The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Southern Pruning - Called Crepe Murder.
No Wonder the Cardinals Nest in the Crepe Myrtle Bush

This is our Crepe Myrtle in full bloom,
a straggly and neglected plant when we moved in almost four years ago.


This kind of pruning is called Crepe Murder,
sometimes an entire row is topped off this way.

Saturday's paper included a column on the Southern habit of Crepe Murder, the practice of removing all the branches from the plant. This is so established as a custom in the South that pictures and articles denouncing it are numerous on the Net.

Google is my guide, because most gardening books are photo extravaganzas with little information, apart from the trite advice. When I inherited a dispirited Crepe Myrtle, I looked over what we could do for it. My first impulse was to feed it with manure and mulched, and water it every so often. The famous Cactus Park in Phoenix waters their plants, so I figure a drought tolerant bush could use some extra help.

One large Southern garden advocates no pruning, no watering, no extra anything, but that strikes me as the other extreme.

Two years ago I pruned all the flowers early to create a re-bloom, and that worked great. All the other bushes were done when ours burst into bloom again. I let the flowers turn to seed for the winter birds.
Last summer we pruned too late and did not get the re-bloom desired.

We get gigantic blooms from extra watering
and year-around mulch, plus moderate pruning.

The newspaper article made me stop in mid-pruning. Cardinals love the seeds formed by the blooms. No wonder I have Cardinals nesting there.

I needed to shape the plant, since it overlaps the mailbox and the sidewalk. Pedestrians should not need to duck under undisciplined plants, and the mailman does not need to reach the box through flowers and hovering bees.

I will leave the entire top in bloom to create a fine set of seeds for the birds. Moderate pruning will shape the plant and encourage roots, branches, and blooms.



Mulch Feeds the Plant
Long ago, as a beginner, I joined the crowd in raking leaves from under the bushes, little realizing how much food I was taking from the plants.

In Springdale I started adding mulch or manure to the base of the plant every time I had a new supply. Each time the food disappeared into the soil. When I piled up leaves under the plant - for the winter - they also disappeared by spring. Once we had huge blobs of grass and clay from under the mower blades. I piled them under the plant and saw them disappear, as soil creatures turned nitrogen rich grass into usable nitrogen for the roots.

The newly pruned blooms go onto the mulch, adding a festive pink decoration for a few hours, and a few seeds for the ground feeding birds. The layered mulch is a food bonanza for all of God's workmen, from the spiders eating the insects to the birds harvesting bugs from the mulch.

I dasn't water the flowering part of the bush now, as I did in years past. The nestlings need to remain dry and secure. Instead, I soak the mulch, which decomposes better with moisture added and holds the water in for the benefit of the plant. None of the actors think about what they are accomplishing together - they just continue their lives and their agendas, the divine. management system already in place.

In the early spring, the entire mulched area took on a new look. I noticed that a mole made his feeding tunnel go under the bush in a perfect circle - following the area of greatest bug, larvae, and earthworm concentrations. Do I mutter against the tough little diggers? No -

  • Moles stir and mix the soil.
  • They  eat the pests when the pests are still grubs, like the hated Japanese beetles.
  • They eat the earthworms they find, but rich soil will refill the supply immediately.
The real feel is 100 or higher today. Would you dig in heavy clay soil today or let the moles and earthworms tunnel as part of their daily feeding schedule? Rains are coming, and the rainfall will be more effective for having the soil opened up and mixed in advance.

The soil creatures do not turn the soil upside-down and inside-out, as rototillers and plows do - they gently aerate and mix, as they were created and engineered to do.

The Sower and the Living Seed of the Word - by Norma Boeckler.


So Much Like the Divine Work of the Word of God
All of this gardening parallels the Holy Spirit's work through the Word of God. We get to enjoy a part in what God does - simply by 
  1. sharing His Word, 
  2. broadcasting His Word, 
  3. teaching His Word, or
  4. encouraging those whose primary work involves the Word.

The Word belongs to God alone, which is intimately connected to His Creation. If we cannot see His work in Nature, then we can see it in how He works through the Means of Grace. 

Like most gardeners, I would like to plant asparagus crowns one year and harvest them the next. I would love to have full-grown sunflowers a few days after planting the seeds, which the squirrels consider their stored food. My eyes are on some white Calladiums, waiting for them to unfurl and contrast their snowy leaves with the red Calladiums near them.

The Word grows in the same way, never as fast as we want, but slowly as God wills.