The Corner," the area lies along the perimeter path as the path bends away from Fresh Pond Parkway near the rotary. This is the fourth year of work on the project and one in which good results are becoming apparent.
First, the primary work team of Suzanna Black and Elizabeth Wylde acquired a new member, Betsy Meyer, whose wry wit and cheerful demeanor have enlivened our work sessions, while her hard work, energy, knowledge, and resourcefulness have greatly contributed to the endeavor.
The next notable event occurred in March when the region received about a foot of rain in one weekend. To the dismay of the Corner team, almost the whole area was under water. The perimeter path was closed for a while and the water was over knee-high boot level. The plants and trees were under water in the lowest area for almost three weeks. We despaired for our horticulture and waited impatiently for the water to recede. Spring took its time arriving and, to our amazement, as the season advanced we could see that almost everything survived. We were especially concerned for our rare American chestnut tree and it was a delight to see it leaf out luxuriantly.
Because we had brought in much mulch in the form of oak leaves and pine needles, the Corner didn't require as much weeding as it had in previous years, and we were able to devote more time and energy to specific restoration and planting. We considered the kind of forest which had been on the land in pre-colonial times (probably oaks, pines, birches, hickories, and chestnuts, among others) and considered what would be understory plants in such a forest. We had been acquiring ferns, woodland asters, understory goldenrods, etc. and had spread seeds of these around. These germinated and grew and we were pleased.
However, it soon became apparent that something else was pleased: we observed many plants and shrubs eaten down to the bare stems. One day we saw the culprit, namely a rabbit (probably more than one) in the middle of the Corner and looking very content. We have subsequently had many skirmishes with The Bunny, as we collectively call him, her, or them. Vin Falcione helped by putting up a low, unobtrusive fence and Elizabeth constructed cages for the most affected plants; she finds that continual surveillance is needed since The Bunny has figured out that the fence is not as strong as rabbit teeth. It is an ongoing battle.
We thank the Cambridge Water Department for subsidizing the purchase of more native plants and shrubs, which of course needed more of Elizabeth's cages; and we thank the men from Waverly Landscaping for planting those many plants and shrubs. Thanks also go to the Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation for subsidizing the purchase of other native plants from horticulturist Bruce Patterson; we picked them up from him in Andover and planted them on a 90-plus degree day with 90-plus percent humidity, and there were about 90 plants. That was a long day. We also had what we called "The Big Dig" in which we transplanted greenery from a Groton yard to the Corner, a sort of country-mouse-to-city scenario. Thus we had an area that was beginning to resemble a forested area as it might have been in earlier times, with many young and delicate plants just getting accustomed to their new residence.
Starting from approximately the end of June into September, however, there was almost no rain, and it was hot. We three began a watering program. From the Water Department trailer we had the use of a very fine wagon; we would load it up with five milk cartons each containing four one-gallon milk jugs, haul it to the Community Garden faucet on Fresh Pond Parkway, fill the jugs, and haul the lot to the Corner. And do this three times. And hand-water all of the pathetic looking plants. It was very laborious and we were truly grateful when Milton and Jose from Waverly were able to supplement our efforts with their water wagon. Most of the plants survived but there were some casualties. Finally in September, we got rain, not lots but at least enough for the Corner's minimal needs.
We brought in more oak leaves and pine needles and scattered them around. And we noticed that the ash trees, our primary overstory, are not well. Vin Falcione arranged for the Tree Service to remove three failing limbs, which they did with amazing care and virtually no damage to the nearby plantings. But there is now more light coming into the area which may be unsuitable for many of the plantings in the heat and strong light of summer. We are conferring with Vin regarding suitable replacement trees and are looking for oaks, maples, and birches of the kind to be found in a typical New England forest.
In October and November, the skirmishes with The Bunny continued; the temporary low fence needed reinforcement with chicken wire and Elizabeth made more cages for winter plant and shrub protection. Betsy and I were able to turn our attention to the buckthorn trees threatening to move in to the Corner from the western side; with weed wrenches and much force we removed many and had the satisfaction of leaving huge piles to be picked up and hauled away. As the season progressed we could see the beautiful red leaves on the blueberry shrubs and put "More blueberries!" on the list for next year. Finally, with the weather forecast for a hard freeze, on December 14th, we pulled our last buckthorn, made the last protection cage, and put the Corner to bed for the winter. But that doesn't mean that we've forgotten about the Corner; people who undertake a project such as this even in the cold months have discussions, make lists, look at catalogues, consult reference materials, and that's just what we're doing. Spring will be here before we know it!