Sunday, April 28, 2024

Trail of Flowers planting April 2024

ABRHS senior students ready to plant quince bushes.
Quince flowers on older stems, so it will be 3-4 years
before these are impressively large and colorful.
On April 26, 2024, seven students from Acton Boxborough Regional High School. as part of Senior Community Service Day, volunteered to do a morning's worth of planting flowering quince shrubs along the Assabet River Rail Trail, as part of the Trail of Flowers ( program. 

The site selected fronts a low wall, roughly 250 yards from Acton's ARRT trailhead. The wall is a remnant of a factory that had been on that site circa 1892-1920s. The factory was originally operating as a manufacture of Morocca leather - a supple leather made from goat hides, dyed, and used in the manufacture of gloves, purses, wallets and book covers. The factory was sited adjacent to a railroad spur that started operating in 1850 to service mills in what bacame the Town of Maynard in 1871, later extended to provide freight and passenger service to Stow, Hudson and Marlborough. Power at the leather factory (1892-1902) was provided by a coal-fired steam engine. The railroad brought in raw hides and coal, and shipped out finished leather for further manufacture elsewhere. Water from the adjacent Fort Pond Brook was probably used for the steam engine and the leather-dyeing process. When it was operating, the leather factory was the largest employer in Acton.

Garden supply catalog photo of a mature quince plant
The students planted fifteen "Double Take" Scarlet quince shrubs pictured, spaced four feet apart. When mature, these plants will be 4-5 feet tall and equally wide, creating a hedge-like row 60 feet long. This variety is described as thornless and without fruit, drought-resistant and not browsed by deer, so after being watered through the first season by TOF volunteers, should prove to be relatively low maintenance. Flowering quince (Chaenomeles) is native to Southeast Asia. Flowers appear in late April and early May, and are present for about a month. The flowers are considered pollinator friendly for a variety of pollinating insect species. We will have to see what shows up as these plants mature. 

Trail of Flowers was started in the fall of 2018 as a volunteer organization under the umprella of Assabet River Rail Trail Inc (ARRT). TOF volunteers plant and maintain flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees in the four communities that have paved trail: Acton, Maynard, Hudson and Marlborough. The planned route of the Trail - 12.4 miles - has a four-mile gap in the center, in Stow and part of Hudson, that may be paved in the future. The crtitical issue is that part of the route in Stow is private property, and the owners are not interested in selling ot providing a pass-through. 

Weigela are also pollinator friendly
As of spring 2024, Trail of Flowers has raised more than $10,000 (and spent most of that) from individual and corporate donations, plus grants and gifts from community Cultural Councils and garden clubs. The gaqrden clubs also donate unsold plants from their annual plant sales. Funding is acknowledged on the TOF website.

This was the second time that Acton-Boxborough students participated in a Trail of Flowers planting. In April 2023, eight students helped plant forsythia, weigela, vibernum and winterberry at the Sylvia Street site, which has a small parking area and an access ramp down to the Trail. The site gets good sunlight. The forsythia bloomed in April/May and the weigela are expected to max-bloom in late May to early June. 

The variety planted is known as "Sonic Bloom" pink, with an expected mature height of 4-5 feet and width of 4-5 feet. These have a major blooming period in late May, with modest reblooming expected throughout the summer. In addition to the ones planted at Sylvia Street, Acton, three were added at the Marble Farm site in the fall of 2023.These are expected to have first blooming spring 2024. 

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