The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rainwater Builds Strong, Blooming Roses.
Predicted Rain Actually Fell as Scheduled

Easy Does It


Wednesday promised rain in the evening - on two weather websites that seldom agree with each other. This storm had a slow windup, with lightning flashing in the West during the debate. Hours later, the rain turned from light showers to Niagara Falls.

Since the websites were so optimistic, I used up all my stored rainwater Wednesday morning. My barrels and buckets were all full when it rained 5 inches, so I was waiting for an interim opportunity to use the rainwater. I poured five gallons on each rose bush along Mr. Gardener's fence. Earlier I used up my front-yard barrels and buckets. The results were impressive.

I wanted to get more blooms from the Easy Does It roses, so that plant got 5 or more gallons of rainwater. More orange roses popped out like magic. I have done the same with Veterans Honor, Queen Elizabeth, and Falling in Love.

In the back I already decided to coddle California Dreamin', which has a spectacular bloom but a rather weak growth habit for me - given our weather patterns. We have plenty of rain in the spring morphing into drought in the late summer. The combination of hot weather and no rain is not good for plants that enjoy cool weather and plenty of rain.

The Creating Word designed roses to be more like sponges, easily soaking up water, but also quickly giving up their moisture. That is why I now soak new roses in rainwater before planted. The second choice is stored tapwater in a barrel - two days to let the chlorine evaporate out of the water.

If we compare roses with woody shrubs, the shrubs are much tougher in a drought and seem to ignore the lack of rain. The best example is the Crepe Myrtle, which grows so well that people treat it like a shade plant (wrong!), fail to prune it (disgrace!), and never water it (pitiless).

I watch fail videos for fun. They illustrate how people do not recall basic laws of physics or the engineering of their cars and trucks. Someone drives a pickup truck up on large boulders, at least for a few seconds. The old vehicle was never designed for this, so it rolls over and dumps all the camping equipment out on the ground. Everything on the truck is bent up and the occupants look dazed. Or they drift their car so that it moves from a forward slide at high speed to a sudden slide into a curb, transferring the momentum to another direction.

I cannot look at heavy people with weak arms grabbing vines or ropes to swing into a river. The arm and shoulder strength do not match the task.

Every rose has a different growing habit, but they are still roses and share some general characteristics that were engineered by matching and mixing the DNA library God gave them at Creation. That is why few grow roses in brilliant sun of Phoenix and even fewer grow cactus in Michigan.

I consider some roses to be Lamborginis. They can give up the most spectacular blooms, but they demand plenty of attention for their stunning flowers. California Dreamin' and Double Delight are good examples. They need to be coddled to be strong and healthy in our volatile weather.

 I drive the Lambo when the Town Car is in the shop.


Others, like Easy Does It, are Lincoln Town Cars. On a day where I think the main rose garden is almost bloom free, I step around the maple tree and there are six blooms in orange - Easy Does It. I can use the Town Car as a limo or a pickup. I can give it the most basic repairs and maintenance - still it delivers performance at 200,000 miles.

 Sassy's car is the Lincoln, because we pick up
gardening supplies at Lowe's, where the staff dotes on her.


The same is true of Easy Does It, strong and bloom-tastic all summer long and into the Fall. Likewise, Mr. Lincoln may have some bad weeks, but no other rose delivers such impressive long canes - with blooms that are almost toxic with fragrance.

God has engineered the bugs and birds with far more finesse than a Lamborgini. Bugs and birds are utterly predictable, so we can adjust our gardens to their favorite foods and habitats. Rose pests seem to favor the light blooms, such as Peace and John Paul II, so I find aphids and Japanese beetles attacking them most of all. I imagine this comes from the attraction of white and yellow blooms to night insects. In general night-blooming flowers are white because there are no colors to attract in low-light situations. Fragrance can make up for lack of looks at night.

 California Dreamin' is another Lambo rose,
but experiences will vary with the area's climate.


Let's figure that one out. Certain night-blooming flowers count on night creatures to pollinate them, so they are often white and stinky, like some cacti. How did they figure that out, when thousands of humans in the same room or synod cannot agree on anything?

I began visiting the roses at night with my flashlight, to see what was harming the roses. I also compared how various roses were clobbered by pests. My experience is that John Paul II and Peace were the hardest hit by aphids and the first to attract beneficial bugs whose children dine on aphids.

I caught black bugs peering out at me when I put the beam into afflicted flowers. Earwigs? Japanese beetles? I am not sure. But they were having a party at my expense.

Lambo care needed for the Double Delight


The results - the John Paul and Peace roses looked utterly defeated on the first bloom, but healthy and strong the rest of summer. Birds and bugs are predictable. Pest-destroying bugs need pests to feed to their children, so who am I to kill the pests, spiders, and beneficial bugs with insecticide? This collaboration was figured out long ago by Someone much better at gardening.

Night visits also showed me where the slugs were successfully attacking. I changed my tactics to cut down on their feeding habits. They are shredders, like earthworms, but enjoy sloppy wet conditions and fresh vegetation far too much. I bent over the bushes to turn off the water one night. I brought in the largest slug I have ever seen, sitting on my t-shirt where I brushed against the wet bushes. Was that gratitude or gloating when the king of all slugs came in on my shirt?

Those who find gardening difficult, troublesome, or frustrating only need to study the basics of Creation. Each living thing is engineered to accomplish one - or many tasks - to perfection, if we give them the chance. Birds help us out where we give them food, water, and a place to live. Jessica Walliser challenged readers of her column to list the berries they grow for the birds. Mine are:

  1. Blueberries
  2. Raspberries
  3. Blackberries
  4. Gooseberries
  5. Beautyberries
  6. Pokeweed berries
  7. Wild Strawberries

Birds will have natural food into the winter, including Crepe Myrtle seeds for the Cardinals, plus the suet and seeds I provide near our window.

The birds were spooked when I moved a feeder a few inches, but the juvenile squirrels came back quickly and showed them everything was fine.

Even the most seed-favoring birds, like Sparrows, will eat plenty of bugs, so the presences of birds in the yard will always decrease the pest count, especially when it matters most - in early spring.

Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

All this is spelled out in the Scriptures. The parables about Creation are memorable because the examples are in front of us. The Kingdom of God is like leaven that a woman mixed in the dough until it was all leavened. Sourdough bread is more popular than ever before. The leaven forms naturally and is often kept for future batches. That leaven works slowly into the dough to lift it and turn a potential tooth-breaker into aromatic and satisfying bread.

The Gospel leaven works through society the same way, if it only mixed in with the population. So this little baker, born and bread in a donut shop, mixes the leaven each day. We all have that opportunity to see the leaven at work, because wherever the Gospel is, sin and death are vanquished by the power of the Savior.

 I moved quickly from taster to cleaner to baker.
Much later, I taught my father about how to make the best bread,
observing the characteristics of divinely engineered yeast.