Chapter Garden at Bear Branch
Mason-Dixon has started an educational, native rhododendron garden at the Bear Branch Nature Center, Carroll County, MD. With the help of a cool front and a little bit of rain the night before, we got off to a great start on Saturday, October 20th, thanks to a super group of Mason Dixon Chapter members, Brian Campbell, Park Naturalist of Bear Branch and boys, siblings and parents from Boy Scout Troop 381 of Westminster.
Chapter helpers included our president, Helen Myers, vice president, Ray Smith, membership chair, Sonny Coble, past president and ARS treasurer, Bill Mangels, along with Rose Norseth, Joe Marsala, Bill and Gisela Brown, Frank Duff, Bernie Dittman, and Tom Smith who wielded a mean tiller. Our group met at 9 a.m. and immediately surveyed the area available to us at the turn in the drive of the parking area where we have our meetings. It had been cleaned out and weed-whacked by Bear Branch staff and volunteers. Plants brought included a number that had been purchased by the chapter and many that were contributed by members from their gardens. Buck Clagett allowed Sonny Coble and me to come and dig about ten plants of Rhododendron maximum from his garden which we delivered. Helen Myers brought two large plants of R. austrinum, an R. calendulaceum and an R. canescens, 'Vornadoe Pink'* and the McWhorter's delivered two plants of R. periclymenoides. Tom Schuetz kindly drove down from Mechanicsburg, Penn., to deliver three, good looking plants of 'Maximum Roseum' and a red R. calendulaceum grown from seed from the molten lava area of Roan Mountain. Sonny Coble brought two plants of R. calendulaceum and Helen Myers bought and donated three plants from Doug Jolly's West Virginia garden which were delivered to Carol Segree at the Mid Atlantic Chapter meeting the previous weekend and brought to Bear Branch by Joe Marsala.
Special thanks goes to Bob Poor who kindly went up to Octoraro Nursery to take advantage of a closeout sale there a few weeks prior. Bob purchased for us the following plants and brought them to my home for care and watering a couple of weeks prior to October 20th. They include 'Snowbird', 'Camilla's Blush'*, Gable's yellow R. arborescens, 'Wood Nymph', two Gregory Bald azaleas, 'Double Pleasure'*, three of R. periclymenoides, R. prinophyllum, a lavender seedling R. periclymenoides, R. calendulaceum, four pink R. austrinum, R. viscosum var. serrulatum (which is the only one that appears to have not made it), R. arborescens, R. viscosum, and R. vaseyi.
The plants were laid out and spaced so the larger varieties were placed in the central part of the area and so that no two of the same species were located next to each other. Once the pots were located and the group agreed with the layout, the hard part began. Despite showers the night prior, the ground was still pretty hard and dry. It also was full of roots, weeds and stones. With picks, mattocks, shovels and pry bars and the tremendous help of Tom Smith and his tiller, we managed to get appropriate holes dug for every one. We followed that by mixing some peat, pine fines and water and then mixed that with the soil in the holes that had been removed from the holes.
Before backfilling we also added some pine chips that Bear Branch had delivered, all to provide good drainage and friable soil around the plants. The Scouts and parents were given instructions and were a great help following the expertise provided by our members. Brian Campbell of Bear Branch had also had a load of mulch from the Carroll County landfill delivered. Not knowing what might be in that, we decided to only spread it between the plants to cover the weeds and hold moisture in the ground. Additional mulch was provided and spread the following week by Bear Branch volunteers.
Brian also had a large water tank available on his pickup truck to which we connected a hose Helen brought, to be able to get water to the plants. Bear Branch will make an effort to keep the newly planted material watered a minimum of two days a week for at least the next few weeks to help get them established and keep them from drying out. As we were finishing, Helen brought out her blender-mixed batch of Ed Reiley's famous potion consisting of water, eggs, milk, garlic and jalapeno peppers to try to keep deer away from the plants. She carefully and thoroughly sprayed every one so the chances of survival will be as good as possible. Bear Branch will allow no fencing.
There is considerable area still available to us and there are still a number of native species we'd like to secure for planting there. They include R. prunifolium, R. canescens (other than pink), R. serrulatum, R. atlanticum, R. alabamense, R. viscosum, R. calendulaceum (would like a variety of flower colors), R. bakeri, Carolinianum Group (white and pink) and R. arborescens. Donations will be appreciated!
* Name is not registered.